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COMMEMORATIONS will be held in honour of Irish republican hunger striker Bobby Sands, who died 39 years ago on Tuesday after 66 days without food in the notorious Maze prison.
Vigils will be muted because of Covid-19, but people will pay their respects to Mr Sands, who led the 1981 hunger strike protests demanding the reinstatement of political status for republican prisoners.
He was the first to start the action and was prepared to see his hunger strike through to the end in what became seen as a bitter struggle between the Irish republican movement and the government of British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
Mr Sands was elected MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone during the campaign, dispelling the myth that the hunger strikers had no support in Ireland.
More people voted for him than did for Mrs Thatcher in her own Finchley constituency. His death led to international protests and condemnation of the callousness of the government.
Iranian authorities changed the name of the road that housed the British embassy from Winston Churchill Street to Bobby Sands Street, and he continues to inspire oppressed people across the world.
Mr Sands’s last diary entry was: “Tiocfaidh ar la — our day will come.”
The legacy of the hunger strikers, 10 of whom died, paved the way for the emergence of Sinn Fein as a serious political party. Many credit their action for precipitating the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Speaking in the latest issue of An Phoblacht, MLA for West Belfast Orlaithi Flynn said: “Bobby Sands, like many men and women in our community, was an ordinary person who, as a result of British oppression, went on to do extraordinary things and leave an extraordinary legacy.”
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