"Under certain circumstances, fasting is the one weapon God has given us for use in times of utter helplessness.” ~Mahatma Gandhi~
The burning question is that if both fore-mentioned parties’ are going to permit this tragic chapter of ‘The Troubles’ to repeat itself? As Liam Hannaway enters Day 35 of Hunger Strike, with his health deteriorating rapidly, the selective myopia being adopted by local/national/international media outlets re-enforces the British public’s blinkered perception of the North’s 'Struggle’. By preventing the dissemination of information on Liam Hannaway’s plight behind Maghaberry’s walls, it is hoped that this selfless patriotic act,
“the rarest form of moral courage and physical self control”,will be portrayed as a mere vain and futile cult-like attempt at attention in the event of Liam Hannaway’s death!! Yet again, the British establishment seems quite willing to twiddle their thumbs in the corridors of Whitehall wilfully adopting the attitude of ‘Let Them Rot’!
Ireland’s Historical Affiliation with The Hunger Striker
The significance of the Hunger Strike is deeply embedded into Ireland’s history and mythology, and for Irish Republican’s especially, this religio-political martyrdom has an iconic connection with THEIR pantheon of fallen comrades. The use of Hunger strike (The Troscad) dates back to pre-Christian Ireland when there was a strong tradition of oral laws, Brehon Laws (Laws of the Fénechus). In ancient Ireland, self-help was the only method at people’s disposal to enforce a claim or right a wrong within the context of these laws. The hunger striker gave notice of their intent and, according to the law tract Di Chetharslicht Athgabhála, if the person who is being fasted against does not come to arbitration, and actually allows the protester to die, then the moral judgement went against them and they endured shame and contempt until they made recompense to the family of the dead person. If they failed to make such amends, they were not only damned by society but damned in the next world. They were held within Irish society to be without honour and without morality.
In the 20th Century, the Hunger striking phenomenon as a form of Irish Republican political protest has been unparalleled in its ability to capture attention and catalyse social reaction. As regards, the Hunger Strike phenomenon being deployed by Irish Republicans in the 20th century. The first recorded Hunger Strike in 20th Century Irish Republicanism is the case is that of the bold James Connolly in 1913. In 1920 the Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney, died after 74 days on hunger strike, which focused the eyes of the world attention on the Irish Struggle, and generated massive support for Irish Republicanism. In October 1923, 8,000 men went on Hunger Strike in protest at the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty and resulted in the deaths of two men before it was brought to a cessation.
However, the 1981 Hunger Strike in the Maze Prison, demonstrated how successful a tool this powerful individual statement against injustice potentially can be in creating awareness and mobilize the public support. . The living testament to the full utilisation and strategic management of the public sentiment in the aftermath of the sacrifices of these 10 Brave Irish Martyrs can be found in the corridors of power at Stormont!
Irish Republican Hunger Striker Roll of Honour
Between 1917 and 1981 a total of 22 Irish men have died on Hunger-Strike in this phase of the Struggle for Irish Unity! The Roll of Honour of these icons of Irish Republicanism is as follows:
Thomas Ashe, Kerry, 5 days, 25 September 1917 (force fed by tube, died as a result).
Terence McSwiney, Cork, 74 days, 25 October 1920.
Michael Fitzgerald, Cork, 67 days, 17 October 1920.
Joseph Murphy, Cork, 76 days, 25 October 1920.
Joe Witty, Wexford, 2 September 1923.
Dennis Barry, Cork, 34 days, 20 November 1923.
Andy O Sullivan, Cork, 40 days, 22 November 1923.
Tony Darcy, Galway, 52 days, 16 April 1940.
Jack 'Sean' McNeela, Mayo, 55 days, 19 April 1940.
Sean McCaughey, Tyrone, 22 days, 11 May 1946 (hunger and thirst Strike).
Michael Gaughan, Mayo, 64 days, 3 June 1974.
Frank Stagg, Mayo, 62 days, 12 February 1976.
Bobby Sands, Belfast, 66 days, 5 May 1981.
Frank Hughes , Bellaghy (Derry) , 59 days, 12 May 1981.
Raymond McCreesh , South Armagh , 61 days, 21 May 1981.
Patsy O Hara , Derry , 61 days, 21 May 1981.
Joe McDonnell , Belfast , 61 days, 8 July 1981.
Martin Hurson , Tyrone , 46 days, 13 July 1981.
Kevin Lynch, Dungiven (Derry) ,71 days, 1 August 1981.
Kieran Doherty , Belfast , 73 days, 2 August 1981.
Tom McIlwee , Bellaghy (Derry) , 62 days, 8 August 1981.
Micky Devine , Derry , 60 days, 20 August 1981.
The ‘Let Them Rot’ Approach Will Not Wash!
They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us, and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything. They think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace~Padraig Pearse~'Grave Side Oration of O'Donovan Rossa'
Readers, as these immortal words resonate in your head, BE under no illusion that their meaning and poignancy have NOT been diluted by the sands of time!
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