When The Hunger Strike Goes Wrong – May 6, 1981
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Not so much a cause for alarm, an ominous glimpse of things to come or a cautionary tale, but rather a historic example of how things go wrong and protests escalate as the result.
This May 6th in 1981 had much to do with the death of IRA Hunger Striker Bobby Sands while in custody at Maze Prison in Ireland after 66 days without food. It sparked a wave of deadly violence and a renewed commitment by the Irish Republican Army to end British rule over Northern Ireland. It also signaled a worldwide outrage and demonstrations in support of Bobby Sands’ cause. Sands became a symbol for the renewed interest in the movement and calls for negotiations between the IRA and 10 Downing Street to end the violence. In addition to Sands, two other Hunger Strikers who joined Sands later said they would also die if the demands weren’t met. And 70 other IRA prisoners in Maze pledged to join in the Hunger Strike. But on May 6th, the grieving process was taking place and the expected 20,000 mourners showing up for the funeral became the lull.
Sounds a little familiar . . . .
In other news, Washington expelled Libyan diplomats over their alleged support of International Terrorism and ordered the Libyan Embassy in Washington closed. This came amid reports that Libya was supporting Terrorist activities and had ordered Libyan agents to assassinate dissidents of the Gaddafi regime living in the U.S. The State Department warned Americans travelling to Libya, but didn’t prevent them from going and fears that Libya, the third largest supplier of oil to the U.S., would cut off supplies were largely dispelled . . .for the time.
Elsewhere, Secretary of State Haig returned from a NATO summit with an assessment that the situation in the Middle East was grave and a large-scale military showdown taking place between Israel and Syria almost a certainty. Washington sent Administration envoy Phillip Habib to try and come to a settlement in the crisis. Breaths were held – fingers were crossed.
That was how the day went, this May 6th in 1981, along with a special address to the People of California by Governor Jerry Brown on the Crime Bill he had pending in the State Senate. Seems guns were an issue in 1981 too – all via The World Tonight from CBS Radio.
- Unionist leaders launch petition against Maze plans (newsletter.co.uk)
- ‘Thatcher’s Archive Finally Settles Dispute Over Hunger Strike Deal’, Says IRA Prison Leader (thebrokenelbow.com)
- Revealed: Paris Councillors Divided Over Bobby Sands Street or Thatcher Street Names (belfastdaily.co.uk)
- How Margaret Thatcher could have prevented hunger strikes deaths – Irish Cardinal O Fiaich was prepared to create compromise but was blocked (irishcentral.com)
- How Barbaric Is Forced Feeding? (dish.andrewsullivan.com)
- Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison, once home to IRA prisoners, to become peace center (irishcentral.com)
- If I didn’t think Maze peace centre was important I wouldn’t be here, insists architect who drew plans for Ground Zero (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
- Thatcher papers disclose efforts to resolve 1981 hunger strikes (irishtimes.com)
- Why I will shed no tears now for the late Mrs Margaret Thatcher – Her legacy on Ireland is one of failure and dead hunger strikers (irishcentral.com)
- From Gandhi to Bobby Sands: Hunger strikers through history (usnews.nbcnews.com)