Up to sixty éirígí activists and supporters gathered on the central isle of O’Connell Bridge in Dublin yesterday (May 5) to mark the 31st anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands during the 1981 hunger strike. The annual vigil commemorates not only Sands, but all ten republican hunger strikers who paid the ultimate price in the battle against Margaret Thatcher’s attempts to criminalise the republican struggle.
Yesterday’s vigil also highlighted the plight of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners currently on hunger strike in Israeli jails. One of the most high profile of the almost 2,000 protesting Palestinians, secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Sa’adat, was recently moved to a prison hospital. Sa’adat has taken no food since April 17.
Those at the vigil held images of the ten republican prisoners who gave their lives in 1981 along with placards which read ‘Free Ahmad Sa’adat – Support the Palestinian Hunger Strikers’ and ‘Remember the Hunger Strikers! Bobby Sands 1981, Ahmad Sa’adat 2012’. Tricolours and PFLP flags flew alongside dozens of black flags so closely associated with the tragic deaths of 1981.
The vigil was well revived by passers by and by passing traffic, with motorists signalling support by honking their car horns. Cathaoirleach éirígí Brian Leeson commended those who took part in the vigil, “Despite the fact that that more than three decades have passed since the summer of 1981, the valiant sacrifices of those who died on hunger strike and those who took part in the wider struggle for political status have not been forgotten. The fact that dozens of people took part in this vigil today is testament to that.
“Despite all that has changed since 1981, some things unfortunately remain the same. Here in Ireland the British state is again attempting to criminalise the republican struggle through the denial of political status for political prisoners in Maghaberry. And in Palestine the state of Israel continues with its criminalisation and brutalisation of the Palestinian people in general and Palestinian prisoners in particular.
“Those of us who aspire to carry the flame of struggle today salute the bravery of those who gave their lives in the 1981 hunger strike and from their sacrifice we are inspired to advance the cause for which they died.”