May 5th is the 32nd anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands in the H Blocks of Long Kesh Prison – AKA The University of Freedom. I recently returned from a trip to Belfast and Derry. I was there with a group of friends that are part of the FFAI – Freedom For All Ireland. On Good Friday we participated in a conference commemorating the 15th Anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement that brought the end to the Troubles and peace to Northern Ireland. After the conference, we participated in the stations of the cross in Down Patrick. They were officiated by Father Sean Rogan who is the priest that gave Bobby Sands the Last Rites in the hospital wing at Long Kesh Prison. On Easter Sunday, we marched in the 1916 Easter commemoration march up the Falls Road with the families of the Hunger Strikers to Milltown Cemetery. There was a very moving ceremony in the Republican plot at the graves of Bobby Sands, Joe McDonald, Kieran Doherty and many other Volunteers who gave their lives for the cause.
Bobby was on hunger strike for 66 days. He was only 27 years old when he died. Let us take a minute to remember our friend Roibeard Gearoid O’ Seachnasigh – Bobby Sands. Ni bheidh do leithidariamh ann arist – there will never be the like of you again!!
Maggie Thatcher instituted Internment and many men were sent on remand to the Crumlin Road Goal (jail). Dan and I visited the Crum with a former prisoner who was a guest there courtesy of Maggie. Gerard told us of the harsh conditions and treatment during his two and a half years there without being charged. When he finally was brought before a diplock court – a British judge and no jury – he was sentenced to seven years in Long Kesh.
Upon my return to the States, Maggie Thatcher died. Graffiti on the Peace Wall on the Falls Road said it best: “Iron Lady? RUST in peace”. I can only imagine Maggie reaching the Gates of Heaven and being greeted by Saint Peter and Saint Patrick. When Maggie tried to pass through the pearly gates, they reminded Maggie of all of the things that she had a hand in, in Northern Ireland:
• The Para unit she sent to Belfast in 1971t that resulted in the Ballymurphy Massacre
• The Para unit she sent to Derry in 1972 that resulted in 14 innocent people being shot dead on Bloody Sunday – it took 39 long years for the families to finally get vindication. The British government apologized and admitted the people killed that day were innocent.
• Internment……..prisoners held on remand…….diplock courts with no jury’s….
• Broken promises and agreements with Brendan Hugh’s and the first Hunger Strike in 1980
• 1981 – The deaths on Hunger Strike of Bobby Sands and the 9 brave men who followed
• 1989 – The death of Pat Finucane who was shot 14 times will eating dinner at home with his wife (who was also wounded) and his three children
With that said, Saints Peter & Patrick did not let Maggie pass through the gates of Heaven and sent her to the H Blocks of Hell.
In Bobby’s own words, “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children”.
I bhfad ar shiul From afar
Deanann soilse na Ceise The lights of Long Kesh
Breacadh breagach Make a false dawn
I speir no hoiche. In the night sky.
Thar an Cheis Fhada But over Long Kesh
Ni gealtar aon la No dawn brightens
In 2014, the International Center for Conflict Resolution will open on the site of the former Long Kesh Prison. Part of the Center will allow the Republicans and the Loyalists to tell their story and share their experiences. The Troubles in Northern Ireland was the longest occupation by British troops in the history of the British Empire. The Conflict Center will show the world that given the chance to sit down and negotiate, complex situations can be resolved. The plans will include one of the Quonset hut “Cages” from The University of freedom”, one of the H Blocks and the Hospital Center where the 10 Hunger Strikers died.