The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

1981 Hunger Strike Commemoration in Chicago


The Irish Freedom Committee • 18 August 2006

On Saturday August 12, 2006 the Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee, a diverse group of Irish Republicans from the Midwest and across America, gathered in Chicago to respectfully commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1981 Long Kesh Hunger Strike; and to remember that today's Irish Republican Political Prisoners still struggle for the same rights that Bobby Sands and his nine comrades died for in a British prison on hunger strike in 1981.

Three Irish Republican organizations, including the Irish Freedom Committee, participated in the Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee Testimonial Dinner event as a united front effort to acknowledge the different political backgrounds that the Long Kesh Hunger Strikers came from. The other co-sponsoring organizations were the Concerned Group for Republican Prisoners, based in Ireland and the United States; and the Irish Republican Socialist Committee of North America.

The Irish Freedom Committee made a very strong showing at the event with many dedicated and active IFC Members traveling across the United States including from Maine, Rhode Island, New York, New Mexico and Minnesota to participate and to lend support to the dependants and families of today's Irish Republican political prisoners. One IFC Member arriving from New York City brought a stunning display of framed POW-made framed hankies and artwork to the event– many of which are now available on the CHSCC website-- with all proceeds to be donated to the dependants of Irish Republican POWs.

Veteran Chicago Republican Frank O'Neill, rallying from a sudden illness, made a surprise appearance at the dinner and while declining to speak at the podium, regaled his many well-wishers and long time friends with his notorious self-deprecating humor and undying revolutionary spirit. New friends left the event with the awareness of the major role that Frank has played in keeping the flame of Irish Republicanism alive in America.

Seoirse McLaughlin, founder and chairman of the New York H-Block/Armagh Committee, gave a powerful and emotional speech recalling his work as a spokesperson and prisoners' rights activist during the Blanket protests and the Hunger Strike. George spoke of the role of memory and history, and the need to restore immediacy to collective memories that perhaps no-one is listening to any more. He spoke about the Five Demands, which he traveled the United States and Ireland endlessly repeating and pressuring for, and asked the question how a man could sacrifice his own life to gain such basic rights for his comrades. He said that the ten who died were connected to a history that came before them, that their identity was Irish and political, not criminal.

"Today is a sad day.... a day we talk with the dead and we cry out to let them know we have not forgotten them. The short lives they had ended in what now seems like a rushed dream. A flurry of activity, and inactivity, failed efforts, and great hopes. New possibility, and old impossibility, unshakeable faith, and cynical resignation. The ten men who died, and their comrades who suffered physically and mentally in Long Kesh and Armagh jails, had a rare thing inside of them, a severe and binding sense of purpose, of intent, of identity, individually and collectively... Today we celebrate this desire for freedom and the courage that it spurs, the commitment it creates, the passion it fuels. For Ireland, many have died, and many have been exiled, tortured, abandoned, and defiled. But the desire for Irish freedom has not gone away." Seoirse's speech can be downloaded. (MP3 file)

Many guests praised the beautiful journal pressed for the event, with testaments and greetings from event supporters across the United States. Statements from POWs in Ireland and Britain, reprinted below, were also included in the journal. An action sheet was also passed to each person at he event calling for continued phone calls to US Senators to oppose the US/UK Extradition Treaty, slated for new hearings on September 7th.

Leonard Peltier, an American Lakota Indian POW, also included a full page message of solidarity, explaining how he joined the H-Block hunger strikers in 1981, and went without food for nearly 40 days in his American prison cell; he did so in support the H-Block Hunger Strikers.

Well known Chicago balladeer and long time IFC supporter Joe Monahan entertained the crowd for several hours with rebel ballads and tributes to the hunger strikers. The evening closed with a very successful raffle for handcrafted POW artwork, made by Irish Republican POWs for the event in Chicago, with all proceeds going to the assistance of their families and loved ones.

The Irish Freedom Committee would like to thank all of our members who traveled long distances to support this event, go raibh mile maith agat. We would also like to thank the CGRP and the IRSCNA for contributing their time and energy to make this event such a success. Check the IFC website soon for photos and audio of the event.

Please remember the families of today's Irish Republican POWs – support the Irish Freedom Committee®. The National office of the Irish Freedom Committee is located in Boston, MA, and its corporate offices are in Chicago.

STATEMENTS FROM IRISH REPUBLICAN POWs and Leonard Peltier, an American Lakota Indian POW, for the Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee Testimonial Dinner – Saturday August 12, 2006


A chairde agus a chomraidaí,

Revolutionary greetings to all Irish republicans in North America from Republican Prisoners Group, E4 landing. We stand strong in our beliefs and recognise that you too stand with us with the same determination and dedication. As has been the case before the struggle is at a low ebb but unlike others who have walked away or given up and accepted the GFA you have remained faithful to the cause of national liberation and for this we salute you. Irish America has long been the friend of the Republican movement and we are comforted by the fact that so many of you have not forgotten us here at home.

We would especially like to thank the Concerned Group for Republican Prisoners for their work and also thank other prisoner support groups for their work for other POWs.

On this the 25th anniversary of the hunger strikes it is apparent to all that there is no sign of a British withdrawal as even the rights won by the martyrdom of the h-block hunger strikers have been taken away and conditions in the jails in the 6 counties are as bad as ever. We ask that you continue to work for Irish freedom in any way you see fit and that you continue to support Irish political prisoners, we ask that you work especially hard for Aiden Hulme and the other POWs in England and we can know in confidence that you will as you are the true Irish in America, those who refuse to forget your occupied homeland.

We wish you all the success with the commemoration and with everything else which lies ahead.

Tiocfaidh ár lá,

Joe Mooney


The Republican POW's in Maghaberry and Portloaise Gaols extend our greetings and thanks to all those who have attended this evenings commemorative 25th Anniversary Dinner in memory of those Irish Republican soldiers who died on hunger strike in 1981 for political status. Bobby Sands stated the position for republican POW's:
"We refuse to lie here in dishonour! We are not criminals, but Irishmen! This is the crime of which we stand accused." This is our position today.

It is a tragic epitaph that today in Ireland political status is once again being fought for, in 1980 the Officer Commanding the Irish republican POW's in Long Kesh communicated:
"Generations will continue to meet the same fate unless the perennial oppressor- Britain-is removed, for she will unashamedly and mercilessly continue to maintain her occupation and economic exploitation of Ireland to judgment day, if she is not halted and ejected."

It is clear that Britain and its cohorts seek to mercilessly continue her exploitation, regrettably former comrades now seek to copper fasten that agenda, it is in pursuit of that agenda, that we would see this suffering of POW's again,

We remember the protest that was held on the outside of the gaols, in Ireland, England, Europe and America. It was events similar to the one that you are supporting tonight that gave hope to those who were engaging in protest.

We are aware of the restrictions placed on you all, including the risk of imprisonment based solely on your wish to support Irish Republicans, and their dependants. Your honourable position and determination remains unbroken.

It is to that end that we salute your steadfastness in the face of oppression, without your voice, America would not have heard of Irelands best kept secret, people would have believed in the propaganda that Ireland has a settlement, this could not be further from the truth. Ireland remains illegally partitioned, Britain continues to deny the Irish people a Sovereign state, this strategy will fail because they, the British Government and it cohorts have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman or woman who doesn't want to be broken.

Bobby Sands expressed his view:

"They won't break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show. It is then that we will see the rising of the moon."

We the Irish Republican POW's remain unbroken and determined.

An Phoblacht Abu

Ogláigh ná hÉireann POWs




AUGUST 10 2006

We the imprisoned Irish political prisoners incarcerated in Full Sutton Prison, England, extend fraternal greetings and good wishes to all assembled today at this testimonial gathering in Chicago in memory of the Long Kesh hunger-strike martyrs.

Today as I write you these lines, the republican POWs in Maghaberry prison are holding a 48 hour fast to draw attention to their just demands, and plans for the coming weeks are to step up the campaign for the restoration of political status - won by the hunger-strike martyrs - and lost by the signing of the Belfast/GFA agreement.

Despite the victory in 1981, the British establishment continues to try and portray us all as criminals - not as captured prisoners of war. But we all know who the real criminals are - and their history in our country over many centuries.

We wish you a successful gathering, and good luck with all you do in the future.




I join my Irish Republican brothers and sisters in solidarity, just like I joined them during the H-Block Hunger Strike in 1981 when I fasted with them for 40 days. Know that our struggle for freedom is not in vain.

“Mitakuye Oyasin” – We are all Related.

In solidarity,

Leonard Peltier, # 89637-132
USP Lewisburg
P.O. Box 1000
Lewisburg, PA 17837

The IFC urges you to write to Leonard Peltier who is in his 30th year for a crime he did not commit.






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

21 August 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Throwing the Book at Gerry
John Kennedy

The Man With the Planter Name
Liam O Comain

Diplock Delay Equals Justice Denied
Martin Galvin

Kevin Lynch, INLA Volunteer
Ray Collins

1981 Hunger Strike Commemoration in Chicago
Richard Wallace

The Question of Paisley's Legacy
Dr John Coulter

Turf War
John Kennedy

Eoin O’Duffy’s biography by Fearghal McGarry
Seaghán Ó Murchú

The Proclamation to Me
Mick Hall

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 3
Michael Gillespie

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 4
Michael Gillespie

House on Notting Hill
Dr John Coulter

Courage, Muslim Leaders
David Adams

Middle East Conflict Has Abandoned Rules of War
Anthony McIntyre

A Warning From History
John Kennedy

Cartoon Commissar
Anthony McIntyre

The Letters page has been updated.

13 August 2006

Hunger Strike Anniversary
Martin Galvin

"Let the Fight Go On"
Willie Gallagher

Apology Owed
The Family of Volunteer Patsy O'Hara, INLA

Right the Wrong
Harry Boland

It's Who You Talk To
Dr John Coulter

As They Were Made They Were Matched
Liam O Comain

Poacher Turned Gamekeeper
John Kennedy

Criminality Figures Do Not Add Up
David Adams

The Siege of Derry
Anthony McIntyre

Repeat After Me: No Gods, No Masters
Mick Hall

Dual Presidency More Realistic
Nathan Dowds

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 2
Michael Gillespie

Santa Coming Early
Dr John Coulter

Media Matters
Anthony McIntyre

Light, Freedom & Song: A Cultural History of Modern Irish Writing
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Pass the Gravy
John Kennedy

ILIR is Blowing the Green Card Game for the Irish
Patrick Hurley

From Belfast to the Middle East
Davy Carlin

Manifesto of the Third Camp
Anthony McIntyre



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