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Sinn Fein leads tributes on 40th anniversary of Bobby Sands death

SINN FEIN led tributes to Irish revolutionary Bobby Sands today on the 40th anniversary of his death after 66 days on hunger strike in Long Kesh prison.

“Forty years on and Bobby’s legacy inspires freedom loving people everywhere,” Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said.

The party’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said: “We remember the courage and sacrifice of the hunger strikers with pride.”

Ceremonies were held online in memory of the Irish Republican Army volunteer who was the first of 10 men to die as a result of the 1981 hunger strike.

They were protesting in support of five demands, all of which were eventually won as the strike ended in October 1981: the right not to wear a prison uniform; the right not to do prison work; the right of free association with other prisoners; the right to organise their own educational and recreational facilities; the right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week.

The hunger strikers garnered mass support far beyond the traditional republican communities amid anger at then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s callous disregard for human life.

During the course of the hunger strike, Sands was elected to Westminster as the MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. His 30,000 votes refuted Thatcher’s claim that republicanism had no support outside of prisons.

Sinn Fein said today that Sands and the other hunger strikers “defeated the British government’s criminalisation policy — they were political prisoners.”  

International tributes were paid to Sands in honour of the sacrifice he made for the freedom of his people. In Madrid, Margaret Thatcher Square was renamed Bobby Sands Plaza.

Democratic Party member in the Philadelphia House of Representatives Kevin J Boyle said: “Bobby Sands died on hunger strike in a British jail demanding recognition as a political prisoner. 

“The current campaign for a free and united Ireland wouldn’t have been possible without the patriotic sacrifices he and those other Irish republicans in 1981 heroically took.”

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