Tuesday, May 5, 2009


5 Bealtaine 2009.


Bobby Sands is one of my friends. I am using the present tense very deliberately when I write Bobby is one of my friends. Sometimes, without really thinking about it, when we talk about friends who have gone before us, we use the past tense. But friends don’t cease to be friends just because they are dead. That’s why I say Bobby Sands is one of my friends.

I have a lot of friends. I feel a real sense of privilege about being able to say that. Friendship is one of the great blessings of life. The strength of this blessing should not be judged by the number of friends it involved. Some of us go through life with only one or two friends. I suppose it depends on how you define friendship. When it comes down to it maybe none of us have any more than one or two friends who we would trust completely or who we would do anything for. Or who feel the same way about us.

But being involved in struggle for a protracted period, being in hard places, in difficult circumstances is a great equaliser. Being part of efforts to change this and being successful even in small ways brings its own special sense of achievement and confidence and empowerment. And friendship.

Involvement in struggle is a great way for people to bond. Friendships forged in these conditions endure.


That’s why I say I have lots of friends. Lots of us have come through difficult times. We have been in hard places. We may not be in as much contact as we should be. We may have moved on in our own lives. All of us are older. Personal circumstances have certainly changed for most of us. The politics and tactics and mode of struggle have been transformed. The world is changing. So is Ireland. But core values should never change. That includes the value of friendship.

Bobby died on this day, May 5, at 1.17 in the morning. He was on the sixty six day of hunger strike. If Bobby had not died he would be fifty five years old. Who knows what he would be doing today. My guess is that he would be active in struggle. Bobby was like that.

We first met in Cage 11 in Long Kesh. Bobby was articulate, committed, curious about struggle and modes and forms of activism. He attended lectures and participated in debates, read voraciously and was always eager for a one to one discussion on any number of issues. Bobby also learned his Irish in the Kesh. By the time we met he was an accomplished Irish speaker. He loved sport, was a decent soccer player, a robust Gaelic footballer and a good singer. He practiced guitar regularly in the ‘study’ hut in our cage and did a very passable version of Kris Kristofferson’s Me and Bobby Magee at Cage hoolies. On one particularly memorable evening he and other comrades did a hilarious performance of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

Bobby was married with a young son, Gerard. He was in Cage 11 serving a sentence for possession of handguns which were found in the house he was arrested in. Bobby was released in 1976. He returned to his family in Twinbrook and, among other things, he began to tackle the social issues bearing down on people there. Six months later he was arrested again. This time not far from the scene of a bomb attack and a gun fight. Bobby was in a car with three other young men. There was a revolver in the car.

After almost a year in custody on remand all four were sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for possession of one revolver. The judge admitted there was no evidence to connect any of them to the bombing. They were all transported to the H Blocks of Long Kesh and to the prison protest. That was in 1977.

He was to die four years later still on protest. While on hungerstrike Bobby was elected as the MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. I could write a hundred blogs about him and the other hungerstrikers or the women in Armagh and the blanket men in the Blocks. But I won’t.

I think about them most days in some small way or other. I mention Bobby today because this is the 28th anniversary of his death. So on a day like today memories come rushing back.

My sense of Bobby? Bobby was a wonderful human being. He gave his all for the Irish cause. And for his friends.

What greater love than to lay down your life for your friends?

Aren’t we privileged, those of us, who knew people like this?
Bobby Sands MP (26)
died on 5 May 1981 after 66 days
Francis Hughes (25)
died on 12 May 1981 after 59 days
Raymond McCreesh (24)
died on 21 May 1981 after 61 days
Patsy O'Hara (23)
died on 21 May 1981 after 61 days
Joe McDonnell (30)
died on 8 July 1981 after 61 days
Martin Hurson (29)
died on 13 July 1981 after 46 days
Kevin Lynch (25)
died on 1 August 1981 after 71 days
Kieran Doherty TD (25)
died on 2 August 1981 after 73 days
Thomas McElwee (23)
died on 8 August 1981 after 62 days
Michael Devine (27)
died on 20 August 1981 after 60 days

If you are interested in learning more about Bobby or his friends go to www.bobbysandstrust.com or read Bobbys own writings available from Mercier Books Cork or from www.sinnfeinbookshop.com.


Kate said...


Bobby Sands, remembered this and every day .

Ta ar la anois


Anonymous said...

I am Italian but I remember in my prayer every day Bobby Sand and his courage.


Anonymous said...

If Bobby Sands were alive today, no doubt he would be fighting against Comhairle and Foras and the mockery they have made of the Bobby's beloved Irish language.
I attended many demonstrations outside the British Consulate on the Third Avenue in New York before, during, and after the Hunger Strike. That picket went on for years.
We expected much, much better than what has transpired over the past decade.
The Irish language symbolises the failure of what could have been for all the people.
There is less laughter in the children's voices because of this. Bobby has not yet gotten his revenge.

Anonymous said...

The Sleeping Rose
written by Bobby Sands

Barry’s dead and Cork’s asleep,
McSweeney’s cause been sold.
And the blood still lies on Kerry’s roads,
Unwashed by winds of old.
The hares cross lonely, barren ways,
Where once columns tramped the night,
And but a few still whisper Tracey’s name,
By hearthened fires in dancing light.

The Rose of Munster’s dead boys,
She choked upon her blood,
And Barry’s men died in her screams,
Trampled down into her mud.
Who cares for Kerry’s lonely graves,
The King of Cashel’s gone to Clare,
And those impoverished downtrodden fold,
As ever — laid naked, poor and bare.

Barry’s dead, does no-one hear?
Kilmicheal’s road — what worth?
While Irishmen wear rusty chains,
That beset them by their birth.
Oh! Barry’s gone let Munster weep,
His pleading ghost cries in the night,
But the Munster rose will only bloom again,
When Munster men join freedom’s fight.

God Bless you Bobby Sands....
agus go Raibh mile maith agat.

francis mahon said...

Today, like so many others scattered throughout the calendar, is a day to reflect on the sacrifices of Bobby Sands and many others. Recall their lives and their deeds, and thank God that we can finally begin to take our revenge - "in the laughter of our children".

NEVER FORGETMy own small tribute.

Anonymous said...

A Catalunya també et recordem i t'admirem, Bobby. Has estat un exemple per a nosaltres i tots aquells que lluiten per la llibertat de la seva nació.

Tiocfaidh ár lá
El nostre dia arribarà

Ardoyne Republican said...

Volunteer. Bobby Sands M.P. Will always be remembered with pride and respect. Thanks for your thoughts about him Gerry.

Kathy Collins said...

I never met Bobby Sands or any of the other hunger strikers. I see him as a true Patriot. Some say he is a traitor. By some do I mean margaret thatcher or martin mcguiness?

Erin said...

My name is Erin and I'm an American university student living in Milwaukee, WI. I'm in the process of completing a course in Irish history, particularly the "Troubles" in northern Ireland, and rushing to complete a research paper that's due tomorrow on Bobby Sands, his election, and the emergence of Sinn Fein electoral politics. Ironically, while writing I realized that today is the anniversary of his death, and I stumbled across this blog. I hope everyone in Ireland realizes that his life, and death, and impact are being taught halfway across the world from Ireland to this day.


Mr Reality said...

Thanks for the memories Gerry. Bobby and the other nine men who followed him into eternity were giants in every sense of the word. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten.

Maire said...

No words are necessary. Bobby & the other Hunger Strikers will always be remembered in deep repose and with great respect.

May They Always Walk With The Angels~

Linda Coleman said...

I think of Bobby Sands every day, because his picture is over my desk; it's a high-res inkjet of the Belfast mural, that I got at the Sinn Féin bookstore in Dublin.

Every time I'm tempted to write some caustic letter on any given poilitical topic, I just look at Bobby's smiling face, reminding me to keep my temper in check and my sense of humor turned on.

I don't presume to know what Bobby Sands would do if he were alive today, but I do know one thing--he would absolutely love this thing we call the world wide web, and would be using it to share his poetry and to educate people about the Irish language & Gaelic games.

Timothy Doougherty said...

Thank you Gerry to that wonderful post. I was in Derry at the H Block memorial May 5th, some one had put up a nice photo of Bobby Sands were his name is so well engraved at the top. It was a cold rainy day in Derry and not many was about, I would be sure that the H Block memorial keeps Bobby Sands name in mind everyday.

Anonymous said...

amazing as it may seem Sands was not from west Belfast but the north of the city,,,,a keen Soccer Player[ I will forgive him for that only just by the way]he comes from a noble family .I had and have the pleasure of knowing his family and believe in my heart he would bewildered by the current state of play..i cannot speak for those in heaven ,however if he did indeed say our revenge will be etc etc..May he rest in peace more courage than i ever had

Rich said...

I am an Irish American from Boston Mass. I am currently reading "Nothing But an Unfinished Song" By Denis O'Hearn.

I am blown away by the courage and the conviction of all the guys that suffered and died whilst on the Hunger strikes.

I have been obsessed with reading as much as I can.

We live in a time where conviction means nothing, these guys walked the walk. I cannot fathom the moment when one decides that they are willing to starve themselves to death for a greater cause.

Tiocfaidh ár lá