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Bobby Sands MP 9th March 1954 – 5th May 1981

May 5, 2011

Its 30 years to the day since the death of Bobby Sands on hunger strike in a British prison. This is the emergency edition of the Peoples Democracy publication, Socialist Republic which was issued at the time.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bob Purdie permalink
    May 24, 2011 11:11 am

    It pained me to read the comment on Paddy Devlin in the Socialist Republic bulletin about the death of Bobby Sands. Paddy was a friend and I hold him in affectionate memory. When I lived in Belfast in the 198os we worked together in the tiny Labour Party of Northern Ireland, offering a non-sectarian socialist alternative to the prevailing politics.

    Paddy could have had a political career if he had stayed in the SDLP, but he left because he thought it was no longer socialist and he didn’t want to be a member of a party that appealed only to one section of the community. He was not an associate of Gerry Fitt and had little time for him. Fitt left the SDLP after Paddy and I remember him saying, “I left the SDLP to get away from that fucker Fitt and he fuckin’ followed me.” As an independent Councillor he was highly successful and imaginative in creating alliances for progressive causes, such as getting the Freedom of the City for the poet John Hewitt and making Belfast a nuclear free zone. As secretary of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union on Belfast docks he fought for his members. After he lost his council seat he continued, as a human being helping anyone he could, including young couples who couldn’t get one of their own clergy to marry them when they loved somone from the other tradition.

    At the time of the hunger strike he lived in Andersonstown and was distressed when his daughter, whom he described as a “wee slow girl” was tied to a lamp standard and urinated on because he would not support the Hunger Strikers. He told me that he had to sit behind his front door with his pistol, waiting for the crowd to break through. He did not support the Hunger Strikers because he had broken from the IRA as teenager and wanted to promote working class unity. On the other hand he did not follow Gerry Fitt in publicly denouncing them. It was a complicated issue, I went on a couple of marches in support of the Hunger Strikers because I believed that the Thatcher Government was being obdurate. But I stopped doing so because (a) the Provisionals said that they didn’t want support from anyone who was against the “armed struggle” and (b) I objected to a supposedly non-Republican march being stewarded by IRA Volunteers in uniforms and masks.

    Paddy and his family were intimidated out of Andersonstown by Republican supporters and moved to North Belfast. Then, when he was lying ill in hospital, he was harrassed by Loyalists. Those were hard times, thank God they are over.

    Bob Purdie


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