Faustina Kowalska was a Polish nun who claimed to have visions of a suffering Jesus from age 19 onwards, including one at age 26, of Jesus with red and white rays emanating from his heart and issuing instructions to have the vision painted – it appears here on the right. Kowalska died at age 33 in 1938, of tuberculosis, and was canonized in 2000 (WP). The “H Block Martyrs” pursued a vision of a United Ireland, and likewise died young, of starvation; this is the 40th anniversary of their deaths.
Both Kowalska placards are marked “This image is blessed. Please do not remove.” It is not clear if the hunger striker tarp on the left has also been anointed.
On Sunday March 22nd, 1981, forty years ago this week, Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O’Hara joined Bobby Sands and Francis Hughes on hunger strike in Long Kesh/HMP Maze. They would be joined by 19 more prisoners before the strike ended with ten of the 23 meeting their deaths. On March 31st, 1974, Michael Gaughan went on hunger strike in Parkhurst, along with four others, including Frank Stagg. Gaughan died in June as a result of forced feeding; Stagg would die on a later strike, in February 1976.
Mairéad Farrell (on the right of the image above) was arrested for planting a bomb at a hotel in Dunmurry in April 1976, one month after Special Category Status for republican prisoners had been revoked. Kieran Nugent (on the left) began the “blanket” protest in September that year and Farrell was the first person to join the protest, when she arrived in Armagh women’s prison to begin her fourteen year sentence. She later took up a dirty protest and joined the 1980 hunger strike. She stood for election in 1981 (in Cork), but, unlike “Óglach Bobby Sands, MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone”, was not successful. (WP)
“I am oppressed as a woman and I am oppressed as an Irish person. Everyone in this country is oppressed and yet we can only end our oppression as women if we end the oppression of our nation as a whole.” Máiread [sic] Farrell
The 39th Bundoran (RSF) hunger strike commemoration took place at the end of August, scaled-back due to the coronavirus pandemic (RSF). The poster above, on the electrical box on Northumberland Street, includes Pat Ward alongside the twelve “traditional” hunger strike deaths (for the first inclusion of Gaughan and Stagg, see Remember The Hunger Strikers from 1985) Ward, a Donegal fisherman and IRA volunteer, took part in four hunger strikes, lasting 148 days in total, including 45 in Portlaoise in 1975. He died in 1988. (RSF | Pensive Quill)
Republican prisoners in Maghaberry, Portlaoise, and Hydebank [now officially Hydebank Wood] went on hunger strike in solidarity with Dr Issam Hijjawi-Bassalat, a Palestinian national residing in Edinburgh, who was arrested in the August swoop that also saw nine Saoradh members arrested in connection with the New IRA. Hijjawi attended one of the meetings set up by (MI5 agent) Dennis McFadden in July. Hijjawi went on hunger strike on September 16th in protest and his solitary confinement and was yesterday (2020-09-28) moved into the republican wing at Maghaberry and the hunger strikes ended. (IRPWA | Irish News | Samidoun | Republican News)
The images in today’s post show IRPWA support for the hunger strikes on Free Derry Corner.
“The true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality” – Che Guevara Lynch. The INLA’s Kevin Lynch died in the second hunger strike after 71 days. He is buried in Dungiven, where this memorial sits on the main road between Derry and Maghera.
“I ndíl chuimhne ar Óglach Kevin Lynch a fuair bás ar stailc ocrais ar son saoirse, 1ú Lúnasa 1981 [who died on a hunger strike for freedom, 1st August 1981]. Erected by the Irish Republican Socialist Ex-Prisoners Memorial Committee.”
The Westrock bungalows were aluminium prefab houses built in 1949 during the post-war housing shortage next to Springhill and Ballymurphy. British troops fired on the area from the high position of Corry’s timber yard in the summer of 1972; their bullets could go through the walls. Five people were shot dead, including a priest. The plaques shown are in the memorial garden in Westrock Drive.
“On the evening of July 9th 1972 British marksmen mounted an unprovoked and sustained attack on this community. Among the snipers[‘] victims lay five dead. Gunned down during efforts to bring aid an succour to the wounded. Still waiting for justice to their memory and for freedom of the truth.”
Robert Ballagh’s 1916 Proclamation was first painted as a mural by Mo Chara Kelly and Risteard Ó Mhurchú in 1991 for the 75th anniversary of the Easter Rising (see Cáisc 1916 which also contains the Ballagh piece). That version stood for ten years on the Whiterock Road. It has reproduced again in Ard An Lao above the hunger strikers, after the removal of several plaques (see All Our Dead). “With special thanks to Hugo Óg Wilkinson”.
“In memory of the all the unsung heroes off [sic] this area who’s [sic] hardship, sacrifice and support during this struggle for Irish freedom will never be forgotten by the Belfast Brigade óglaigh na h-éireann.” The plaque depicts the work of print-makers (“Smash H-Block Armagh”), marchers carrying portraits of hunger strikers (“Mid Falls supports the women of Armagh”), bin-lid rattlers, and muralists (the mural shown is Free Ireland, which was at the bottom of Beechmount Avenue).