An Camchéacta/The Starry Plough, March 1981
On March 1st a new hunger strike begins in the H-Blocks. This follows the refusal of the British Government to act on assurances given to the prisoners following the ending of the last hunger strike on December 18th.
At that time the hunger strikers were told that most of their demands would be met. The demands for free association, visits and remission presented "no problem." And the question of prison work would be interpreted in such a way as to include the prisoners own craft-work and education. On the question of clothes, the prisoners were to be allowed to wear clothes sent in from their families.
This was to happen if the Prisoners ended their hunger strike.
Concern for the critical condition of hunger striker Sean McKenna, allied with assurances given by the British authorities that their demands would be met, led to the ending of the hunger strike.
Almost immediately the British began to backtrack.
First they asked the prisoners for a delay in implementing their demands. This was needed, they said, in order that arrangements for the sending-in of clothes and the cleaning of cells could be made.
Then the prison authorities announced that the prisoners would not receive their own clothes until such time as the prisoners conformed fully to the prison rules. In other words, until the prisoners agreed to do prison work and wear convict uniform!
This the prisoners rejected and demanded that the British implement their assurances.
When they failed to do so, the prisoners resumed the dirty protest and announced that if their demands were not met they would recommence a hunger strike on March 1st.
Irish Republican Socialist Party prisoners will be represented on this hunger strike. The IRSP/INLA prisoners are determined to continue their opposition to the criminalisation policies of the British Government.
IRSP opposition to the H-Blocks has existed ever since Merlyn Rees announced his proposals for the ending of special status.
At a meeting of representatives of the various organisations in Long Kesh (Provisionals, IRSP, Officials, UDA and UVF), at which the British tried to sell the idea of criminalisation in return for remission of sentences, a welfare centre and cash, IRSP representatives - including the prisoners' spokesman Frank Gallagher - stated that there was no way that the IRSP would accept the H-Blocks.
That has been the IRSP position ever since.
Over the past five years the party has campaigned for the restoration of political status. Despite the murder of party activists involved in the campaign - Miriam Daly, Noel Lyttle, Rodney McCormac and Ronnie Bunting - the party remains determined.
In Long Kesh the prisoners' representatives are steadfast in their opposition to the attempts at criminalisation. The prisoners' spokesman, Patsy O'Hara, has stated that he is prepared to go on hunger strike until such time as the prisoners' demands are met.
We urge all Socialists and Republicans to support the prisoners and the campaign in support of their demands.