In Memoriam of the 1981 Hunger Strikers



IRSCNA Statement In Memory of Patsy O Hara, Kevin Lynch, Michael Devine and their Seven Comrades Who Died on Hunger Strike in 1981

The Irish people, relatively few in number and living on an island on the north-west edge of Europe, have contributed to human society far in excess to their to what their numbers and geography would suggest. In the matter of resistance to oppression, the fact that Ireland has served as a testing ground for the tactics of colonialism and imperialism then employed around the globe has aided in Ireland also being able to lead by example in the struggle against these tactics. So it has been that Ireland provided the first use of a workers` militia, the Irish Citizen Army, in an attempt to turn the imperialist world war then raging into a class war for the liberation of all. Connolly became one of the earliest Marxists to contribute writings on the topic of guerilla warfare. The car bomb was first employed in the struggle in Ireland. And, perhaps more notable than any thing else, Ireland gave to the world the tactic of the hunger strike.

Drawn, as we all know, from the social practices of Ireland`s Gaelic past, the hunger strike provides irrefutable testimony to the existence of injustice, as well as to the ethical legitimacy of those seeking justice through its use, and the depth of commitment to that pursuit of justice. We are unable to observe the example of a fellow human being refusing to accept the sustenance that enables the very continuation of life, the active and voluntary experience of physical torture and slow but sure march towards death, and be left with any question as to the rights and wrongs of the matter at hand. Criminals, rogues, and egotists do not embark on the path to their own self-destruction through protracted physical decay. Users and abusers of others, fools, and pompous asses do not have what it takes to feel yourself die, day by day, moment by moment, over the course of weeks and months.

To take such a path requires heroism that can only be born of righteousness; it requires conviction that cannot be achieved without having been confronted starkly by the lack of other options; and it requires an enemy so base and a circumstance so unjust that death through starvation appears the more desirable choice of fates.

In 1980, Irish women and men by the scores embarked upon this course of action and the world took notice. In 1981 yet more Irish men were forced to make the choice to do so again, and those who love justice throughout the world embraced each of them who fell as though they were their own sons.

The INLA and IRA volunteers who went to their deaths on hunger strike in 1981, and those who nearly did the same in the preceding year, some damaging their health beyond repair, testified to the righteousness of the national liberation struggle in Ireland and to the corruption and moral degradation of those who opposed them and none could doubt the truth of their testimony.

Today, these ten young men remain for us a symbol of that struggle for freedom and justice against tyranny and exploitation. They remain for us and for all those who struggle against imperialism, capitalism, and all forms of oppression around the globe a source of inspiration.

When we hear of the 23 women and men in the prisons of Turkey who have recently died on hunger strike and who continue to march towards their deaths in pursuit of justice, we know that they, like the Irish women and men of 1980 and 1981, are deserving of our support and solidarity. We know without doubt or hesitation that their cause is just.

The memory of these brave martyrs of 1981 will never die in the hearts of working class people and because of that we can never be turned from the course we have set ourselves upon. In fitting tribute to these heroes, we will see the evil, inhuman, and oppressive reality of imperialist exploitation and capitalist domination driven from Ireland and the world.

In lasting memorial, we will not be seduced by the glamour of sipping tea with Presidents and rubbing elbows with the rich and useless drones of society, but will fight anew for the dignity and well being of the great masses of working people.

Because we cannot find it within ourselves to sit idle, knowing that men like these have given all that any person has to give in this world, we will drive ourselves forward. And we will know victory.

Because we are right, because our struggle is just, because we must.

Peter Urban