5 May 1981 – The Sinn Fein MP and Irish Republican prisoner Bobby Sands died after 66 days of his hunger strike at the H-Block Prison hospital at Long Kesh. At the age of ten Sands and his family had been forced to leave their home in Rathcoole due to loyalist intimidation.  In 1972 he had joined the Republican Movement as he was determined to see a unified independent Ireland and in September 1977 he had been sentenced to 14 years in prison for the possession of a revolver.  Inside prison he was deprived of the right to exercise and suffered from frequent beatings and long periods in the punishment cells for daring to demand better conditions.

For the first seventeen days of his hunger strike he kept a secret diary written on toilet paper. On 1st March, day one, he wrote –

“My heart is very sore because I know that I have broken my poor mother’s heart, and my home is struck with unbearable anxiety. But I have considered all the arguments and tried every means to avoid what has become the unavoidable: it has been forced upon me and my comrades by four-and-a-half years of stark inhumanity. I am a political prisoner. I am a political prisoner because I am a casualty of a perennial war that is being fought between the oppressed Irish people and an alien, oppressive, unwanted regime that refuses to withdraw from our land.”

On 23 March he was moved to the prison hospital and a week later he was nominated as the candidate in a by election for the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone and was declared the winner on 9 April, but the British did not relent to any of his demands for improved conditions. Bobby Sands, however, continued to refused to end his hunger strike and died at 1.17 am on Tuesday 5th May.

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