Thousands attend 30th Anniversary Hunger Strike rally

August 16, 2011

By Brónagh Murphy

Upwards of 20,000 people attended a commemoration in the village of Camloch yesterday (Sunday) to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1981 Long Kesh Hunger Strike.

Led by the McKelvey Pipe Band, Ballymacnab and former P.O.W.s, the parade wound its way over the two-mile route, adorned with black flags and several scenes depicting life during the height of the Troubles, to the rally point at Smith’s field.

Emma McArdle, Sinn Féin’s Publicity Officer for Newry and Armagh, chaired proceedings at which Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams delivered the main oration.

Local youths read out brief biographies of each of the Hunger Strikers, to the poignant strains of Mná na hÉireann played by Paddy Martin on the pipes.

In his address Gerry Adams reminded listeners that the Hunger Strikers set an example for every republican to replicate and that their spirit and strength would always be remembered with pride. He said the prison struggle which ultimately claimed the lives of the ten hunger strikers was akin to the struggle outside the prisons.  It was about the right of the Irish people to self-determination, independence and freedom.

“And that struggle continues today,” he said.  “Thirty years ago the North was embroiled in war, there is now an entirely peaceful way to bring an end to British rule.  The fact is that Irish republicanism is stronger today than at any time since Partition.

“But to make further advances and to be able to exercise even greater political influence and power, we need to build our struggle.  There is no more important time than this for the republican principles of equality, fraternity, and freedom,” he added.

Earlier in the day local MP Conor Murphy hosted a private ceremony where Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness presented family members of the Hunger Strikers with token mementos to mark the occasion.  Promising that the sacrifice of their loved ones will never be forgotten in the pursuit of Irish freedom, Mr Adams pledged his party’s commitment to continue the struggle for a united Ireland.

The event concluded with Amhráin na bhFiann, sung by Shona Daly, Crossmaglen.

Pictorial: Gallery