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National Hunger Strike Commemoration March and events for Dundalk – Adams

19 June, 2015 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams this morning published details at a press conference of the National Hunger Strike Commemoration which is due to take place in Dundalk on August 23rd.

Mr. Adams and Louth County Councillor Edel Corrigan addressed an invited audience of around 60 people in the Old Dundalk Jail. Local Councillors Pearse McGeogh, Jennifer Green, Tomás Sharkey, and MEP Matt Carthy were in attendance, as were former Hunger Striker Laurence McKeown and Paddy Agnew who won the Louth Dáil seat in 1981.

Councillor Corrigan said:

“This year is the 34th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike which marked a historic watershed moment in Irish and republican history. The weekend of August 22nd August will see a series of events, including a lecture by Owen Carron in the Drogheda Arts Centre on Friday evening, a wreath laying ceremony at the Hunger Strike Monument, at the Bridge of Peace in Drogheda on Saturday morning; a guided tour of Republican graves at St. Patrick’s Graveyard, Dowdalshill, Newry Road; the film ‘A Kind of Sisterhood’ looking at the experience of women over the years of struggle – there will be a question and answer session after that with former women prisoners; a National Hunger Strike Exhibition in the Oriel Centre, Dundalk Gaol, and the march will take place on Sunday August 23rd.

Speaking at this morning’s launch, Gerry Adams said:

“I can think of few more fitting venues in County Louth for the launch of the National Hunger Strike Commemoration than Dundalk Jail. This place has a long and interesting history when it comes to Irish republicanism, holding as it did many republican prisoners over the years whether at the behest of the British or Free State authorities.

“The jail played host to many hundreds of IRA prisoners during the Tan War, the Civil War, and beyond. Some of the most famous inmates incarcerated at Dundalk Gaol were John Dillon, Frank Aiken, Austin Stack, Sean Treacy and Diarmuid Lynch.

“In July 1922, 105 IRA prisoners broke free from the Jail which was then under Free State control.
Prior to the escape 6 POWs were taken from the prison for execution by the Free State army. In October 1923, over 200 republican POWs embarked on hunger strike in Dundalk Prison. The bodies of the six executed IRA man were subsequently taken from Dundalk Gaol in October 1924 and re-interred in the town’s republican plot.

“If the walls of this jail could talk, they would tell extraordinary stories. So, it is very appropriate that we launch our Hunger Strike Commemorative events here.  The 1981 Hunger Strike was a pivotal point in Irish history. It came after a decade in which the British Government had deployed every conceivable weapon in its military and political arsenal to defeat the Irish republican struggle, but the British Government underestimated the commitment, resolve and determination of republican prisoners.

“They underestimated the support that existed for the prisoners’ demands throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. Ten young men - Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Patsy O’Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Thomas McElwee and Michael Devine, died on the Hunger Strike. Their families were distraught and Ireland was convulsed in anger and political reaction.

“The resolve of republican prisoners, the bravery of the 10 Hunger Strikers, and the widespread support for their demands smashed Britain’s criminalisation policy in Ireland re-invigorated our struggle  and accelerated the rise of Sinn Fein as a political party.

“Thirty-four years after the Hunger Strike, the republican struggle is immeasurably stronger, more confident and more able to advance our primary political objective of bringing about a united Ireland.

“County Louth played a big role in support of the Hunger Strikers. The support throughout this county was huge. This was demonstrated by the election of Paddy Agnew from Dundalk, a protesting prisoner in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, to the Dáil for the Louth constituency. Paddy topped the poll. So it is appropriate that the County this year plays host to the National Commemoration.” 

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