On Sunday, May 21st at 1pm, the Rhode Island 1916 Commemoration Committee will unveil a plaque dedicated to the 1981 hunger strikers at the Famine Memorial site located along the Providence River Greenway. Speakers include Committee Chair James McGetrick, Tricia McIver, MD, keynote speaker Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan (who was on the 1981 Hunger Strike), followed by AOH FFAI Chair Martin Galvin. A social will follow at the Ceilidhe Club (50 America Street, Cranston) at 2 PM.
However, the plaque has been criticized for its historical revisionism, in which it summarizes the end goal of the hunger strike being the Good Friday Agreement. It reads in part,
“The death of these ten men, and the international response to it, caused The British to change this policy and also created the conditions for the armed struggle to evolve into participation in Electoral Politics, leading eventually to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.”
Gerry McGeough and John Crawley are both former POWs who have offered their thoughts on this historical misinterpretation:
Gerry McGeough: “As someone who worked on the Bobby Sands election and campaigned on behalf of Irish Republican prisoners during both the 1980 and ’81 hunger strikes, I take issue with some of the baffling claims recorded on this plaque.
During the Hunger Strikes we Irish Republicans on the ground saw the sacrifice of these brave POWs as not only part of the prison struggle, but also as a major front in the overall struggle against the British presence in our country. Every Republican, whether in prison or elsewhere, saw the ending of the British occupation of the North of Ireland and the political unity of our ancient nation as the ultimate goal of our collective struggle.
Were anyone to have suggested to us in 1981 that a shabby deal without any significant input from Irish Republicans was worth all our sacrifices, they’d have been laughed at with gusto. And just when, exactly, did the British change their policy on criminalising the Irish Freedom Struggle?
When I took part in electoral politics by standing as an Independent Republican candidate in Bobby Sands’ old constituency of Fermanagh-South Tyrone in 2007, I was arrested at the Count Centre, charged with IRA activities from 1981, dragged through the corrupt Diplock Court system and given a 20 year so-called criminal sentence. What have I missed here? Why is the information on this plaque so misleading? What’s the real agenda?
Distorting real and true history to suit current policy u-turns is nothing new. Stalin did it all the time. However, revisionism rarely works when those who played an active role in the history that’s being rewritten are still alive and able to set the record straight. Éire go Brách.”
John Crawley: “As a lifelong republican activist, I find few concepts more disheartening than the implication that the ten IRA/INLA hunger strikers who died in the H-Blocks in 1981 paved the way for the Good Friday Agreement.
The issue of political legitimacy has been at the core of what Irish hunger strikes have been about. Few republican prisoners could doubt that the sacrifices made and the hardships endured during these protests were not about obtaining an easy life in jail but a defense of our legitimate right to fight for the freedom of our country without being treated as common criminals by the British government or their Irish allies.
The Good Friday Agreement is a British pacification strategy based on the principle that the model of Ireland as one nation is a discredited concept. It is a snare and a delusion. It entangles us in a web of terms and conditions regarding Irish unity that only Britain can interpret and adjudicate. It invites the delusion British legislation will pave the way to a national democracy within an All-Ireland republic. A political outcome Britain has strenuously rejected and sabotaged at every opportunity. The Good Friday Agreement annuls the republican concept of national unity across the sectarian divide. It guarantees that unionists will remain British into perpetuity, as opposed to sharing equal citizenship with the rest of their countrymen. A genuine republic recognizes and tolerates diversity but should never encourage and embrace conflicting national loyalties within its territory.
Abraham Lincoln said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” The Good Friday Agreement is an attempt to ensure our house remains permanently divided, even in a so-called united Ireland. That unionists will remain forever in Ireland but not of it. It guarantees that the political malignancy through which Britain historically manipulated and controlled Ireland will remain intact. No Irish republican would have died for that.”
Produced with thanks to our contributors.
Would you mind fixing the error in the article stating ’10 IRA Hunger Strikers’ please, as 3 of them were in fact Irish National Liberation Army Volunteers. Thank you.
Corrected, thanks for noting
So, in Rhode Island the MI5/Adams/McGuinness version of history is promoted? How tragic; for Rhode Islanders and for truth.
But the Big Lie is demolished by two of the best of our era – Gerry McGeough and John Crawley. Our eternal gratitude to both of you.