An Phoblacht/Republican News · Thursday 6 September 2001
Skibbereen honours the hunger strikers
Republicans from all over West Cork attended a hunger strike commemoration in Skibbereen on Saturday 25 August. Close on 200 participated in the march and this grew to well over 300 for the main commemoration in the square.
Donnchadh Ó Seaghdha chaired the proceedings and welcomed all those present agus chuir sé fáilte speisialta roimh an beirt cainteoirí Owen Carron agus Coireail McCurtáin, agus an beirt comhairlóirí, Áine O'Leary agus Cionnaith Ó Súilleabháin . He continued ``we are gathered here to pay honour and homage to Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes and their comrades for their courage and integrity in laying down their lifes indefending the republican struggle .In a few weeks time Martin McGuinness will be travelling to South Africa to meet Nelson Mandela and one of his duties there will be to unveil a plaque to the memory of the ten hunger strikers, such has been the impact of the sacrifices of the hunger strikers wordwide. Struggle, resistance and solidarity know no boundaries. A victory for the oppressed people of South Africa was a victory for us and a victory for us is a victory for them. We also pay tribute to those who supported the hunger strikers of 1981 from the Skibbereen and West Cork area.''
Coireail MacCurtáin, republican former prisoner from West Limerick, who taught Bobby Sands Gaeilge in Long Kesh, then addressed the crowd: ``Tá an athas orm a bheith anseo anocht mar tá sé an tabhachtach go mbaillíonn daoine le chéile chun onóir agus omóis a thabhairt dos na laochra siúd a fuair bás ar stailc ocrais i 1981, an iobairt ba mhisniúla agus ba chróga a tharla riamh I stair na tíre seo. Deichniúir a fuair bás ag cosaint ainm agus chlú poblachtánaigh, ní raibheadar sásta geilleadh do rí Shasana agus a rá gur coirpigh iad mar bhíodar ag iarraidh an smál sin a chur ar poblachtánaigh trí chéile ar fud na hEireann. Tá tionchar an stailc ocrais sin le feiscint fós ar fud na tíre mar nuair a smaoinaíonn tú siar ba pháirtí an-bheag é Sinn Féin i 1981, anois táimid an-láidir sna sé chontae agus ag fás freisin sna 26 chontae agus an mór chuid den bhuíochas sin ag dul do Bobby Sands Francis Hughes agus a chomrádaithe a fuair bas i 1981.'
``I got to know Bobby Sands in 1974 in Long Kesh - like all the other hunger strikers he was just an ordinary person. Bobby was a great football player, athlete, musician and had tremendous love for his language and culture. The British thought they were striking at the weakest and most vulnerable, but in reality they were taking on the bravest and the best of our people . By their courage and sacrifices they preserved the honour and integrity of the struggle for freedom and justice in Ireland.
Owen Carron spoke of how he has spoken at commemorations all over Ireland this Summer and is still struck even 20 years after, by the many people who are still being moved by the hunger strikers, many of whom were not born at that time.
``I thought that when republicans flocked from all over Ireland and got Bobby Sands elected MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone that that would save his life. But the cold and ruthless British government wouldnt meet the prisoners wouldn't recognise their mandate . It didn't matter that 100,000 people marched after the coffin of Bobby Sands, that the Longshoreman's union blocked the port of New York and that the parliament of New Delhi stood in silence.
``I am heartened to come here tonight to see that many people down here in Skibbereen understand that the struggle that is going on in the Six Counties is the same struggle, whether you live in Derry, Belfast, Leitrim or Skibbereen.
Before the ceremony was concluded the cathaoirleach Donnchadh Ó Seaghdha paid tribute to Joseph O'Sullivan of Fachtnas Terrace, who left his sick bed to be present. Joe was the only remaining link with a previous generation of republicans at the time of the hunger strikes.