An Camchéacta/The Starry Plough, June 1981
Bobby Sands, Francie Hughes, Ray McCreesh and Patsy O'Hara were murdered. They were murdered by the refusal of Thatcher to negotiate with the prisoners.
All the official statements say that they took their own lives. But nothing could be further from the truth.
They were murdered because they refused to conform to Britain's rules - to wear convicts' uniforms, to call prison warders "sir", to call themselves "criminals" and to call their struggle a criminal struggle.
Since they were teenagers Bobby, Francie, Ray and Patsy experienced what it was like to be a second-class citizen in their own country. That because they were Catholics, they were the last in line for any jobs going - and the last in line for housing. And they knew that if they opened their mouths in protest they would be kicked back into place by the RUC and B Specials.
They knew that their future under the present set-up in the six counties was more of the same - that there would be no change in the daily struggle to tear some dignity out of their lives.
All four took-up arms to end all of this. Bobby, Francie and Ray in the Provisional IRA, Patsy in the Irish National Liberation Army.
They had seen the peaceful protests, pickets, marches, demonstrations and rent strikes. All of them had failed. For the struggle for civil rights was answered by military might.The first 6 people who died in the Six Counties troubles were Catholics killed by the RUC and B Specials. And when more people joined the protests Britain responded by murdering 14 civil rights marchers on Bloody Sunday.
The republican people knew that there was going to be reform, but not while the Stormont set-up lasted. And they knew that Stormont would last as long as Britain backed it - and murdered all who opposed it.
And that's why the people turned to the armed struggle. Because there was no other way to overthrow the injustice and oppression foisted on them by Britain.
And there was nothing criminal about that decision. Which is the paint at issue in the H-Blocks and Armagh.
Thatcher maintains that all who oppose British mis-rule in Ireland are criminals. Irish people know differently. We know that the prisoners are motivated by political reasons Ü and are engaged in that struggle not from evil but against evil.
And that despite Thatchers murders they will triumph.