[Sinn Fein]

26 Meitheamh 2001

New SF MP to attend Clonakilty hungerstrike commemoration

Recently elected Sinn Fein M.P. for Fermanagh-South Tyrone, Ms. Michelle Gildernew will join ex Hunger Striker Bernard Fox as special guest at next Sunday's (1st July) 1981 Hunger Strike Commemoration ceremony in Clonakilty. The visit by Ms. Gildernew is a great honour, coming so soon after her election, but also in the year that a Republican recaptured the seat won by Bobby Sands on the 44th day of his hunger strike 20 years ago. She is also the first Sinn Fein M.P. since the election of Countess Marcheviez. The visit of the Sinn Fein M.P. to West Cork will also arouse much interest, coming as it does on the day that First Minister David Trimble has pledged to resign his position in the Northern Executive. As well as that, Unionist are to mount a legal challenge to the validity of Michelle Gildernew's seat in the coming weeks.

Bernard Fox, a friend and comrade of Bobby Sands, Joe McDonnell and Kieran Doherty, who himself fasted for 32 days on the 1981 hunger strike had confirmed to the committee several weeks ago that he would be proud to address the Clonakilty Commemoration. Sunday's ceremony will commence at 3.00pm at Emmet Square, from where the Youghal Republican Band will lead a march to Astna Square, via Jail Road, Connolly Street and Rossa Street. 10 young men, roughly the same ages of the Hunger Strikers when they were first imprisoned and died will carry portraits of Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Patsy O' Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Tom McElwee and Mickey Devine. They will be followed by 10 people carrying black flags, symbolising the families of the ten hunger strikers. After this will be banners and other flags.

At the monument, the commemoration proper will take place, addressed by Michelle Gildernew, M.P. and Bernard Fox.

After the ceremony is concluded, everyone is invited to The Strand Hotel, where there will be an exhibition of newspaper cuttings, photographs, etc. from the West Cork Anti H Block Campaign of 20 years ago. Older readers will remember that there was a very active organisation in West Cork in support of the Republican prisoners at the time. These newspaper cuttings, mostly from ``The Southern Star'' will be of great interest to many. The evening will also consist of poetry and song, with a number of other guests reminiscing on the West Cork campaign of 1981. The organisers stress that this day of commemoration is open to all to attend, as the 1981 Hunger Strike is a very important period in recent Irish history. They ask motorists to avoid if possible the parade route and Astna Square between 3.00 and 4.00pm. The march will be well stewarded, and the committee informed Clonakilty Gárda Station of the details nearly two weeks ago. It is hoped that vehicular access to Astna Street from Atkins Corner will be restricted for the duration of the speeches, and they ask everyone attending to obey stewards and the Gardaí on the day.

The Clonakilty 1981 Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee was set up last November to remember the sacrifices of the 10 men who died on hunger strike in the H Blocks of Long Kesh in 1981 on this the 20th anniversary and have been very active since. On February 1st last, they organised a very successful public meeting, addressed by Jackie McMullan and John Pickering, two other H Block Hunger Strikers. Over 70 people attended with several of these joining the committee. Since then, preparations have been ongoing to hold a commemoration in the town to honour fittingly, the sacrifices and legacy of the ten men who died in Long Kesh 20 years ago.

Further information: SF Cllr. Cionnaith Ó Súilleabháin, Clonakilty 086-2202029

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