The early 1980s in the ‘United Kingdom’ were cataclysmic times. The Thatcher government was turning back time on hard fought gains by unions and progressive movements. In the north of Ireland, a resurgent nationalist/republican front was fighting to reclaim contested land (a massive simplification).
For political prisoners, the struggle for the five demands, was a critical rejection of criminal categorisation. Activists were (and are) in a battle for freedom. Northern Ireland, as an occupied state, ‘requires violence or the threat of violence to attain its goals. People do not hand over their land, resources, children, and futures without a fight, and that fight is met with violence’ (Dunbar-Ortiz R. 2014. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Boston: Beacon).
This work is about the brutality of that fight and the people who fought it.
In Patsy O’Hara’s words (the fourth of ten political prisoners who died on hunger strike) : “We stand for the freedom of the Irish nation so that future generations will enjoy the prosperity they rightly deserve, free from foreign interference, oppression and exploitation. The real criminals are the British imperialists who have thrived on the blood and sweat of generations of Irish men. They have maintained control of Ireland through force of arms and there is only one way to end it. I would rather die than rot in this concrete tomb for years to come.” (Published in IRIS, Vol. 1, No. 2, November 1981. IRIS was a publication of the Sinn Fein Foreign Affairs Bureau).
O’Hara is featured in the murder#4 series. I was interested in the chaotic nature of the Irish National Liberation Army, a splinter of the official IRA/ official Sinn Fein, and in principle, a class – conscious group who were committed to a socialist solution to the troubles. The second area of interest was in how his body was treated by prison officers /unknown people post mortem: ‘His corpse was found to be mysteriously disfigured prior to its departure from prison and before the funeral, including signs of his face being beaten, a broken nose, and cigarette burns on his body.’ (Feldman, Allen (1991). Formations of Violence. The Narrative of the Body and Political Terror in Northern Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 264, 302.)
Sands Hughes O’Hara McCreesh McDonnell Hurson Lynch Docherty McElwee Devine