ON April 10, 1981, IRA prisoner and hunger striker Bobby Sands was elected to Westminster as the MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.
Bobby Sand’s victory was the second time the voters of Fermanagh and South Tyrone had elected a republican prisoner as their MP. The first, Philip Clarke, in 1955, was disqualified because the law then did not allow convicts to take up political office…
Mrs. Rosaleen Sands, right, mother of the successful hunger-striker Bobby Sands after the result in Enniskillen on April 10, 1981. The woman at left is Marcella, sister of elected hunger-striker Bobby Sands, after court gave the IRA man victory in Enniskillen on Friday.
Sands represented the “Anti-H Block” campaign – the section of the Maze prison in Belfast reserved for republicans and loyalists convicted of terrorist offences.
Sands, 27, had served four years of a 14-year sentence for possessing firearms. He began his hunger strike 41 days before his elections to press the republican prisoners’ claim to be treated as prisoners of war.
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Ireland fans hold up a banner reminding people of the hunger-striking Republican prisoners in H Block of Maze Prison
Bobby Sands won just over 52% of the vote in the Northern Ireland by-election compared to 49% for the candidate of the Official Unionist party, Harry West.
Marcela Sands, sister of Bobby Sands M.P., hunger-striking inmate of the Maze Prison, walks hand in hand with his election agent Owen Crow during a protest rally in Northern Ireland in April 1981. Date: 01/04/1981
Not everyone supported Sands.
Protests regarding hunger striker Bobby Sands in April, 1981 in Northern Ireland.
Sands’ winning margin was 1,400 but over 3,000 ballot papers were spoiled.
Recriminations have already begun over his victory. Unionist parties have come under fire for not mounting an effective challenge. There has also been sharp criticism of the failure of the moderate Catholic Social Democratic and Labour Party to contest the seat.
Outside the Maze prison in Belfast on April 24, 1981, Mr. Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general, Mr. Owen Carron, Bobby Sands election agent, Marcells Sands, sister of Sands, and Daniel Benrigan, U.S. civil rights. They escorted the Sands family for a visit to hunger striker Bobby Sands. Ramsey Clark has been refused permission to see Sands. (AP Photo/Peter Kemp)
Many believe the absence of an alternative Catholic candidate ensured victory for Sands in a seat with a Catholic majority.
Three prisoners staging a protest on the roof of Wormwood Scrubs jail in London on April 26, 1981. They climbed onto the roof during an exercise period and began yelling slogans about IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.
Bobby Sands’ election agent, Owen Carron, said the British Government had been sent a message.
“The nationalist people have voted against Unionism and against the H blocks. It is time Britain got out of Ireland and put an end to the torture of this country,” he said.
Sands continued with his hunger strike.
An unidentified woman holds her rosary to her lips, during a prayer service for Bobby Sands and his fellow IRA hunger strikers, in a Catholic area of Belfast on Friday, May 1, 1981. Sands is now in the 62nd day of his hunger strike at Northern Ireland’’s Maze prison.
In New York, a nun went on hunger strike.
Political activist Daniel Berrigan chats with Sister Rosaleen O’’Halloran in New York on April 30, 1981, she is on a hunger strike in support of caparisoned IRA guerrilla Bobby Sands, during a rally at the United Nations in support of Sands. Sands were reported Â“deteriorating at an alarming rate,Â” and his mother has promised to let him die of starvation rather than compromise. Date: 30/04/1981
As Sands’ health failed, people prepared.
Local residents erect a barricade across the road in the Turf Lodge area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on April 30, 1981, during preparations for possible civil disorders, which are expected to follow the imminent death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. Sands is into the 61st day of a hunger strike in Northern Ireland’’s Maze Prison. Date: 30/04/1981
People stocked up, ready to remain indoor in case of trouble.
An unidentified Catholic family struggles home, loaded down with provisions, after a shopping expedition in Belfast on Thursday, April 30, 1981. Homes in Belfast have been collecting supplies recently in case of major civil disorders following the expected death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. (AP Photo/Peter Kemp)
A protestor supporting the IRA hunger strikers stands in the center of the Catholic Falls road in Belfast on Friday, May 1, 1981, as troops of the royal fusiliers check cars at a roadblock. Tension remained high in Belfast, in anticipation of the death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. (AP Photo/Peter Kemp)
On British streets, there was fear and loathing.
Protests in New York.
Demonstrators outside the British Consulate to the U.N. in New York on May 2, 1981, burn British Prime Minister Thatcher in effigy using a mannequin during a demonstration in support of hunger striker Bobby Sands, who is reported close to death in Northern Ireland’’s Maze Prison. The demonstration was organized by an organization called Irish Northern. (AP Photo/Kneisel)
On May 5, 1981, Bobby Sands died.
Woman seen in Catholic area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on May 5, 1981, after the death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands
British troops (in foreground) clash with demonstrators in a Catholic-dominated area of Belfast, Northern Ireland’’s troubled capital city on May 5, 1981. Demonstrators returned to the streets in force, armed with petrol and acid bombs, following the death of Irish Republican Army hunger striker Bobby Sands.
A hooded youngster knocks down a wall with a sledge hammer, to gather bricks for throwing at security forces, as another gathers barbed wire for a barricade in Belfast’’s Falls Road, Northern Ireland on May 5, 1981. Rioters took to the streets, after hearing of the death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, in the Maze Prison. (AP Photo/David Caulkin)
Three young girls stroll along a Belfast street, while two British soldiers of the Royal Fusiliers keep watch for snipers, after a spate of rioting in Belfast, Northern Ireland on May 5, 1981. Although rioters took to the streets in the early hours of the morning, following the death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, much of the city had returned to normal by dawn.
Protestors supporting the H-block protest, wave black flags of mourning for hunger striker Bobby Sands, as they stand in the center of Belfast’s Falls Road on May 5, 1981. The protestors were mourning the death of Sands, who died early Tuesday, at the start of his 66th day of hunger strike in Northern Ireland’’s Maze Prison.
An old man sweeps broken glass outside his home, as a British army patrols a street in the Catholic Falls Road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on May 6, 1981. After almost 36 hours of sporadic rioting, Belfast was quiet on Wednesday, following the death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.
Black flags fly from the windows, as people queue outside the home of Bobby Sands’’ parents in the Twinbrooks area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on May 6, 1981, to view SandsÂ’ body. IRA hunger striker Sands, died in Northern Ireland’’s Maze Prison on Tuesday, after 66 days on hunger strike.
Demonstrators spelling out “We are all IRA” protest the death of Bobby Sands at a Lisbon, Portugal on May 6, 1981 march on the British Embassy.
John Sands, (extreme left), puts his hands on his brother BobbyÂ’s coffin, as it is escorted by masked IRA men, from his parentÂ’s house to a church, in the Twinbrooks area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on May 6, 1981. The coffin will lie in the church overnight, until ThursdayÂ’s funeral ceremonies at Belfast’s Milltown cemetery. (AP Photo/Peter Kemp)
The next day, Bobby Sands’ body was buried.
Escorted by hooded members of the Irish Republican Army, the coffin of hunger striker Bobby Sands leaves a church in Belfast, Northern Ireland on May 7, 1981, followed by his sister Marcella and his 7-year-old son Gerald.
Sean Sands, center, brother of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, marching in the New York parade up Fifth Avenue on March 17, 1982 with the contingent from the Irish Northern Aid Committee of New York. The button on his jacket says, ‘“England Get Out of Ireland.’” (AP Photo/Warren Jorgensen)
A mural painted on the side of a house in Londonderry shows a CatholicÂ’s perspective of the tension in Northern Ireland in 1984. The poem by the late hunger striker Bobby Sands written next to the painting states that ‘no one is too old or young to do something.
In 2003, Michael McKevitt became the first person in Irish history to be jailed for directing terrorism. In a landmark civil case in 2009, the High Court in Belfast ruled he was also responsible for the 1998 Omagh bomb that killed 29 people and unborn twins.
File dated 15/5/98 of Bernadette Sands-McKevitt, sister of hunger striker Bobby Sands and member of the 32 County Sovereignty Committee. Ms Sands McKevitt, partner of Michael McKevitt, the man reputed to lead the Real IRA hardline terrrorist group, appeared live on radio today (Weds) to condemn the mass murder bomb attack on Omagh. Photo by Brian Little/PA
Siobhan Quinn aged 12 from Belfast wearing a” Brits out Now ” headband and carrying a drawing of Bobby Sands the first IRA hunger striker to die, at the19th Anniversary of the IRA Hunger strike. Gerry Adams addressed thousands of republicans later at Dunville park. *.. on the Falls road. Date: 07/05/2000
Sinn Fein’s behind-the-scenes strategist Jim Gibney beside a new mural of his friend, the late hunger striker Bobby Sands. The mural of the IRA hunger-striker, who died in 1981, is on the gable end of the new Sinn Fein offices in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
A scuffle breaks out outside the Brazen Head pub in Glasgow, as an anti-republican breaks through a cordon and into the crowd during a rally to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the IRA hunger-strike at the Maze prison in Northern Ireland. * Around 2000 people marched through Glasgow city centre in honour of the hunger strikes of 1981 when a number of IRA inmates including Bobby Sands starved to death. Date: 27/05/2001
The grave of hunger striker Bobby Sands, just one of the graves smashed at the Republican plot in Milltown cemetery, Belfast. Sixteen headstones were smashed in Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast as vandals targeted the Republican Plot where some of Northern Ireland’s best known members of the Provisional IRA are buried.
A woman passes a wall mural depicting Bobby Sands, at centre, commemorating the IRA hunger strikers in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, Friday, May, 5, 2006.
Sands first of 10 republican prisoners to die after hunger strikes. The hunger strikes came to an end in October 1981.
Cell No. Eight in the Prison Hospital at the Maze / Long Kesh site near Lisburn where IRA Hunger striker Bobby Sands died in 1981.