Just off the fón to a friend and we got talking about An Stailc Ocrais and the fact Bobby Sands went on it this day 1981. I'd never claim to have known Bobby well but I was in the same Block - H5 - as him and would've seen him most Sundays at mass.
I was one of the lucky ones in that I was released from that hell-hole on 27th July 1979. I was under no illusion that a hunger strike would take place and the following year seven lads went on one later to be joined by 3 of our comrades in Armagh women's gaol. It ended after 53 days and being outside I was delighted but after a day or two we knew the Brits had reneged on an 'agreement'. Speaking to lads who were in the Blocks at that time they knew another stailc was iminent and so Bobby Sands began to refuse food on 1st March 81. He wrote about those first 19 days which later became public and I can just imagine what was going through his mind lying alone with screws scoffing at him.
Running about the streets of Béal Feirste at that time made it a lot easier than stuck in a prison cell and knowing that Bobby was up against a stinking regime that was determined to crush not only him but others who were to follow him.
Those days will never be forgotten and it's right that Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Patsy O'Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Tom McIwee and Micky Devine will go down in our history as brave Irish Republicans.