On Sunday 17th November a new mural dedicated to the Hunger Strikers of 1981 with INLA volunteer, Patsy O’Hara, the first of the Irish Republican Socialist POW’s to die on Hunger Strike featuring prominently was unveiled by Rab Collins, former O/C of the INLA POWs during the 1981 Hunger Strike. Comrade Seamus McHenry opened the proceedings on Sunday at the INLA Hunger Striker Patsy O Hara mural unveiling by welcoming all who attended and after commending those who painted the mural made a presentation of a Republican Socialist Plaque on behalf of the IRSM to Michael Johnston for his kind donation towards the purchase of paint supplied for the mural
The following text was delivered in the oration by Comrade Gerard Foster, secretary of the Belfast IRSP Executive:
Friends and Comrades,
Welcome, thank you all for being here today for the unveiling of this mural dedicated to the memory of the ten men that died on Hunger Strike in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh in 1981.
Firstly I would like to explain the reason for the new mural: For over a year now we, former INLA prisoners from this area, have wanted to tidy up the original mural, but we were told that work to re-develop the car park was to begin, and part of that work would include a disabled excess and ramp, and that that work would impact on one side of the mural. So we decided to leave it till the work was completed and see where we stood.
Recently, I personally talked to the shop owner on 3 very brief occasions in relation to the work to be done and the mural. Let there be no mis-understanding here, The Republican Socialist Movement did not expect the mural to be painted over. We believed that the mural was to be left as it was until, either the work had started, or was finished and we would gage the impact on the mural.
After the mural was painted over, I again spoke to the shop owner and left him in no doubt that the RSM had not agreed for the mural to be removed. I told him that there was a lot of anger, not only within the Republican family, but within this community in general about what had happened to the mural.
There have been rumours, gossip and dis-information in relation to the RSM and why the mural was removed. Let there be no mistake here, The RSM had no part to play in the removal of the mural. We were as shocked as anybody else at its removal. But we hope by the fact that the new mural was painted, and is being unveiled today, shows that. We, The RSM, agreed to replace the mural before the redevelopment work begins to help dispel these rumours.
We agreed with the shop owner that because of the new disabled excess, and as we were not too sure of the final plans of where the excess would start, we would paint the mural on the half of the wall that it is now on. We hope this helps end any speculation of the role of The RSM in relation to the removal of the old mural.
Over 8 years ago, coming up to the 25th anniversary of the Hunger Strike and the deaths of the 10 prisoners, a lot of media reports were calling it “the IRA Hunger Strike”. We in The RSM do not blame fellow Republicans for this, we know full well how the media works in this part of the world. But we did believe that there was an attempt to air-brush out of history, the role the INLA took in the protest and the fact that 3 INLA prisoners died on the Hunger Strike along side the 7 IRA prisoners. The Belfast RSM decided that we would do 3 murals with the images of the INLA prisoners that died on the Hunger Strike, but also with the names of all ten prisoners that died in the H-Blocks in 1981.
We saw this as a way to help prevent the role of the INLA prisoners on protest and their deaths being air-brushed out of history, not as a way of elevating them over the 7 IRA prisoners that died.
The funeral of IRA Volunteer and Hunger Striker Joe McDonnell passed this very spot. Shortly afterwards the British state forces attacked the mourners in yet another attempt to drive of us our own streets, and from showing support for the prisoners, and our empathy for the families of the Hunger Strikers.
As a community during 1981 we suffered for daring to show our feelings in support of the prisoners in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. In 1981 58,000 plastic bullets were fired by the British state forces, all of them in Nationalist areas. Plastic bullets were used as a terror weapon against this community; children going to the shops were murdered by plastic bullets. Julie Livingstone was murdered not far from here as the body of IRA Volunteer Frankie Hughes was bring brought out of the H-Blocks.
The British, and a large section of the Irish media, lied about these murders, saying that they were killed during rioting. We all knew it was lies. When Nora McCabe was murdered, the media again carried the state lies that it happened during rioting. Even when film footage of her murder showed that there was no rioting at all, no member of the state forces were even questioned never mind charged with her murder. We all know this happened and how the media treated this community.
Our story, and the story of the H-Blocks, why the British built prison camps and their forts in our country, is still being revised and told by people who are not friends of the Republican people. The real history of our people will be told and heard above all the lies and revisionism.
The events in the H-Blocks are our story, but it does not belong to us alone any longer. It also belongs to all oppressed people of the world. It belongs to all their political prisoners around the world. It belongs to future generations that take a stand and fight for their freedom. And it will not be the voice of the revisionists that will be heard by the people, it will be the story of the 10 IRA and INLA prisoners that died those prolonged and horrible deaths on Hunger Strike in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh in 1981!
“LET THE FIGHT GO ON”.
(Patsy O Hara)