Belfast Telegraph

Friday 30 January 2015

Hunger strike 30th anniversary exhibition opens in Belfast

A letter written by Bobby Sands on cigarette paper which was smuggled out of the prison pictured at the exhibition
©Jonathan Porter/Presseye.com - Press Eye Ltd -Northern Ireland - 1st March 2011. Launch of the Hunger Strike 30th Anniversary Exhibition in the Linen Hall Library, Belfast. Ten republican prisoners died during the 1981 protest inside the Maze Prison. A letter written by Bobby Sands on cigarette paper which was smuggled out of the prison pictured at the exhibition.
A letter written by Kieran Doherty on cigarette paper which was smuggled out of the prison pictured at the exhibition
A letter written by Bobby Sands on cigarette paper which was smuggled out of the prison pictured at the exhibition
A picture from inside one of the cells during the protest and strike
Sinn Fein's President Gerry Adams pictured at the launch
Hunger strike protesters outside the Dail in Dublin 1981
Left to right: Former Fianna Fail minister Kevin Boland, General Secretary of the ITGWU Michael Mullen, business man Gerry Jones take part in a hunger strike march to the British embassy on Merrion Road, Dublin
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness pictured at the launch
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness pictured at the launch
Sinn Fein's President Gerry Adams (left), vice president Mary Lou McDonald (centre) and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (second from right) pictured at the launch.
Sinn Fein's President Gerry Adams(left), vice president Mary Lou McDonald(centre) and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness(second from right) pictured at the launch.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness pictured at the launch
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness pictured at the launch.
A letter written by Kieran Doherty on cigarette paper which was smuggled out of the prison pictured at the exhibition
Hunger strike marchers blocked by gardai as they approach the British Embassy in Dublin
File Pics Northern Ireland Hunger Strikers 30th Anniversary.DAY 60 DURING THE H BLOCK RALLY ON DUBLIN'S O CONNELL ST DURING THE BOBBY SANDS HUNGER STRIKE. 1981 PIC PHOTOCALL IRELAND
IRA prisoners' dirty protest while on hunger strike in the Maze Prison, November 1980.
Bobby Sands, who died on hunger strike
Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney, who spent 53 days on IRA hunger strike.
Hunger striker Bobby Sands' coffin, flanked by an IRA colour party, leaving his mother's home in Twinbrook.
Bobby Sands' son Robert Gerald holds his mother's hand at the funeral of his father Bobby in west Belfast flanked by Masked IRA men. Picture by Martin Wright
Hunger striker Bobby Sands coffin, flanked by an IRA colour party, leaving his mother's home in Twinbrook.
Supporters of Fermanagh South Tyrone MP/Hunger Striker Bobby Sands.
Tomboy Loudon, Gerry Roche, Denis Donaldson and Bobby Sands pictured in the Long Kesh prison, Northern Ireland.
Hunger striker Bobby Sands funeral procession making its way down Stewartstown Road on Route to Milltown cemetery
Bobby Sands funeral
Masked gunmen fire a volley of shots beside hunger striker Bobby Sands coffin, at Milltown Cemetery.
Hunger striker Bobby Sands' coffin, flanked by an IRA colour party, leaving his mother's home in Twinbrook.

Sinn Fein politicians from north and south gathered at the Linen Hall Library in Belfast yesterday to launch an exhibition commemorating the 30th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike.

But in contrast to the bitterly polarised opinions in Northern Ireland at the time of the strike, there was only mild criticism of the display yesterday by one DUP MLA.

Lord Browne, a member of the Assembly’s culture, arts and leisure committee, questioned the use of the library for what he described as “a highly sensitive” exhibition.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness officially opened the exhibition on the hunger strike which he described as “one of the most seminal events in the history of the Troubles”.

Mr McGuinness said the display is a “very powerful” exhibition which was being held in a “very respectful and dignified” way, and he acknowledged that republicans were “not the only ones who have suffered”.

He was joined by Sinn Fein colleagues from the Assembly and newly-elected TDs Gerry Adams, for Louth, and Mary Lou McDonald, for Dublin Central.

The extensive exhibition includes artefacts and items of clothing worn by some of the 10 republicans who died at the Maze prison during the protest against the British authorities who denied the prisoners political status.

However, Lord Browne said the hunger strike remains a very sensitive issue.

“An exhibition like this could prove offensive to people from the unionist community and one should be careful, as it is a public place,” he said.

“It is up to the trustees of the Linen Hall Library, but I think they should take people’s sensitivities into consideration.”

Linen Hall Library director Brian Adgey said the exhibition was a private launch by Sinn Fein.

“We are a neutral venue dedicated to providing collections and information to the people of Ireland, primarily Northern Ireland. The Linen Hall library puts on its own exhibitions for the public to make up their own minds, but this is Sinn Fein’s own exhibition,” he said.

The hunger strike exhibition will tour Ireland throughout the 30th anniversary year.

It will move from Belfast to Dublin, then on to Ballymena and Omagh.

Background

The hunger strikes were a pivotal moment in the history of the Troubles, which led to republicans moving into the electoral process. Bobby Sands, a prisoner at the Maze, refused food on March 1, 1981. He was joined by other prisoners who were protesting in order to be given political prisoner status instead of being treated as criminals. Sands died after 66 days — he was one of 10 republicans who died. While on hunger strike, Sands stood for and won a seat at Westminster.

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