Belfast Telegraph

Hunger striker Bobby Sands' diaries movie Sixty Six Days blasted as 'deplorable' by unionist McCausland

By Deborah McAleese and Michael McHugh

A new film based on the diaries of hunger striker Bobby Sands, has been branded "deplorable".

The DUP's Nelson McCausland said the film, Sixty Six Days, by Irish director Brendan Byrne, which will premier in Belfast at the West Belfast Festival later this summer, was "an attempt to rewrite history".

Sands' own words form the heart of the documentary-style work, through his many poems, letters and communications penned inside prison, and in particular, his personal diary which he kept for the first 17 days of his hunger strike 35 years ago in the Maze prison.

Beginning his action the prisoner recorded in his diary: "I am standing on the threshold of another trembling world. May God have mercy on my soul."

He also wrote: "Human food can never keep a man alive forever and I console myself with the thought that I will get a great feed up above if I am worthy."

Making the film, which will be aired at the Galway film festival this weekend, Mr Byrne spoke to prison officers, Mrs Thatcher's biographer Charles Moore and Conservative MP Norman Tebbit.

He also interviewed many republicans who shared the H Blocks with Sands and dwelt at length on the reaction to the hunger strike outside the prison.

Mr Byrne said: "I have tried to make it more than just about Bobby Sands, really an exploration of the republican tradition in Ireland through the lens of Bobby Sands."

Sands was sent to prison for possession of a gun. The programme portrayed him inside his cell, hearing the birds outside and thinking of his childhood.

Mr McCausland hit out at the film's portrayal of Sands.

"Bobby Sands was a terrorist. He has been used by Sinn Fein and the republican movement who have attempted to turn him into a hero and a martyr. Yet again they are attempting to rewrite history by turning terrorists into heroes. It is deplorable," the Policing Board member said.

"Apart from those people who are sympathetic to Sinn Fein's agenda I can't see many others wanting to go and see this."

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams described Sands as a modest man who was troubled by the sectarian nature of society.

He read Irish republican history, when others inside were dreaming of Cuban revolutionary leader Che Guevara or China's Mao Tse-tung.

By 1981 he had become officer commanding of an IRA which maintained its structure inside prison and became the first to go on hunger strike to death, which followed an abortive action some months earlier.

It came after a dirty protest in which excrement was smeared on walls and urine thrown at warders.

In the words of one prison officer: "We were working in an open sewer with 40 people who wanted to kill us."

Maze governor Albert Miles had been killed by the IRA a few years previously.

Every day, prison officers brought Sands food, sometimes pie and beans, the beans falling off the plate.

In the words of one warder, if he wanted to commit suicide it was up to him but they were not going to help him.

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