Belfast Telegraph

Hunger strikers died for gay rights, claims Sinn Fein senator Fintan Warfield

By Staff Reporter

A Sinn Fein senator has said the 1981 hunger strikers died for gay rights.

Yesterday, thousands of republicans marched through west Belfast to mark the 35th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike.

Those taking part included Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

On May 5, 1981 IRA prisoner Bobby Sands (27) became the first of 10 republicans to die on hunger strike at the Maze Prison - part of a campaign for political status within the jail.

Speaking at yesterday's event, Fintan Warfield - a gay rights activist and Irish senator - said: "Eight years ago, I became involved with our movement aged 16, inspired and informed by our songs, poems and music, and politicised by my sexuality.

"As in 1916, the 10 men who made the ultimate sacrifice in 1981 were cultural as much as political activists.

"As in 1916, amongst our comrades, and before and after, were prisoners who ensured queer representation from the cells of Long Kesh.

"A quarter of a century before the achievement of civil marriage equality in the south, one Prisoner of War said, and I quote: 'The key to gay and lesbian liberation lies in the success of the national liberation struggle.' That national liberation struggle has yet to be achieved and our rights continue to be partitioned."

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