Remembering 'Bloody' Maggie's Role in the Hunger Strikes

Margaret Thatcher's passing yesterday brings to mind a very stormy period in Anglo-Irish relations, the period of The Hunger Strikes [CAIN Web Service], which Dame Thatcher oversaw. The protest began with Bobby Sands' decision on March 1, 1981, to refuse food, and ended seven months later, on Oct. 3, when the six remaining prisoners on strike decided to end their protest. Meanwhile, 10, including Sands, died, leaving much of the world to ask, "Why?"

Left, Margaret Thatcher reviewing troops in Ulster on March 6, 1981, just five days after Bobby Sands began his hunger strike. AP File Photo

In his 2005 memoir, "Green Suede Shoes: An Irish-American Odyssey," Black 47 front man Larry Kirwan wrote about the impact that the strikes had on Irish Americans, who gathered in Manhattan in a kind of vigil and protest as they watched these men, one-by-one, surrender their lives for the cause of Irish unification.

Larry kindly let us share this reminiscence with WG readers two years ago to commemorate the Hunger Strike's 30th anniversary. In it, he wrote:

"Margaret Thatcher did not have the sense or the good grace to attempt a meaningful compromise with Sands and his comrades. No matter what one thought of the conflict in the North of Ireland, who could have denied that those prisoners had a political point of view and were pursuing it for political ends? That's what the hunger strike was all about; that's what the ultimate points of principle hinged on. And that's why the protestors lined Third Avenue every minute of the day for months on end, until 10 young men starved to death. And when it was over, Irish-America was not the same. A new generation had been politicized and would hand down a new folk memory to their children and the generations following."

Tell us your reflections on the passing of Margaret Thatcher, a key player in the evolution of the geo-political landscape we see in the 32 counties today. 

Views: 668

Tags: Hunger, Hunger Strikes, Irish Freedom Struggle, Irish-America, Larry Kirwan, Margaret Thatcher, United States

Comment by Bit Devine on April 9, 2013 at 1:04pm

Yesterday, I woke to the news that the Devil had chosen his bride. My first thought was for the tortured souls who could now dance light and free knowing that she had finally made the journey to the depths of Hell.

Throughout the day, I would engage in conversations, vehement discussions and deflect taunts and slurs.

At the end of the day, I poured a large dram of whiskey and sent the angel's share to one and all of her victims.  My Gran, I would like to think, is sharing a Dram or two with Michael Devine and the rest..

 I always am amazed by the fascination with British government officials that a lot of people here in America have...indeed, in all matters British... I mean, we won our fight for freedom...didn't we?

Comment by Gerry Regan on April 9, 2013 at 1:29pm

Yes, but Bit, with respect, I don't agree that Maggie Thatcher's passing is a cause for celebration. Perhaps I'm too philosophical, but she didn't seem an introspective soul, and I suspect she never considered her callous response to the hunger strikers as anything but doing her job. I'm not excusing this, I'm just uncomfortable judging. Let the facts of history speak for themselves, in my view. RIP. 

Comment by Bit Devine on April 9, 2013 at 2:36pm

And many people share your sentiment....but quite a few share the other sentiment ...I whispered a prayer for her soul but also said a prayer for those who suffered so

It was not just Irish folk...but the common British and Scots as well... And, in my family, living in Birmingham England, Glasgow, Crossmaglen, Newry and Roscommon...the effect was multiplied...Innocent civilians with no attachment to the IRA were targeted...then there was the coal miners strike...working class communities were devestated....

Perhaps, I too would like to hope, in an introspective moment, she did give a thought to those she had callously dismissed.. Did she do good as well? To be sure that she did...but there is always need for a balance of perspective

Though she is not solely to blame....a mostly spineless Irish government who did nothing to stop her policies also contributed

Comment by Irish Homeland Photography on April 9, 2013 at 3:27pm

Disagree with her policies if you wish, but I find it absolutely appalling to read all these vitriolic comments all over the internet.  From what I can gather, the vast majority of people here in Ireland still hate her (for varying reasons), and most are not shy about spewing vile venom about it.  Totally classless, in my opinion.  There are plenty of modern-day politicians with whom I disagree and may not even like personally, but to speak so hatefully (to put it mildly) of someone upon their death is just really, really sad.

Comment by Séamus Ó Dubsláine on April 10, 2013 at 11:01pm

She emanated from a long line of imperialists who murder with abandon... But on a lighter note, I believe she died of dementia related complications which would allow her to approach the Pearly Gates with a shrug and a "What are you looking at?" angelic smirk...

Comment by Gerry Regan on April 15, 2013 at 9:44am

Sent me by fellow member Rob Mullally -- an interesting class-based critique of Margaret Thatcher's legacy and the very real hostility to it (and her) unleashed by her passing a week ago:

Informed Comment - 14 April 2013
Juan Cole

Class Hatred and Bad Memories of Thatcher

The hatred for the late Margaret Thatcher, former British prime minister, among a broad segment of the British public /i>>  has manifested itself in visible and undeniable ways in the week after her death, but these are not highlighted on American television.

The status quo corporate media are afraid of admitting that policy-makers who favor the rich and punish the middle and working classes are deeply hated by the latter /font>> . Dead leaders have to be represented on television as being revered by the entirety of the public (an imaginary public for which the corporate anchors can serve as ventriloquists).

That many Americans despise Ronald Reagan is likewise an unmentionable on the airwaves.

Demonstrators gathered Saturday at Trafalgar Square /font>>  to denounce Thatcher’s Neoliberal policies, which enriched the wealthy and harmed the middle classes, holding what they called a “death party.” Middle and working class Britons well remember how they defeated her hated poll tax /font>>  and hastened her from office.

Margaret Thatcher Death Party - Trafalgar Square
13 April 2013
1.2 Minutes

Then, Britons have been commemorating Thatcher’s death by downloading “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead,” /font>>  in high volumes, pushing it to the top of the download charts. The British Broadcast Company was put in a difficult position, because it has a show that plays the top downloaded songs, and it didn’t want to be seen as endorsing this use of the tune. The BBC dealt with the problem by only playing an excerpt of the song, which satisfied no one.

Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead creates Thatcher drama for BBC
26 Seconds

British soccer fans for some time have been singing at the matches,  /font>> “When Maggie Thatcher Dies, we’re going to have a party!” because of what they see as her dishonesty in the Hillsborough affair /font>> .

When Maggie Thatcher dies we're gonna have a party - Liverpool vs Sunderland
8 April 2013
1.5 Minutes


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