1980 Hunger Strikes

1827 Words8 Pages
The hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981 were the pinnacle of a five-year protest that took place during the troubles in Northern Ireland. The decision taken by the British government to withdraw Special Category Status for paramilitary prisoners was the spark that ignited the protests from the prisoners in Northern Ireland. The protest began as a blanket protest but escalated into becoming a dirty protest, followed by the 1980 and 1981 hunger strikes. These hunger strikes quickly became a public conflict between the leading members of the IRA and the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. This essay will examine the events leading up to and during the hunger strikes and will explore the reasons that the hunger strikes are considered a ‘triumph…show more content…
This policy would be applied to anybody convicted after the 1st March 1976. This was a huge blow to the IRA as it threatened to diminish the authority of their leaders within prisons. In response to this move by the British government, the blanket protest began on the 14th September 1976 as IRA and INLA prisoners refused to wear the prison uniforms that were given to them and fashioned clothes out of the blankets in their cells. The objective of this protest was to regain their status as political prisoners. The demands that were made by the prisoners became known as the ‘Five Demands’: 1. The right not to wear a prison uniform. 2. The right not to do prison work. 3. The right of free association with other prisoners, and to organise educational and recreational pursuits. 4. The right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week. 5. Full restoration of remission lost through the…show more content…
The death of the ten hunger strikers and their commitment and willingness to give up their lives for their cause transformed politics in Northern Ireland in a way that neither the strikers nor Thatcher could have imagined. The hunger strikes and particularly the electoral success of Bobby Sands demonstrated that Sinn Féin could move away from their policy of abstentionism and move towards electoral politics. More significantly, the hunger strikes highlighted that, contrary to the beliefs of the British government, the strikers, IRA and Republican Movement did in fact have considerable support amongst the people of Northern Ireland. 1982 saw Sinn Féin win five seats in the elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly and this was followed by Gerry Adams winning a seat in the UK general election. This basis that Sinn Féin built during and immediately after the hunger strikes continued to grow over the following two decades, both in Northern Ireland and south of the border, demonstrating the significance of the hunger strikes for the success of the Irish Republican Movement in the political

More about 1980 Hunger Strikes

Open Document