striker Kevin Lynch (25) is laid to rest in Dungiven
When the death
of Bobby Sands was announced on 5 May 1981 riots erupted in republican
areas. A few hours after his death Provisional IRA gunmen killed
RUC constable Philip Ellis on the peace-line in north Belfast. A
Protestant milkman and his son died after being attacked during
riots in the Catholic New Lodge area of Belfast.
As the hunger
strikers died the killings on the streets continued. Two Catholic
schoolgirls, Julie Livingstone and Carol Ann Kelly, died after being
hit by plastic bullets fired by soldiers. As Raymond McCreesh approached
death on the 59th day of his hunger strike, the Provisional IRA
exploded a 600 lb landmine near Camlough, County Armagh, the home
village of the hunger striker. The explosion blew an army Saracen
vehicle to pieces killing its five occupants.
after the last hunger striker, Mickey Devine, had died, two off-duty
soldiers, Sojan Singh Virdee and John Lunt, were persuaded by two
women to accompany them to their flat in the Stranmillis area of
south Belfast. Shortly after the soldiers arrived three members
of the Provisional IRA burst in and opened fire. Sojan Singh Virdee
was killed instantly but John Lunt survived.
break out in Belfast each time a hunger striker dies
As the Thatcher
government dug in its heels and refused to accede to the prisoners'
demands, a Dungannon priest, Fr Denis Faul, sought to end the hunger
strike by persuading the prisoners' families to intervene. On 28
July as Kevin Lynch approached the 69th day of his fast, Fr Faul
met some of the prisoners' families. He told them he believed Thatcher
would not make any further concessions and that nothing could be
gained by more deaths.
At a meeting
later in Belfast, Gerry Adams told the prisoners' families that
the Provisional IRA could not order the men off the fast. The next
morning Fr Faul received a call from Adams saying he was prepared
to talk to the hunger strikers. Adams told them if they decided
to call off the strike it would be welcomed by the republican movement.
But the prisoners insisted on fasting until their demands were met.
prisoners' families decided to act on Fr Faul's advice. First Paddy
Quinn and then Pat McKeown were moved to the medical wing. By 6
September four more prisoners joined them. On 3 October the remaining
hunger strikers decided to end their fast. Three days later the
Thatcher government announced prisoners could wear their own clothes.
The substance of the prisoners' five demands were eventually met
but no formal recognition was made of their right to political status.
During the 217
days of the hunger strike ten prisoners had starved themselves to
death and outside the prison 61 people were killed in the continuing