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Sands, Bobby (1954–1981)

Howell Williams


Bobby Sands was a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who organized a protest against the British government while incarcerated in Maze prison in Northern Ireland from 1976 to 1981. He was the first of ten prisoners to die on hunger strike in the course of that protest. During his brief life, Sands was elected to the British parliament, galvanized the republican cause, and by his martyrdom earned entry into the pantheon of Irish nationalist heroes. Robert George Sands was born to a Catholic family in 1954 in north Belfast. At the age of 18, he joined the Provisional Irish Republican Army, was quickly arrested, and then detained for four years without a trial. Released in 1976, Sands worked as an IRA community volunteer in Twinbrook, but six months later he was rearrested, convicted, and sentenced to 14 more years in prison. Although not at liberty for much of his short life, Sands married and had a son. Sands served his sentence in Maze prison, once called Long Kesh, with other political prisoners in a section called the H-blocks. In 1972 the British government created a “special category” for prisoners of war, which allowed them access to recreation, parcels, civilian clothing, and official representatives. The policy was harshly denounced as too lenient by Unionists, and in March 1976 the British government changed the republican inmates' status from political to criminal. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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