An estimated 15,000-20,000 republicans are expected to converge in the County Derry town of Dungiven this weekend for the 2012 National Hunger Strike Commemoration.
The main event is Sunday’s march at 2pm with almost 30 bands from all over Ireland taking part during which the town will be closed to traffic. A number of other events are also scheduled.
Local Sinn Fein Councillor Sean McGlinchey said it was a “great honour” for Dungiven to host the national commemoration.
“It is also an historic occasion as Dungiven is the last home town of a hunger striker to host the event. It will be a celebration of the life of Kevin Lynch and his nine comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice so that our children could grow up in a better and a more peaceful place than my generation did,” Councillor McGlinchey said.
The commemoration weekend starts tonight at St Canice’s GAC Club with a “Let’s Talk Women 1980/81” event.
Tomorrow, the massive mural in the town centre paying tribute to Kevin Lynch will be officially unveiled at 1pm at the Arcade Bar on Main Street, Dungiven.
Derry artist Paddy Nelis and Gary Doherty were the men behind the huge mural.
Mr. Nelis - who says his family has close connections with the Lynch family - said he had wanted to do the mural for some time: “ “Kevin Lynch is a massive part of Dungiven and I always wanted to do this, and it was the right time to do it.”
On Saturdaay evening, the “Rebel Hearts” will perform at O’Brien’s GAC Clubhouse in the Foreglen at 9pm. The main event of the commemoration will be the Hunger Strike March on Sunday, which sets off from Owenbeg at 2pm sharp. Families of the Hunger Strikers will be represented. Organisers say 26 bands from the 32 counties will participate.
Along the route, there will be street theatre re-enacting historical events from the time of Internment through to the Hunger Strike period, including ‘The Men Behind The Wire’ and a H-Block Cell with two blanket men.
After the march the crowd will congregate to listen to the main speaker, Sinn Fein Minister Michelle O’Neill, MLA. Throughout the weekend, a National Hunger Strike exhibition will be open at the Sinn Fein Advice Centre on Main Street, Dungiven, from 10am to 8pm on Friday and Saturday, and from 10am to 2pm on Sunday.
Colr. McGlinchey said: “I extend a personal invitation to everyone to visit the museum and reflect on the huge sacrifice that local men and women made in the struggle for freedom.
Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín said: “The main Derry to Belfast road will be closed between Owenbeg Cottages and the top of Dungiven from 1pm to 6pm.
“The annual National Hunger Strike Commemoration begins at 2pm. It will proceed into Dungiven where a rally will be held, so I would appeal to people travelling along the route to give themselves extra time, as diversions will be in place.
“I would like to ask people to co-operate with the stewards on the day so any disruption is kept to a minimum.”