‘Use your vote to reject violence of dissidents’

More than 1,500 people took part in a march and rally to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike in Derry on Sunday.

The march began at Rathkeele Way in Creggan, close to the home of Derry hunger striker, Mickey Devine, and passed the home of the other hunger striker from the city, Patsy O’Hara, before ending at the H Block monument at Rossville Street where a rally was held.

The theme of the commemoration was Bobby Sands’ quote, ‘Let our revenge be the laughter of our children,’ and the march was led by a group of children carrying a banner featuring the quote.

A large group of republican ex-prisoners, dressed in white shirts and black ties, marched in formation behind a banner carried by, among others, nieces of Mickey Devine.

Four bands took part in the commemoration, the Spirit of Freedom flute band, Derry; Kevin Lynch Band, Dungiven; the North Armagh Martyrs Flute Band; and the Donegal Martyrs Flute Band.

At the H Block monument, the main oration was given by Foyle Sinn Féin MLA and former hunger striker, Raymond McCartney.

The rally was chaired by Martina Anderson who introduced Anne Burke to sing ‘Song for Marcella,’ a song about Bobby Sands written by former blanketman, Breandan McFarlane.

Sandra Duffy and Paul Fleming then read out the names and a brief biography of each of the ten hunger strikers who died in Long Kesh in 1981. Local band, Glasnevin, then played a version of Francie Brolly’s, ‘The H BLock Song.’

In his oration, Mr McCartney, said he takes inspiration from the leadership shown by the hunger strikers. “Their names, courage, and sacrifice are renowned throughout the world wherever people rise up against oppression and injustice, Those of us who knew then are rightly proud of their courage,” he said.

The former hunger striker also encouraged people to support Sinn Féin in Thursday’s elections in order to build on the achievements of republicans since 1981. “We are going forward with our history at our backs. We stand tall because we are standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us.

“This election presents us with a challenge and an opportunity. We will increase our efforts to send out a clear message that the republican and nationalist people want republicans to represent them.

“We are at the heart of government in the North and in the South we are the leading voice to provide alternative government.

“I appeal to the people of Derry to help us in that work, to come together with us and assure the agenda of change continues. I would encourage everyone to vote Sinn Féin and help us pursue that change.

“All of our actions are guided by the desire and need to maximise political strength and bring about the Ireland of Equals, in north, south, east, and west, as enshrined in the Proclamation.

“Bobby Sands said that everyone has their part to play, no matter how small. I would appeal to everyone to support Sinn Féin in our work and get involved in any way they can,” he said.

Martina Anderson also asked to those in attendance to use their votes to reject dissident republican violence.

“I appeal to you to support the peace process on May 5th and send a clear and unequivocal message to those involved in attacking it. Everyone has a role to play in that.

“I do not simply ask people to support Sinn Féin but to join with us in partnership to build a new Ireland. We have to go forward together,” she said.

Following the oration, Danika Breslin performed her rendition of the Labe Shafre song, ‘Something inside so strong,’ - a song which has been adopted by republicans at hunger strike commemorations. Many of those gathered at the monument joined her in singing the song.

The commemoration ended with the Glasnevin band performing the National Anthem.

For more photos from the commemoration parade see Page 10.