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Bobby Sands 40 Years On

5th May 1981

40 Years ago on the 5th May 1981, Bobby Sands lost his fight with the British authorities and lost his life.

Bobby died of Malnutrition after starving himself for 66 days in protest against the British Authority in Northern Ireland at the time and against the status in which he was being held in prison.

Bobby Sands

Bobby Sands

Born in Belfast on the 9th May 1945

Bobby was born into a Catholic family in Belfast, Northern Ireland on the 9th of May 1945, one of 4 children and the eldest boy.

The family lived in the thick of the 'trouble', by the time Bobby was 10 years old his family had been forced out of their home and neighbourhood, by the constant intimidation of the loyalist. At aged 18, Bobby had found himself an apprenticeship as a car builder, It is said that he was again forced to leave this job when his family were forced out of their neighbourhood and home due to the constant intimidation from the loyalist.

Bobby Joined the IRA (Irish Republican Army) in 1972 and quickly caught the eye of the British Authorities, after only a year of being part of the movement, Bobby was arrested and convicted for firearms offences.

Bobby served 3 years in prison for these crimes and it is said that whilst he was in there he dedicated his time to learning and committed himself more to the movement and agenda of the Irish Republican Army, also during this time Bobby learnt Irish.

Upon being released from prison Bobby quickly emerged himself back into the Irish Republican Army, he quickly signed up as a community activist in Twinbrook, Belfast.

By 1976, Bobby had again caught the attention of the British Authorities, this time it was in connection with the bombing and subsequent gun battle that took place killing 4 people.

bobby refused to confirm nor deny his guilt in these matters and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Maze Prison

Bobby was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his suspected part in the bombing and gun-shoot out. Bobby was sent to Maze prison, a prison used to house republican prisoners (1971-2000).

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During Bobby's time here his reputation and status in the prison grew, he constantly pushed for reforms and is said to have challenged authority in 'his outspoken way' which resulted in him spending much of his time in solitary confinement.

Bobby's biggest contention was that he and others like him were serving their prison sentences as criminals and he believed that he should be classed as a prisoner of war rather than a criminal.

On the 1st March 1981, Bobby and 9 others went on a hunger strike. The prisons made many demands from prisoners such as himself being allowed to wear their own clothes, be permitted mail and visits from family, and of course to have their status changed from criminals to prisoners of war.

The authorities would not and did not give into the demands of Bobby and his fellow prisoners, well not until many many years later.

In the first 17 days of this hunger strike Bobby lost 16 pounds, his health deteriorated quickly, on the 66th day Bobby's organs gave up and he died of malnutrition through starvation aged 27 years, 4 days before his 28th birthday.

A criminal or Prisoner of War

It was decided by the British Government, that Bobby Sands was a prisoner of war and not a criminal.

Bobby Sands was 27 years old when he died in a prolong, agonising and very public way. He died fighting for a cause that he didn't win, a fight that continued for a further 30 years and produced the bloodiest decade in Ireland history.

Bobby Sands was a husband, a father, a son and a brother, he was an intelligent man and being able to starve yourself to death for 66 day through sheer willpower he was most certainly in my opinion a very strong and dedicated character.

'Trouble's' in Northern Ireland

The 'troubles' refer to a time of conflict in Northern Ireland, lasting over 30 years from the late 1950's to the late 1990's. The conflict was political and Nationalistic, the key issue being the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.

Unionist / Loyalist - who were mostly Ulster Protestants wanted Northern Ireland to remain as part of the United Kingdom. Where as Nationalist, who where mostly Catholics wanted Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom and become and United Ireland.

Troubles in Northern Ireland

Troubles in Northern Ireland


© 2021 Lottie Fey

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