Bobby Sands - An Irish martyr?


Pre-University Paper, 2009
35 Pages, Grade: 1,0

Excerpt

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Historical and political background

3. The Irish Republican Army
3.1 Foundation and role until 1967
3.2 Regain of power and second split after 1967

4. Bobby Sands
4.1 Family, early life and way to the IRA
4.2 Sands’ actions for the IRA, his arrest and trial
4.3 The hunger strike in Maze Prison 1981
4.4 Reactions and impact in different countries

5. Bobby Sands – An Irish Martyr?

Bibliography

1. Introduction

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Bobby Sands was a member of the paramilitaryIrish Republican Armywho was arrested for the possession of firearms in 1977 and died on hunger strike four years later because Margaret Thatcher refused to force-feed him. As his death in Maze Prison caused massive reactions all over the world, Sands was regarded as one of the most significant members of the IRA.[1]A very popular citation that can be found everywhere on the Internet when you look for Bobby Sands is:

“They have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who doesn’t want to be broken! “[2]

Although there is no clear evidence that this sentence was said by theIRA-Member Bobby Sands or if this quote is just a legend attached to the famous hunger striker after his death, it sums up his attitude towards Great Britain and Margaret Thatcher in a short and provocative way.

History has shown that the answer to the question who is a heroic fighter for freedom and who is a terrorist depends on the point of view of the person judging the actions of another person – the Taliban were heroes for the USA when they fought the Soviet Union and even Saddam Hussein was seen as the hero of the Iran-Iraq War. The same thing can be said about theIrish Republican Armyand their members because many Irish see or saw them as heroes fighting for the freedom of their home country whereas the English saw them as terrorists attacking the integrity of the United Kingdom.

On the following pages I will try to outline who Bobby Sands was, what ideas he fought and died for and if he can be seen as an “Irish Martyr“ today. I will start with the historical background to show where the English-Irish conflict has its roots and what role theIRAand especially Bobby Sands played in that tragedy. To do that I will examine the life of Bobby Sands to see what made a young Irishman join theIRA, what he was arrested for and how he died under the administration of Margaret Thatcher.

One of the first things one ought to know in order to understand the conflict between England and Ireland is the historical background of both countries.

The Norman Invasion of Ireland on the 1st May 1169[3]is an important milestone for the conflict because it led to first settlements of English and Scottish people in Ireland and entailed dispossessions of Irish lords. The fact that the English saw the Irish as their subjects raised aversion towards the occupiers and can be seen as a problem that was not solved for more than 800 years.[4]

During the following centuries the power of the English in Ireland declined because Ireland had never completely been conquered and the Irish began to accept the Normans as part of their culture and a partial assimilation took place.[5]In the late 15th centuryThe Pale, a small area around Dublin, was the only part of Ireland that was reigned by the King of England.[6]Fearing plans that England’s enemies could invade Ireland and use it as a base to attack England, Henry VIII decided to regain power in Ireland and proclaimed himself King of Ireland in 1541.[7]Additionally to his military actions Henry VIII is important for the English-Irish conflict because he brought religion into the conflict as he got divorced from his wife without having the permission of the pope, which led to the foundation of the Anglican Church.[8]

As the invasion in 1169 had shown that Ireland couldn’t be suppressed by military forces alone, thePlantation of Ulsterwas decided on in 1610 – a plan including the dispossession of Irishmen and the settlement of Protestants in place of them, which was to protect the English dominance on the Irish Island.[9]Any rebellion against the new landlords was useless and only led to the aggravation of the situation of the Catholic population.[10]In 1641, there was the so calledGreat Rebellion, in which the “Old Irish” and the “Norman-Irish” killed several Protestant farmers on confiscated land. The rebellion was ended by Oliver Cromwell’s troops in 1650 and that victory gave the Protestant minority the power over the Catholic majority.[11]About 40 years later, there was another rebellion in 1688, which was crushed by William of Orange at theBattle of Boynein 1690 which soon became a symbol of Protestant supremacy.[12]

At the height of the English power in 1800, the parliament passed theAct of Union, which integrated Ireland into Great Britain, resulting in theUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland– a decision which was highly controversial because among other discriminating things it only allowed members of the Anglican Church to parliament, which excluded approximately 90% of the Irish population.[13]

TheGreat Faminebetween 1845 and 1849 worsened the relationship with England because the English landlords were accused of having ruined the Irish agriculture by not spending enough money on the Irish economy. Potatoes were the staple food for the Irish population and as the crop failed several years running, nearly everybody was affected.[14]There had been a population of eight million people before the famine but due to starvation, diseases and emigration there were only about six million left after the famine.[15]

In 1858 theFenian Movementwas founded, which was strongly anti-English and wanted the establishment of an Irish Republic without the influence of England.[16]The armed wing of theFenian Movementcan be seen as one of the forerunners of theIrish Republican Army, although today this term refers to theProvisional Irish Republican Armywhich was founded in 1972.[17]

Twelve years later, theHome Rule Associationwas founded in 1870 and was led in parliament by Charles Stewart Parnell after 1880. Its aim was the reintroduction of the Irish Parliament which would be responsible for internal affairs and after 1918 this wish was replaced by the demand for an independent Irish nation. Although two bills establishingHome Rulefor Ireland were defeated[18], the idea of an independent administration strengthened Irish nationalism and led to a movement to restore Irish language and culture.[19]

In 1905 Sinn Féin was founded – a movement which declared theUnion Act of 1800was illegal and gave Irish nationalists who didn’t want to support the Home Rule movement something to hold on to. In contrast to other movementsSinn Féinwanted to reach the status quo before theAct of Union– a constitutional monarchy.[20]

As the Liberals wanted to make a third attempt to guarantee an independent Irish parliament in 1912, Protestants were afraid of suppression by the Catholic majority[21]and organized several campaigns againstHome Rule. By 1912, theUlster Volunteer Forcewas set up, a military organization to ensure that “all means which may be used to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule parliament in Ireland”[22]were used.

TheEaster Risingin 1916 was one of the most significant rebellions in Irish history, not because it was very successful from a military point of view but because it strongly influenced the attitude of the Irish towards their English rulers. The militant Irish republicans wanted to gain independence from Britain and a free Irish Republic. The main actions of the rebellion started on Easter Monday 1916 and affected Dublin as key locations and buildings were occupied by rebels and the Irish Republic was proclaimed. There were plans concerning other parts of Ireland but they were not comparable to those in Dublin or not even realized due to confusing orders from the leaders.[23]The United Kingdom couldn’t accept an independent Ireland and decided to put an end to the rebellion in a military way. After six days of fighting theEaster Risingwas crushed and its leaders were arrested[24]and all expect Eamon de Valera and Countess Markievicz were executed. De Valera was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment instead and Markievicz was not executed because she was female.[25]

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The Irish volunteers were reorganised under the flag of the Irish Republican Army and fought against the British Army and British police forces in a guerrilla like war between 1919

and 1921.[28]The war ended with a peace treaty, theAnglo-Irish Treaty thatdivided Ireland into theIrish Free Stateand Northern Ireland. The southern part of Ireland became a self-governed dominion of the United Kingdom[29]whereas the northern part, which consisted of County Derry, County Antrim, County Down, County Armagh, County Fermanagh and County Tyrone,[30]remained a part of the now calledUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.[31]

The Irish Civil War between 1922 and 1923 directly followed the signing of theAnglo-Irish Treaty[32]and was a conflict between the pro-treatyNational Armyand the anti-treatyIrish Republican Army. Although the war was short, it was very bloody and the first clash of two opposing Irish nationalist groups.[33]

After Eamon de Valera avoided execution after the 1916 rising because of his American background[34]he founded theFianna Failparty in 1926[35]which was to become one of the most influential parties in Irish history as it was responsible for the Irish constitution of 1937 which is still in use today.[36]Fianna Failand De Valera entered the Irish parliament after the general elections in 1927 and in 1932 the party won the election and formed the new government[37]which stayed in power until 1948.

In 1937Fianna Faildeclared a new Irish constitution that changed the name of theIrish Free StateintoEireand established a sovereign, independent and democratic state. The constitution included the six counties of Northern Ireland and granted the Catholic Church a special role in Ireland.

In the 1948 general electionsFianna Failwas defeated by a coalition aroundFine Gael, which was the second major party in Ireland at that time and which promised social reforms and Ireland as a republic outside the British Commonwealth.[38]One of the first official acts of the new government was the abolition of theExternal Relations Actin 1949, thus declaring Ireland a republic independent from the Commonwealth.[39]

After Terence O’Neill became Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1963 hope arose for a better relationship between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as he met the Prime Minister of the Republic, Sean Lemass, in 1965 to establish a closer co-operation between North and South.[40]O’Neill tried a balancing act between Unionism and readiness to find a compromise but failed because the strong right-wing fraction in his own party headed by Ian Paisley condemned any kind of rapprochement.[41]The failure of moderate Unionism can be seen as one of the biggest problems in Irish history because it indirectly led to the armed conflict in Northern Ireland.

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[...]


[1]http://www.irishhungerstrike.com/bobbysands.html accessed 19/12/2008,13.19

[2]http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/bobbysands197250.html accessed 19/12/2008,13.24

[3]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_invasion_of_Ireland accessed on 19/12/2008, 17.57

[4]Grundmann, Schairer, Weinzierl,The conflict in Northern Ireland, Bayerischer Schulbuch-Verlag, Munich 1980, page 32

[5]Mac Annaidh, Séamas,Irish History, Parragon, Bath, 1999 – revised and updated in 2005, pages 62-63

[6]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pale accessed 19/12/2008,18.27

[7]Grundmann, Schairer, Weinzierl,The conflict in Northern Ireland, Bayerischer Schulbuch-Verlag, Munich 1980, page 34

[8]Mac Annaidh, Séamas,Irish History, Parragon, Bath, 1999 – revised and updated in 2005, pages 82-85

[9]Mac Annaidh, Séamas,Irish History, Parragon, Bath, 1999 – revised and updated in 2005, page 103

[10]http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordirlandkonflikt accessed on 19/12/2008, 19.37

[11]http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/site/encyclopedia/article_show/Great_Rebellion/m0096894.html accessed on 19/12/2008, 20.35

[12]http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/site/encyclopedia/article_show/Boyne_Battle_of_the_/m0017969.html accessed on 19/12/2008, 20.39

[13]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Act_of_Union_1800 accessed on 19/12/2008, 20.54

[14]Grundmann, Schairer, Weinzierl,The conflict in Northern Ireland, Bayerischer Schulbuch-Verlag, Munich 1980, page 49

[15]http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/site/encyclopedia/article_show/potato_famine_/m0052869.html accessed on 20/12/08, 12.55

[16]Mac Annaidh, Séamas, Irish History, Parragon, Bath, 1999 – revised and updated in 2005, page 178-181

[17]http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761575144/irish_republican_army.html accessed on 26/12/2008, 14.46

[18]http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/site/encyclopedia/article_show/home_rule_Irish_/m0014219.html accessed on 20/12/2008, 14.07

[19]Mac Annaidh, Séamas,Irish History, Parragon, Bath, 1999 – revised and updated in 2005, page 208-209

[20]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Sinn_Féin accessed on 20/12/2008, 15.43

[21]http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/site/encyclopedia/article_show/home_rule_Irish_/m0014219.html accessed on 20/12/2008, 15.10

[22]Mac Annaidh, Séamas,Irish History, Parragon, Bath, 1999 – revised and updated in 2005, page 218

[23]Grundmann, Schairer, Weinzierl,The conflict in Northern Ireland, Bayerischer Schulbuch-Verlag, Munich 1980, pages 53-55

[24]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Rising accessed on 22/12/2008, 17:56

[25]Mac Annaidh, Séamas,Irish History, Parragon, Bath, 1999 – revised and updated in 2005, page 252

[26]Mac Annaidh, Séamas,Irish History, Parragon, Bath, 1999 – revised and updated in 2005, page 257-259

[27]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_War_of_Independence accessed on 20/12/2008, 18.38

[28]Mac Annaidh, Séamas,Irish History, Parragon, Bath, 1999 – revised and updated in 2005, pages 260-262

[29]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Irish_Treaty accessed on 25/12/2008, 23.41

[30]Mac Annaidh, Séamas,Irish History, Parragon, Bath, 1999 – revised and updated in 2005, page 264

[31]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom accessed on 26/12/2008, 10.45

[32]http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/site/encyclopedia/article_show/Civil_War_Irish_/m0096902.html accessed on 20/12/2008 , 19.54

[33]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Civil_War accessed on 20/12/2008, 19.58

[34]Mac Annaidh, Séamas,Irish History, Parragon, Bath, 1999 – revised and updated in 2005, page 252

[35]Christie, David,Ireland Student’s Book, Cornelsen-Velhagen & Klasing, London, 1982, page 10

[36]Mac Annaidh, Séamas,Irish History, Parragon, Bath, 1999 – revised and updated in 2005, page 290

[37]Mac Annaidh, Séamas,Irish History, Parragon, Bath, 1999 – revised and updated in 2005, page 284

[38]Christie, David,Ireland Student’s Book, Cornelsen-Velhagen & Klasing, London, 1982, page 10

[39]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Ireland_Act accessed on 23/12/2008, 22.22

[40]Christie, David,Ireland Student’s Book, Cornelsen-Velhagen & Klasing, London, 1982, page 29

[41]Grundmann, Schairer, Weinzierl,The conflict in Northern Ireland, Bayerischer Schulbuch-Verlag, Munich 1980, page 76

[42]Mac Annaidh, Séamas,Irish History, Parragon, Bath, 1999 – revised and updated in 2005, page 304

[43]http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/derry/chron.htm accessed on 24/12/2008, 21.44

[44]http://www.rte.ie/laweb/ll/ll_t11_main.html accessed on 24/12/2008, 21.54

[45]http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/derry/chron.htm accessed on 24/12/2008, 22.02

Excerpt out of 35 pages

Details

Title
Bobby Sands - An Irish martyr?
Grade
1,0
Author
Year
2009
Pages
35
Catalog Number
V156495
ISBN (eBook)
9783640699957
ISBN (Book)
9783640859672
File size
1676 KB
Language
English
Tags
Bobby Sands, IRA, Irish Republican Army, Bloody Sunday, Irish History, Ireland, martyr, terrorist, Thatcher
Quote paper
Philip Hanke (Author), 2009, Bobby Sands - An Irish martyr?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/156495

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