Hungering for justice by Donal Kennedy

From THE TIMES (London) October 18 1919 (reprinted October 18 2019)-

The Lord Mayor of Dublin has been informed that all the Sinn Fein prisoners who have been on hunger strike in Mountjoy Prison are to be released, some tonight and the remainder tomorrow morning. He has addressed another letter to the Chief Secretary on the treatment of these prisoners, and he published the correspondence today. On Wednesday he wrote pointing out that the understanding given by one of Mr McPherson’s predecessors regarding the treatment of political prisoners was not being carried out. Hence the hunger strike.This afternoon he sent another letter, in which he said that there must have been something in his previous letter regarding the health of the prisoners, as the prison doctor had ordered a considerable number to be sent to the city hospitals. As the original undertaking was made between himself and a former Chief Secretary, he felt conscientiously bound to see that it was carried out and he asked Mr Macpherson to reply without delay to his letter of Wednesday. It is reported in Dublin that 21 of the 44 prisoners who took part in the hunger strike have been sent to hospitals in the city. Seven were released last night, six on Wednesday and one on Tuesday. This morning seven others were sent to hospitals outside the prison.”

NEXT FRIDAY, 25 October 2019 will be the 99th Anniversary of the death of Cork’s Lord Mayor, Terence MacSwiney after 74 days of Hunger Strike in London’s Brixton Prison. MacSwiney had succeeded Tomas MacCurtain, who had been murdered in his home the previous March by a group of members of the Royal Irish Constabulary led by District Inspector Swanzy. MacSwiney’s hunger strike caught the attention of the world including people who had never heard of Ireland and helped inspire patriots everywhere, including the young Ho Chi Minh, then working in London. Amongst British Labour Councillors who followed the cortege, in full regalia was the Mayor of Stepney, Gallipoli veteran Major Clement Attlee .Leading the procession as a Guard of Honour were officers of Cork’s First Brigade, IRA.  Both the London and Cork stages of the huge funeral were filmed and footage can be found on YouTube.
The last part of the footage shows scores of film men hand-cranking their movie cameras.

More than ten thousand Irish Republican prisoners, men and women have endured hunger-strikes since 1916 and a handsome book “HUNGERING FOR JUSTICE” tells the story.One of its authors  is Martin Ferris TD, who survived 54 days on hunger-strike in Portlaoise in the 1970s, was recently in London to help launch an appropriate commemoration of MacSwiney’s Centenary.

In the 1980s the Greater London Council organised an event to commemorate MacSwiney but invitations to Cork Corporation, UCC and UCD and “respectable” Ireland were ignored.

Judging by the Contemptible and Contemptuous failure by Ireland’s mainstream establishment  diplomatic academic, media, museum to deal honestly with the country’s history I do not expect much of it.

But I have faith in the decency of most people and expect them to honour heroism and altruism. Will British Labour Councillors, MPs and aspirant Prime Ministers emulate Attlee in honouring MacSwiney? Will representatives of other parties? I imagine Vietnamese, Cuban, Indian, South African amongst other representatives would be happy to honour MacSwiney, and, through him, Ireland.

Until quite recently THE IRISH TIMES included District Inspector Swanzy on its Roll of Honour. I’m surprised the INDO hasn’t adopted him.

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