Was the Hunger Strike Campaign of the 1980’s the most significant IRA action of that decade? The Hunger Strike campaign during the 1980’s were well known in Northern Ireland and Britain and some say this one action was the most significant of the IRA’s during that decade. In this essay I will be exploring how actually The Hunger Strikes were maybe not the most significant actions as during this decade the Brighton Bombings and The Long War were other, very momentous action plans the IRA put into play and how actually these can also be titled ‘significant’ in their own right.
The Hunger Strike Campaigns held by the IRA were notorious across Northern Ireland and in Great Britain. One of the most well known hunger strikers was Bobby Sands. Sands was elected an MP in April 1981 and this bares significance as Sands was himself a senior IRA commander and fellow hunger striker. He had been imprisoned since 1976 for his hunger strike mind-set, refusing to eat any food or taken in any nutrients. Sands also issued a second set of hunger strikes during 1981.
Like all other Hunger strikers, Sand’s wanted to get the point across that people will starve themselves until the time when the British Government will finally retreat from their country. In a sense, he was getting the opinion across to people that non-violent action could still generate enormous public attention. However what drew more public attention was Bobby sand’s own death in May 1981 when he succumbed to starvation after his sixty sixth day of his hunger strike.
A source showing a picture taken in May 1981 during his funeral shows thousands of people surrounding and marching behind his coffin as it is carried down a street. This source tells us that Bobby Sand’s death proved very significant in the IRA actions as his death grasped the publics, and media’s, full attention. Clearly the people felt that Sands was brave and strong-willed, dying for a cause he so strongly believed in. The Hunger Strike campaign also proved to knock the British Government’s strong confidence as well.
A source from an extract of ‘the Guardian’ (a British newspaper) in 2011 states that ‘The Thatcher Government wobbled in its resolution to resist the IRA’s Maze prison hunger strike. ’ This extract immediately gives us the idea that actually, yes, the British Government was in fact having a hard time dealing with the IRA’s undeniably noticeable actions and we can tell this from the use of the word ‘wobble’ in the source. The source further backs up this idea when it states ‘… ontemplated the “unpalatable” option of British withdrawal from Northern Ireland, according to secret cabinet documents. ’ Evidently the British Government could not ignore the actions taken by the IRA movement however I must note that even though the British Government considered such a fact, it did not withdraw and give in to the demands of leaving Northern Ireland. The hunger strikes were significant in knocking the British’s confidence slightly and gaining huge public support. Another very significant action made by the IRA of this decade was the IRA Brighton Bombing’s.
The Brighton Bombing’s in October 1984 saw the IRA targeting the British PM of the time, Margaret Thatcher with a bomb explosion. This explosion was not successful and thus Margaret Thatcher did not die and was surprisingly not injured however many MP’s were hurt and some were even killed. This bombing was made by the IRA to prove to the British Government that they were serious about getting rid of the British from Northern Ireland and that vicious means such as this would occur until finally they reached their goal.
An extract from Margaret Thatcher’s speech on the day of the Brighton Bombing states that in fact in some sense the attack was a success in crippling the British Government’s confidence further and we can tell this by ‘ … and the fact that we are gathered her now, shocked but composed and determined, is a sign not only that this attack has failed, but that all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail. ’ Clearly the British Government were completely upstart after this shocking display of violence however it does state that actually they have come back from the attack more ‘composed’ and ‘determined’.
Another statement this time from the Provisional IRA states ‘Today we were lucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always. ’ This source clearly shows the mind-set of IRA at the time as it is written by them themselves so it is highly reliable. Undoubtedly the IRA will keep trying to attack in these violent ways and they will not stop until finally they are ‘lucky once’ and have killed the PM and caused havoc amongst the B. Government. The Brighton Bombings were significant in causing uproar among the B.
Government and essentially reminded them that the IRA were still sticking to their strong beliefs of ‘BRITISH OUT’ and that they would do the most serious and brutal actions to obtain this objective. Another final significant action made by the IRA was the Long War. The Long war was essentially a constant war of attrition of IRA soldiers against members of the RUC and the B. Government, which relied on resources and the condition of their men over a long period of time. The IRA used seriously violent tactics such as bombings and shootings which killed many of their enemy’s individuals.
A source from a BBC news website on a special report on punishment beatings says ‘… the danger is worse than shattered bones. Many victims have major Arteries severed. ’ Without a doubt the physical attack was hugely violent and caused severe damage to the units involved. The IRA also destroyed major buildings and stations, a source from a book called ‘Families at war’ explains this when it states ‘RUC stations were attacked and mortared, and contractors who tried to repair them were killed… ’ and that ‘the IRA would shoot any builder who worked on repairs. This source makes it clear that the IRA were being ferocious with their assault and used many dangerous weaponry to annihilate their enemy and to show that they would never give in and that the B. Government should simply just leave them be and less damage would be dealt. One final source which is an extract from the Houses of Commons in March 1989 states’ Does the Secretary of State accept that there is growing concern in Northern Ireland not just about the recent shootings but the long series of tit-for-tat killings? Evidently the British Government could not let this subject pass and they couldn’t disregard this topic. The question was asked after sympathy was given to two highly respected senior officers who had been shot at a border. The Long War was significant in truly revealing to the B. Government as to the sheer extent of all out warfare the IRA will succumb to if they are not heard and if they do not get what they want. Unmistakably the Government could not overlook all these incidents but however it seemed that neither side were gaining any favours in reaching their goals through this Long War.
In conclusion I believe that actually the IRA Hunger Strikes were not the most significant actions taken by them in the 1980s as in fact I believe each event I have mentioned in this essay was significant in its own way. Bobby Sands death was significant in drawing huge public attention and many of the hunger strikes proved significant in causing the B. Government to doubt the position in which they stood. The Brighton Bombings were significant in the fact they showed the B.
Government how deadly serious the IRA actually were in trying to cause havoc among the British Government and causing them to withdraw from Ireland. And finally the Long War was significant in a sense that it showed the B. Government that the IRA would fight viciously and to the death for their cause and that nothing would get in their way. In a sense my final conclusion is that all of these actions made by the IRA in this decade were significant in their own way and that all of them caused the B. Government to doubt whether they should remain connected to Northern Ireland.