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Bobby Sands

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Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Sands came of age at the height of ”the Troubles” in the early 1970s.

Intimidation by loyalists and the introduction of internment in 1971 radicalised his politics and by 1972 he was an active service member of the Provisional IRA.

Imprisoned in the H Blocks of Long Kesh for arms offences in 1976, Sands became the leader of a prisoner’s protest demanding the restoration of ”political status”.

The failure of the first ”dirty protest” (which involved the prisoners remaining naked and smearing excrement on cell walls) led to the adoption in 1980 of the more extreme strategy of hunger strike.

At first the principal organiser and negotiator for the prisoners, Sands joined the hunger strike in 1981. In April, he was elected UK member of Parliament for Fermanagh.

Despite the extremity of the situation and the intense mood of support among Northern Ireland’s Catholics, the Thatcher government refused to restore the privileges.

His death and those of nine other prisoners in the following months immeasurably deepened the crisis in Ulster in the 1980s.