On 5th May 1981, I turned on my little radio when I woke up to hear the news of the death of Bobby Sands after 66 days on hunger strike. He was just 27 years old. I was both sad and mad. Sad that he had died after much suffering in a cause he had the courage to believe in, and mad as hell that he had been allowed to die. He was the first of 10 to die on this strike - all the strikers were in their twenties, and would surely all be still alive today if they had not participated in the strike.
It was a turbulent time with many demonstrations in Ireland and black flags everywhere. I was 21 years old during all this and was a student at Trinity College. There was a lot of sympathy for the strikers, but perhaps not as much support for their aims. While I was supportive, to my shame I did not participate in any of the campaigns. However, I did sign the Book of Condolence for Derry man Thomas McElwee (died 8th August 1981, age 23) outside the GPO in Dublin. I recall I signed my name as "E O'Loughlin, Wicklow" - not having the courage to give my full name or address. Shame.
Photo to right taken in 2016 at the Bobby Sands Mural, Falls Road, Belfast.