IRA prisoner Kieran Nugent is reputed to have said – upon being imprison after the removal of Special Category status in 1976 – “I’m not a criminal – the Brits will have to nail prison clothes to my back.” The mural is a February repainting of Ciarán Nugent and for the launch it was surrounded with posters from the period. Rockville Street, Belfast.
“I have no prouder boast to say, I am Irish and have been privileged to fight for the Irish people for Ireland. If I have a duty, I will perform it to the full with the unshakable belief that we are a noble race and the chains and bonds have no part in us.” – Francis Hughes. The ten deceased 1981 hunger strikers along with Frank Stagg and Michael Guaghan are featured in this Navan Street, Armagh, mural. In the centre, between the words of Francis Hughes and a “Youth Against H. Block/Armagh” protester are blanket men Hugh Rooney and Freddie Toal.
“In proud and loving memory of all local volunteers, prisoners of war, republican activists and the unsung heroes who died of natural causes having served the cause of Irish republicanism [“sean óglach” on the individual plaques]. Together in unity you formed a bond which gave true meaning to the undefeated risen people. Your deeds of bravery and resistance will never be forgotten by the people of greater St. James’s. In your honour the quest for Irish freedom continues.” With the famous “our steps will be onward” quote from Máire Drumm at an anti-internment rally in Dunville Park on 10th August, 1975 (RN). Coiste Cuimhneacháin Lár Na bhFál/Ard Na bhFeá [Memorial committee of mid-Falls/Beechmount].
“1650-2009: 350 years of occupation, 350 years of resistance. Catalan language has been spoken since VIII century. Nowadays, after 350 years of occupation and prohibition, there are 9 million Catalan speakers. The spirit of revolt against the Spanish kingdom and French state is still alive. The struggle of the Catalan people continues against the existing discriminations. Not Spain, not France.” “Saoirse na hÉireann, Llibrtat Països Catalans”. In Clowney Street next to the ‘1969 Phoenix’ mural which dates back to 1981.
“Fir na Pluide: i ndiaidh do Rialtas na Breataine stadás polaitiúil a tharraingt siar i 1976 mar chuid dá straitéis le Cuma coirpeach a chur ar an streachailt poblachtach. Dhiúltaigh cimí poblachtacha cloí de rialacha príosiún, a chur iallach orthu obair phríosúin a dhéaneamh agus éide phríosúin a chaitheamh. Ar an ábhar sin, séanach éadach ar bith ar na cimí diomaite de phluid agus diútaíodh cead dul amach as a gcilliní nó caidreamh a dhéanamh le cimí eile. Ó 1978-1981 b’éigean daofa gabhal ar stailc folchta agus mar gheall air sin séanadh aiseanna folctha agus leithreas orthu. D’fhulaing siad córas millteanach brúidiulachta a mhair ó 1976-1981 a raibh d’aidhm aige toil na gcimí – cimí óga a bhformhór – a chloí. D’fhag an tréimhse brúidiúil sin a lorg ar chuid mhaith de na cimí agus bíonn an tráma acu go fóill.”
“The Blanket Men: When political status was withdrawn by the British Government in 1976 as part of their strategy to criminalise the republican struggle, Republican prisoners refused to conform with prison rules which demanded that they wear prison uniform and carry out prison work. They were denied any clothing with the exception of a blanket and denied exercise or to associate with any other prisoners. From 1978-1981 prisoners were forced onto a no wash protest, as a result of which they were denied washing and toilet facilities. They were subjected to a regime of brutality that lasted from 1976-1981 aimed at forcing the mainly young protesters to confirm [sic] with prison rules. Many of the prisoners were scarred and brutalised by their experiences and live with the trauma of that time.”
“I gcomóradh na stailceoirí ocrais a fuair bás i mBloic-H na Céise Fada sa bhiain 1981 agus i ndíl chuimhne ar ár cróga go léir a thug a raibh acu ar stailc ocrais in aghaidh impiriúlachas na Breataine in Éirinn. This memorial stone is erected to commemorate the deaths of 10 republican volunteers who died in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh prison in the cause of Irish freedom. Their supreme sacrifice changed the course of Irish history forever. Their suffering and subsequent deaths showed the inhumane barbarity of a British government in its attempts to deny our people their liberty and rights as a free nation.”
The Kieran Nugent mural at the corner of Divis Street and Northumberland Street is repainted to include posters from the time of the blanket protest and also in tribute to Brendan ‘The Dark’ Hughes, IRA OC in the H-Blocks at the time of the first (1980) hunger strike. He passed away in February, 2008.
Stages of the “conveyor belt” – arrest by the Army, trial before a Diplock court, strip searches in Long Kesh and Armagh, the dirty protest, supported by an RAC [Relatives Action Committee], and finally, hunger strikes – are recreated in murals and reenactments on flat-bed lorries along the Falls Road for the 25th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike.