|Sands in Long Kesh, 1973 (aged 18–19)|
|Member of Parliament
for Fermanagh and South Tyrone
9 April 1981 – 5 May 1981
|Preceded by||Frank Maguire|
|Succeeded by||Owen Carron|
9 March 1954|
Abbots Cross, Newtownabbey, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
|Died||5 May 1981
Maze, County Down, Northern Ireland
|Political party||Anti H-Block|
|Spouse(s)||Geraldine Noade (1972–1981, his death)|
|Other organizations||Provisional Irish Republican Army volunteer|
|Website||Bobby Sands Trust|
Robert Gerard "Bobby" Sands (Irish: Roibeárd Gearóid Ó Seachnasaigh; 9 March 1954 – 5 May 1981) was an Irish volunteer of the Provisional Irish Republican Army who died on hunger strike while imprisoned in HM Prison Maze.
He was the leader of the 1981 hunger strike in which Irish republican prisoners protested against the removal of Special Category Status. During his strike he was elected as a member of the British Parliament as an Anti H-Block/Armagh Political Prisoner candidate. His death resulted in a new surge of IRA recruitment and activity. International media coverage brought attention to the hunger strikers, and the republican movement in general, attracting both praise and criticism.
Early years and family 
Sands was born into a Roman Catholic family in Abbots Cross, and lived in Doonbeg Drive, Newtownabbey, County Antrim, until 1960 when the family was forced to move to Rathcoole, Newtownabbey. His first sister, Marcella, was born in April 1955 and second sister, Bernadette, in November 1958. His parents, John and Rosaleen, had another son, John, in 1962. On leaving school, Bobby became an apprentice coach-builder until he was forced out at gunpoint by loyalists.
He married Geraldine Noade. His son, Gerard, was born 8 May 1973. Noade soon left to live in England with their son.
Sands' sister, Bernadette Sands McKevitt, is also a prominent Irish Republican. Along with her husband Michael McKevitt she helped to form the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and is accused of involvement with the Real Irish Republican Army. Sands McKevitt is opposed to the Belfast Agreement, stating that "Bobby did not die for cross-border bodies with executive powers. He did not die for nationalists to be equal British citizens within the Northern Ireland state."
Provisional IRA activity 
In 1972, Sands joined the Provisional IRA. He was arrested and charged in October 1972 with possession of four handguns found in the house where he was staying. Sands was convicted in April 1973 sentenced to five years' imprisonment and released in April 1976.
Upon his release from prison in 1976, he returned to his family home in West Belfast, and resumed his active role in the Provisional IRA's cause. He was charged with involvement in the October 1976 bombing of the Balmoral Furniture Company in Dunmurry. He was never convicted of this charge; the presiding judge stated that there was no evidence to support the assertion that Sands had taken part in the bombing. After the bombing, Sands and at least five others were alleged to have been involved in a gun battle with the Royal Ulster Constabulary, although Sands was not convicted due to lack of evidence. Leaving behind two of their wounded friends, Seamus Martin and Gabriel Corbett, Sands, Joe McDonnell, Seamus Finucane, and Sean Lavery tried to escape in a car, but were apprehended. Later, one of the revolvers used in the attack was found in the car in which Sands had been travelling. In 1977, prosecutors charged him with possession of the revolver from which bullets were fired at the RUC after the bombing. After his trial and conviction, Sands was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment within HM Prison Maze, also known as Long Kesh.
Immediately after his sentence, Sands was implicated in a ruckus and spent the first 22 days "on boards" (all furniture was removed from his cell) in Crumlin Road Prison, 15 days naked, and a No. 1 starvation diet (bread and water) every 3 days.
Long Kesh years 
In prison, Sands became a writer of both journalism and poetry, with work published in the Irish republican newspaper An Phoblacht. In late 1980 Sands was chosen as Officer Commanding of the Provisional IRA prisoners in Long Kesh, succeeding Brendan Hughes who was participating in the first hunger strike.
Republican prisoners organised a series of protests seeking to regain their previous Special Category Status which would free them from some ordinary prison regulations. This began with the "blanket protest" in 1976, in which the prisoners refused to wear prison uniform and wore blankets instead. In 1978, after a number of attacks on prisoners leaving their cells to "slop out" (i.e., empty their chamber pots), this escalated into the "dirty protest", wherein prisoners refused to wash and smeared the walls of their cells with excrement.
Published works 
While in prison Sands had several letters and articles published in the Republican paper An Phoblacht (en: Republican News) under the pseudonym "Marcella". Other writings attributed to him are: Skylark Sing Your Lonely Song  and One Day in My Life. Sands also wrote the lyrics of "Back Home in Derry" and "McIlhatton", which were both later recorded by Christy Moore; and he wrote "Sad Song For Susan" which was later recorded. The melody of "Back Home in Derry" was borrowed from Gordon Lightfoot's famous 1976 song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."
Member of Parliament 
The sudden vacancy in a seat with a nationalist majority of about five thousand was a valuable opportunity for Sands' supporters to unite the nationalist community behind their campaign. Pressure not to split the vote led other nationalist parties, notably the Social Democratic and Labour Party, to withdraw, and Sands was nominated on the label "Anti H-Block / Armagh Political Prisoner". After a highly polarised campaign, Sands narrowly won the seat on 9 April 1981, with 30,493 votes to 29,046 for the Ulster Unionist Party candidate Harry West—and also become the youngest MP at the time. However Sands died in prison less than a month afterwards, without ever having taken his seat in the Commons.
Following Sands' success, the British Government introduced the Representation of the People Act 1981 which prevents prisoners serving jail terms of more than one year in either the UK or the Republic of Ireland from being nominated as candidates in British elections. This law was introduced in order to prevent the other hunger strikers from being elected to the British parliament.
Hunger strike 
The 1981 Irish hunger strike started with Sands refusing food on 1 March 1981. Sands decided that other prisoners should join the strike at staggered intervals in order to maximise publicity with prisoners steadily deteriorating successively over several months.
The hunger strike centred on five demands:
- the right not to wear a prison uniform;
- the right not to do prison work;
- the right of free association with other prisoners, and to organise educational and recreational pursuits;
- the right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;
- full restoration of remission lost through the protest.
The significance of the hunger strike was the prisoners' aim of being declared political prisoners (or prisoners of war) as opposed to criminals. The Washington Post reported that the primary aim of the hunger strike was to generate international publicity.
Sands died on 5 May 1981 in Maze prison hospital after 66 days of hunger-striking, aged 27. The original pathologist's report recorded the hunger strikers' causes of death as "self-imposed starvation", later amended to simply "starvation" after protests from the dead strikers' families. The coroner recorded verdicts of "starvation, self-imposed".
The announcement of Sands's death prompted several days of rioting in nationalist areas of Northern Ireland. A milk deliverer, Eric Guiney, and his son, Desmond, died as a result of injuries sustained when their milk float crashed after being stoned by rioters in a predominantly nationalist area of north Belfast. Over 100,000 people lined the route of Sands's funeral and he was buried in the 'New Republican Plot' alongside 76 others. Their grave is maintained and cared for by the National Graves Association, Belfast. Sands was a Member of the Westminster Parliament for 25 days, though he never took his seat or the oath.
In response to a question in the House of Commons on 5 May 1981, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, "Mr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life. It was a choice that his organisation did not allow to many of its victims".
Sands was survived by his parents, siblings, and his son, Gerard.
In Europe, there were widespread protests after Sands's death. Five thousand Milanese students burned the Union Flag and chanted 'Freedom for Ulster' during a march. The British Consulate at Ghent was raided. Thousands marched in Paris behind huge portraits of Sands, to chants of 'the IRA will conquer'. In the Portuguese Parliament, the opposition stood for Sands. In Oslo, demonstrators threw a tomato at Elizabeth II, the Queen of the United Kingdom, but missed (The 28-year-old assailant claimed that he had not aimed for the queen, but rather for a smirking British soldier).  In the Soviet Union, Pravda described it as 'another tragic page in the grim chronicle of oppression, discrimination, terror, and violence' in Ireland. Russian fans of Bobby Sands published a translation of the "Back Home In Derry" song ("На Родину в Дерри" in Russian). Many French towns and cities have streets named after Sands, including in Nantes, Saint-Étienne, Le Mans, Vierzon, and Saint-Denis. In the Republic of Ireland, Sands's death led to riots and bus burning. The West German newspaper Die Welt took a negative view of Sands.
News of the death of Bobby Sands influenced the way in which political prisoners and the ANC in South Africa responded to their own situation, and inspired a new way of resistance. Nelson Mandela was said to have been "directly influenced by Bobby Sands", and instigated a successful Hunger Strike on Robben Island.
A number of political, religious, union and fund-raising institutions chose to honour Sands in the United States. The International Longshoremen's Association in New York announced a 24-hour boycott of British ships. Over 1,000 people gathered in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral to hear Cardinal Terence Cookeoffer a Mass of reconciliation for Northern Ireland. Irish bars in the city were closed for two hours in mourning. In Hartford, Connecticut a memorial was dedicated to Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers in 1997, the only one of its kind in the United States. Set up by the Irish Northern Aid Committee and local Irish-Americans, it stands in a traffic circle known as Bobby Sands Circle at the bottom of Maple Avenue near Goodwin Park.
The US media expressed a range of opinions on Sands's death. The Boston Globe commented that "[t]he slow suicide attempt of Bobby Sands has cast his land and his cause into another downward spiral of death and despair. There are no heroes in the saga of Bobby Sands." The Chicago Tribune wrote that "Mahatma Gandhi used the hunger strike to move his countrymen to abstain from fratricide. Bobby Sands' deliberate slow suicide is intended to precipitate civil war. The former deserved veneration and influence. The latter would be viewed, in a reasonable world, not as a charismatic martyr but as a fanatical suicide, whose regrettable death provides no sufficient occasion for killing others."
The New York Times wrote that "Britain's prime minister Thatcher is right in refusing to yield political status to Bobby Sands, the Irish Republican Army hunger striker," but that by appearing "unfeeling and unresponsive" the British Government was giving Sands "the crown of martyrdom." The San Francisco Chronicle argued that political belief should not exempt activists from criminal law: "Terrorism goes far beyond the expression of political belief. And dealing with it does not allow for compromise as many countries of Western Europe and United States have learned. The bombing of bars, hotels, restaurants, robbing of banks, abductions, and killings of prominent figures are all criminal acts and must be dealt with by criminal law."
Some American critics and journalists suggested that American press coverage was a "melodrama". One journalist in particular criticised the large pro-IRA Irish-American contingent which "swallow IRA propaganda as if it were taffy," and concluded that IRA "terrorist propaganda triumphs."
Archbishop John R. Roach, president of the US Catholic bishops, called Sands's death "a useless sacrifice". The Ledger of May 5, 1981 under the headline “To some he was a hero, to others a terrorist” claims that the hunger strike made Sands "a hero among Irish Republicans or Nationalists seeking the reunion of Protestant-dominated and British-ruled Northern Ireland with the predominantly Catholic Irish Republic to the south."
The Ledger cited Sands as telling his friends: “If I die, God will understand," and one of his last messages to them being, “Tell everyone I’ll see them somewhere, sometime.” 
- Asia and the Middle East
- In Tehran, Iran, President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr sent a message of condolence to the Sands family. The government renamed Winston Churchill Boulevard, the location of the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Tehran, to Bobby Sands Street, prompting the embassy to move its entrance door to Ferdowsi Avenue to avoid using Bobby Sands Street on its letterhead. A street in the Elahieh district is also named after Sands. An official blue and white street sign was affixed to the rear wall of the British embassy compound saying (in Persian) "Bobby Sands Street" with three words of explanation "militant Irish guerrilla". The official Pars news agency called Bobby Sands's death "heroic". There have subsequently been claims that the British foreign secretary has pressured Iranian authorities to change the name of Bobby Sands Street but this is denied. A burger bar in Tehran is named in honour of Sands.
- In Israel/Palestine, Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in the Israeli desert prison of Nafha sent a letter, which was smuggled out and reached Belfast in July, 1981, which read;
"To the families of Bobby Sands and his martyred comrades. We, revolutionaries of the Palestinian people...extend our salutes and solidarity with you in the confrontation against the oppressive terrorist rule enforced upon the Irish people by the British ruling elite. We salute the heroic struggle of Bobby Sands and his comrades, for they have sacrificed the most valuable possession of any human being. They gave their lives for freedom."
- The Hindustan Times said Margaret Thatcher had allowed a fellow Member of Parliament to die of starvation, an incident which had never before occurred "in a civilised country."
- In the Indian Parliament, opposition members in the upper house Rajya Sabha stood for a minute's silence in tribute. The ruling Congress Party did not join in. Protest marches were organized against the British government and in tribute to Sands and his fellow hunger strikers.
- The Hong Kong Standard said it was 'sad that successive British governments have failed to end the last of Europe's religious wars.'
- A large monument dedicated to Irish protagonists for independence from Britain, including Bobby Sands, stands in the Waverley Cemetery in Sydney, Australia.
- United Kingdom
At Old Firm football matches in Glasgow, Scotland, some Rangers fans have been known to sing songs mocking Bobby Sands to taunt fans of Celtic. Rangers fans are mainly Protestant, and predominantly sympathetic to the Unionist and Loyalist community; Celtic fans are traditionally more likely to support the Nationalist and Republican community. Celtic fans regularly sing the republican song "The Roll of Honour" which commemorates the ten men who died in the 1981 hunger strike, amongst other songs in support of the IRA. Sands is honoured in the line "They stood beside their leader - the gallant Bobby Sands." Rangers' taunts have since been adopted by the travelling support of other UK clubs, particularly those with strong British ties, as a form of anti-Irish sentiment. The 1981 British Home Championship football tournament was cancelled following the refusal of teams from England and Wales to travel to Northern Ireland in the aftermath of his death due to security concerns.
Cardinal Basil Hume, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, condemned Sands, describing the hunger strike as a form of violence. However he noted that this was his personal view. The Roman Catholic Church's official stance was that ministrations should be provided to the hunger strikers who, believing their sacrifice to be for a higher good, were acting in good conscience.
Political impact 
Nine other IRA and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) members who were involved in the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike died after Sands. On the day of his funeral, Unionist leader Ian Paisley held a memorial service outside of Belfast city hall to commemorate the victims of the IRA. In the Irish general elections held the same year, two anti H-block candidates won seats on an abstentionist basis.
The media coverage that surrounded the death of Sands resulted in a new surge of IRA activity and an immediate escalation in the Troubles, with the group obtaining many more members and increasing its fund-raising capability. Both nationalists and unionists began to harden their attitudes and move towards political extremes. Sands's Westminster seat was taken by his election agent, Owen Carron standing as 'Anti H-Block Proxy Political Prisoner' with an increased majority.
In popular culture 
The Grateful Dead played the Nassau Coliseum the following night after Sands died and guitarist Bob Weir dedicated the song "He's Gone" to Sands. The concert was later released as Dick's Picks Volume 13, part of the Grateful Dead's programme of live concert releases. French musician Léo Ferré dedicated performances of his song "Thank You Satan" to Sands in 1981 and 1984.
Songs written in response to the hunger strikes and Sands' death include songs by Black 47, Nicky Wire, Meic Stevens, The Undertones, Bik McFarlane and Eric Bogle. Christy Moore's song, "The People's Own MP", has been described as an example of a rebel song of the "hero-martyr" genre in which Sands' "intellectual, artistic and moral qualities" are eulogised. American rock band Rage Against the Machine have listed Sands as an inspiration in the sleeve notes of their self-titled début album. and as a "political hero" in media interviews.
Bobby Sands has also been portrayed in the following films:
- Bobby Sands was played by John Lynch in the 1996 film Some Mother's Son. It was directed by Terry George and written by George and Jim Sheridan.
- Bobby Sands was played by Mark O'Halloran in the 2001 film H3.
- Michael Fassbender played Bobby Sands in Hunger, a 2008 film by artist Steve McQueen about the last six weeks of Bobby Sands' life in the context of the 1981 Irish hunger strike. It premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and won McQueen the prestigious Caméra d'Or award for first-time filmmakers. It was broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK for the first time on 15 December 2009.
See also 
- List of United Kingdom MPs with the shortest service
- Terence MacSwiney - Lord Mayor of Cork in 1920 who died in Brixton Prison after a hunger strike lasting 74 days.
- "Legacy of Cage Eleven". Nuzhound.com. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "Hunger Strike 1980-82". BBC News. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
- "CAIN: Politics: Elections: Westminster By-election (NI) Thursday 9 April 1981". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. 1981-04-09. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "CAIN archive at the University of Ulster". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. 1981-05-05. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- Feehan, Bobby Sands MP and the Tragedy of Northern Ireland, p. 17
- Sands, Writings from Prison
- O'Hearn, Bobby Sands: Nothing but an Unfinished Song
- Feehan, Bobby Sands and the Tragedy of Northern Ireland, p 13–14
- David Beresford (1987). Ten Men Dead: The Story of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike. London: Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN 0-586-06533-4.
- O'Hearn, Nothing but an unfinished song: Bobby Sands, ch. 1
- Toolis, "The Observer (2003)",
- English, Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA, p 316–317
- Geraghty, The Irish War, p. 68–70
- Morrison, Cain Biography (Cain.ulst.ac.uk), s. 'intro'
- Hanke, Philip (2011). Bobby Sands - An Irish Martyr?. GRIN Verlag. p. 20. ISBN 978-3-640-85967-2.
- Price, Keep On Running (WalesOnline.co.uk) p. 1
- English, Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA, p. 196–198
- "Terrorism Knowledge Base Article on Bobby Sands". Tkb.org. Retrieved 2010-04-26.[dead link]
- Hanke, Philip (2011). Bobby Sands - An Irish Martyr?. GRIN Verlag. p. 21. ISBN 978-3-640-85967-2.
- Taylo, Provos, The IRA and Sinn Féin, p. 251–252
- 1989, Mercier Press, ISBN 0-85342-726-7
- 2001, Mercier Press, ISBN 1-85635-349-4
- BBC News,1981: Hunger striker elected MP (April 1981)
- Julian Haviland, "Bill to stop criminal candidates", The Times, 13 June 1981, p. 2.
- Gay, Disqualification for membership of the House of Commons (October 2004)
- Carol, Constitutional and administrative law, p. 112
- Taylor, Provos The IRA & Sinn Féin, p. 229–234
- Washington Post, 3 May 1981, 2-3
- O'Keeffe, "Suicide and Self-Starvation Suicide and Self-starvation", Philosophy, Vol. 59, No. 229 (Jul., 1984), pp. 349–363
- Malcolm Sutton. "An Index of Deaths from Conflict in Ireland". CAIN. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
- "A Chronology of the Conflict - 1981". CAIN. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
- "University of Ulster CAIN archive". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "1981 5 May Tu Margaret Thatcher House of Commons PQs". Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Retrieved 2007-05-26.
- "Punker siktet for majestetsfornærmelse". Oslo: Aftenposten. 7 May 1981.
- Colin Randall (13 August 2004). "French intelligentsia ponders what should be done with killer". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
- Bobby Sands - An Irish Martyr? - Philip Hanke - Google Books
- Republicans never so close to victory- McBride | An Phoblacht
- Russell, George (1981-05-18). "Shadow Of a Gunman". Time. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
- "NYU". Nyu.edu. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "Details of the Hartford memorial". Homestead.com. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "The Saga of Bobby Sands", Boston Globe, 3 May 1981
- "Bobby Sands and Mahatma Gandhi", Chicago Tribune, 28 April 1981
- "Britain's Gift to Bobby Sands", New York Times, 29 April 1981
- "The Death of Bobby Sands", San Francisco Chronicle, 6 May 1981
- "Sands' hunger strike and the fate of Ulster" Boston Globe, 1 May 1981, 9
- "IRA brutalities, Terrorist propaganda triumphs" by Edward Langley Chicago Tribune, 9 May 1981, W1-8-4
- "News.Google.com". News.Google.com. 1981-05-16. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "''The Ledger'', Tuesday, May 5, 1981". News.google.com. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "Adams unveils Cuba memorial to Bobby Sands". breakingnews.ie. 18 December 2001. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
- The Times, June 11, 1981
- Bobby Sands: Nothing But An Unfinished Song by Denis O'Hearn (ISBN 9-7453-2572-6), page 377
- Majd, Hooman. The Ayatollah Begs to Differ. Doubleday. 2008. 244-245.
- OIPUI.edu, 'Naming Bobby Sands Street', The Blanket, 24 February 2004
- Irlandinit-hd.de, British government pressure Ireland to change the name of Bobby Sands street from
- LarkSpirit.com, British government pressure Irani Government to change name of Bobby Sands street
- "FCO.gov.uk". Ukiniran.fco.gov.uk. Retrieved 2010-04-26.[dead link]
- Lai See | South China Morning Post
- Strange Times in Persia- Welcome to Iran a Travellers account (Part One) | Catch21 Productions
- John Wight: Over Three Decades On The Death Of Bobby Sands Still Resonates
- Tom Shields (23 February 2003). "Pitch Battles; What can an English public school-type tell us about". The Sunday Herald. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
- Lash, Scott & Lury, Celia. Global Culture Industry: The Mediation of Things, Polity, 2007, p49. ISBN 0-7456-2482-0
- W.D. Flackes and Sydney Elliott, "Northern Ireland: A Political Directory" (Blackstaff Press, Belfast, 1999), at p. 550, notes that at the 1981 District Council elections on 20 May 1981, "the results showed a decline in support for centre parties".
- Nicholas Whyte. "Ark Election website". Ark.ac.uk. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- A Long Strange Trip by Dennis McNally, P. 542
- The Undertones: A Look Back - 1 May 2001 - Ralph Heibutzki | Unofficial website of The Undertones | TheUndertones.net |
- Boyle, Mark. Edifying the Rebellious Gael, in Celtic Geographies: Old Culture, New Times (David Harvey, ed). Routledge, 2002. p 190. ISBN 0-415-22396-2
- digamma.net, notes » 2004 » March
- RATM.net, Rage Against the Machine: Articles
- IMDB: Some Mother's Son
- IMDB: H3
- Thorpe, Vanessa (11 May 2008). "Anger as new film of IRA hero Bobby Sands screens at Cannes". London: The Observer. Retrieved 2008-05-14.
- Bobby Sands film wins Cannes award. Available on RTE.ie, Accessed: 26 May 2008.
- "Bobby Sands story to become movie". BBC. 16 May 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Bobby Sands|
- Bobby Sands Trust – Official website of poetry and writings by Bobby Sands MP
- Biography from Irish Republican website
- Bobby Sands diary entries & biographies of the ten hunger strikers
- Timewatch: Hunger Strike – a Hidden History (Otmoor Productions/BBC 1993.)
- The Diary of Bobby Sands secret diary written during the first seventeen days of his hungerstrike, before being moved to the prison hospital.
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone
|Baby of the House