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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Former hunger striker welcomes book, 19 Jan 2006
This review is from: Nothing But an Unfinished Song: Bobby Sands, the Irish Hunger Striker Who Ignited a Generation (Hardcover)
All of us have a story to tell. There’s few though whose life, cut short at 27 years of age, can be said to have impacted so dramatically on the course of Irish politics and to have become such an internationally recognised icon as Bobby Sands. Guerrilla fighter in the Irish Republican Army, he was elected a member of the British parliament shortly before his death on hunger strike in the H Blocks of Long Kesh/Maze Prison on 5 May 1981.
I shared a prison wing with Bobby for nine months in 1979. Later I joined the hunger strike that he had just died on. I approached Denis O’Hearn’s biography of Bobby therefore with a little trepidation. I should not have been concerned. It is an excellent book. It tells not just the story of Bobby, the prison protest and hunger strikes but accurately captures the atmosphere of the prison – the good times and bad, the hopes and despair, the pain, the joy and the totally selfless love that is rarely witnessed between a group of males. The strength of the book is that O’Hearn does not attempt to tell what he thinks happened behind prison walls (as other academics have) or to interpret events within his own ideological paradigm. Instead he facilitates others - friends, associates and comrades of Bobby - to tell of the person they knew and allows that person to become alive and vibrant on every page.
Most importantly, the book traces the development of a very ordinary, young, politically naive, high-spirited boy from a working class background on the outskirts of Belfast to the highly politicised, articulate, prolific, competent revolutionary that he became in later years. In this way O’Hearn informs a new generation of political activists in Ireland and elsewhere that they too can become a ‘Bobby Sands’ but hopefully never have to make the life and death decisions that he was faced with.
This year, the 25th anniversary of the hunger strike, it is timely for this biography to appear. It demonstrates the global interest that is retained in events that happened over a period of 217 days in 1981 when ten men died one after the other in prison cells in a struggle to be treated as the political prisoners they were. No wonder that states tremble before the power of such an idea that cannot be conquered, quenched, bought off or tortured into submission. No wonder that from the lips of oppressed peoples around the world the name, Bobby Sands, is uttered with such fondness and admiration.
Nothing but an unfinished song tells not just the story of Bobby Sands, the H Block protest and hunger strikes but accurately captures the atmosphere of the prison – the good times and bad, the hopes and despair, the pain, the joy and the totally selfless love that is rarely witnessed between a group of males. The strength of the book is that O’Hearn does not attempt to tell what he thinks happened behind prison walls (as some other academics have) or to interpret events within his own ideological paradigm. Instead he facilitates others - friends, associates and comrades of Bobby - to tell of the person they knew and allows that person to become alive and vibrant on every page.
Most importantly, the book traces the development of a very ordinary, young, politically naive, high-spirited boy from a working class background on the outskirts of Belfast to the highly politicised, articulate, prolific, competent revolutionary that he became in later years.
Dr Laurence McKeown
former IRA prisoner
Long Kesh/Maze Prison 1976-1992
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