Leonard Peltier’s statement to commemorate the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier

On Sunday, Aug. 13, more than 20,000 people in Belfast, Northern Ireland commemorated the 25th anniversary of 1981 Hunger Strike in which 10 Irish revolutionaries being held by British occupation forces struck to win status as political prisoners. The prisoners’ five basic demands were: the right not to wear prison uniforms; the right not to do prison work; the right to associate freely with other political prisoners; the right to organize their own organizational and recreational pursuits; the right to a weekly visit letter and parcel.

The Hunger Strike created widespread support for the cause of national and social liberation both within Ireland and around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people attended the hunger strikers’ funerals. The following statement to commemorate the Hunger Strike is by Leonard Peltier, Native American political prisoner incarcerated unjustly in U.S. federal prisons since 1976.

I have to acknowledge that another year has passed since my illegal imprisonment; thirty years have gone by while I remain illegally incarcerated.

It seems that this year is one for reflection. Relatives from struggles around the world are stopping to reflect on the lives of friends, comrades and loved ones who are now gone. During the past thirty years I have seen many people leave my life and journey to the spirit world. I have learned from the many people that have come into my life the true meaning of friendship and solidarity. With that, I must salute and address my friends, brothers and comrades in Ireland. I especially want to express my condolences to the families of the Hunger Strikers from a quarter-century ago. I want to send my warmest greetings to my friend Gerry Adams. I also want to salute each of my friends throughout Ireland that have supported me for so many years. I pray that you will continue to lend me your support and consider me your friend.

At this time, my friends and relatives in Ireland are suffering loss, but also celebrating the memories of those from their communities who have now gone to the spirit world. Twenty five years ago you lost ten young men in the prime of their lives. Men who would have been starting families or graduating from university if they’d been born into a more just society suffered in the most inhumane way possible. When Bobby Sands died on May 5, 1981, millions of people from around the world joined their voices together to condemn the British government that allowed him to parish. I joined my voice to theirs. I fasted in solidarity with the Hunger Strikers for forty days during that dreadful year.

Fasting is something that I have done many times, when I was a free man, while participating in our sacred Sun Dance. The sufferings of our relations in Ireland are pains that we as Indian people know all too well. Our suffering, our fasting and our struggling links us together with a common bond. That is why I say to you, there in Ireland, you are my relatives. As your relative, let me join my thoughts, tears, and prayers with yours as you commemorate your fallen, especially those who died on Hunger Strike in 1981. My family and your families, my pain and your pains, my peoples struggle and the struggles of your people are all connected. We truly are all related.

Martin Hurson funeral

Funeral procession for Irish hunger striker Martin Hurson, July 15, 1981.

Thirty-one years ago the Lakota elders asked for help and protection from the GOON squad that was terrorizing the Lakota Nation. I, along with many others, responded to that call. I simply responded to a call to help others protect our lands, culture and traditions. I ask that you not loose focus on the real issue, which is that people suffering extreme hardships need not be. Even today we see children, women and elders being murdered in Pine Ridge and Belfast, on Big Mountain in Navajo country and in Basque country in Spain. And all in the name of justice.

From Chiapas to El Salvador and all around this Mother Earth lands are being taken, cultures are being robbed of their languages, and the extermination of traditions are occurring on a daily basis.

I must share with you that, as the years have passed, every day I hear routinely the sounds of my cell door opening in the morning and closing at night. Yet, I have not forgotten what I was asked to do when I was asked to respond to the call our Elders sent—a cry for help. Now I once again must call on you for your help. I ask you to join your voices and efforts with mine.

A young Cheyenne man by the name of Dave Bailey is our Leonard Peltier Defense Committee representative for Ireland and England. I ask that you help him in his efforts to highlight my case, and search for solutions in that part of the world that will eventually mean I never again have to hear the sounds of cell doors opening and closing. I ask you to do all you can to support his efforts, my efforts, and the efforts of all Indian people. I humbly thank you for the warmth, hospitality, and support that you have shown our people over the years when they have come into your community. As you commemorate your fallen and your dead, remember that our suffering is linked to yours. We mourn with you and pray for you as relatives.

Mitakuye Oyasin. (We are all related.)

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
Leonard Peltier

Click here for more information on Leonard Peltier’s struggle for freedom.

Related Articles

Back to top button