Oscar winning English actor Colin Firth has won the admiration of a surprising new constituency -Irish Republicans.
The Academy Award winning actor has co-edited a remarkable new book that highlights the most impassioned speeches about the fight for what is right in the British and Irish traditions and brings them to life for a new generation of readers.
Firth has selected extracts from iconic Republican figurehead Bobby Sands’s hunger strike diary in a new book titled 'The People Speak,' which will reportedly become part of a larger multimedia project that will include a stage show bringing to life the voices of campaigners, dissidents and visionaries.
Now An Phoblact, the Irish Republican newspaper, has written an unexpectedly approving review of Firth's editorial work.
According to the paper, the idea for the book originated in America, where performers such as Matt Damon and Bob Dylan supported the scheme. Eventually compiled by Firth alongside author and editor Anthony Arnove and historian David Horspool, the new collection of speeches, songs and letters include quotes from women's rights luminaries like Emmeline Pankhurst and literary heroes like Oscar Wilde.
Veteran republican Gerry O’Hare (a former political prisoner and ex-editor of An Phoblacht) reviewed 'The People Speak – Voices That Changed Britain' for the Bobby Sands Trust and wrote: Considering that most of us grew up in or around some form of Thatcherism, with all its works and pomps, the title of this book caught my attention. Whose ‘Voices’, I wondered? It wasn’t what I expected.'
In his introduction, Firth writes: 'I hope that these voices serve as a reminder that much of what we feel entitled to today, much of what we accept as civilised or decent, began as treason. Was fought for by men and women who weren’t endowed with any political power, who were hanged for it, transported, tortured or imprisoned until eventually their ideas were adapted to, adopted and handed down to us as basic rights.These freedoms are now in our care. And unless we act on them and continue to fight for them, they will be lost more easily than they were won.'
O'Hare writes that he was surprised by what he read. Ireland, after all, is not the only national with a radical tradition.
Spanning over almost a thousand years and 150 individual voices, these speeches are, Firth claims, 'the most powerful words in British history.'
O'Hare writes that he went straight to see what Bobby Sands had said to impress Firth enough to be included in the new book.
The excerpt selected turned out to be from his prison diary, dated March 1.
Sands states that he is a political prisoner and he is aware he is breaking his mothers heart. 'I am a political prisoner because I am a casualty of a perennial war that is being fought between the oppressed Irish people and an alien, oppressive, unwanted regime that refuses to withdraw from our land.'
He documents his agonising hunger strike, his treatment at the hands of 'the slobbers' – prison wardens - and he ends his short narrative by saying that, on receiving a letter from his mother, his mind is at peace for his struggle.
'Every time I feel down, I think of Armagh (jail) and James Connolly. They can never take those thoughts away from me.'