Rosaleen Sands, the mother of Irish Hunger Striker Bobby Sands, passed away on Friday, January 12.
Bobby Sands was a member of the IRA and was imprisoned for 14 years in 1977 after being caught in possession of a revolver.
While in prison, Sands and many others fought to be recognized as 'prisoners of war' rather than regular prisoners and eventually he led a hunger strike among his fellow IRA prisoners. Their demands were:
- 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 organize educational and recreational pursuits;
- the right to one visit, one letter, and one parcel per week;
- full restoration of remission lost through the protest.
After 66 days on hunger strike Sands died of starvation. The British Government claimed that this constituted him taking his own life but other countries around the world were outraged.
After his death, he became an icon for nationalists in Ireland and there was a huge outpouring of support from around the world.
In Hartford, Connecticut, a memorial was erected in his honor:
Bobby's father passed away in 2014 and on Friday, his mother passed away as well.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams paid tribute to Rosaleen. He said:
“I was extremely saddened to learn of Rosaleen’s death and, on behalf of Sinn Féin, I extend condolences to the entire Sands clan.
“Roasaleen was a strong, inspirational woman who, like all families of the hunger strikers, bore immense pain but stood by her son Bobby during the darkest of times.
“The dignity and strength she displayed was a testament to her character and her belief in standing up for what was right and just, even if that meant great suffering for herself, Bobby’s father John and their family.
“In many ways, she epitomized what all the mothers of the hunger strikers endured and her sacrifice will never be forgotten."
Bobby Sands was a writer and two years before his death, he wrote this poem for his mother:
Dear Mum, I know you’re always there
To help and guide me with all your care,
You nursed and fed me and made me strong
To face the world and all its wrong.
What can I write to you this day
For a line or two would never pay
For care and time you gave to me
Through long hard years unceasingly.
How you found strength I do not know
How you managed I’ll never know,
Struggling and striving without a break
Always there and never late.
You prayed for me and loved me more
How could I ask for anymore
And reared me up to be like you
But I haven’t a heart as kind as you.
A guide to me in times of plight
A princess like a star so bright
For life would never have been the same
If I hadn’t of learned what small things came.
So forgive me Mum just a little more
For not loving you so much before,
For life and love you gave to me
I give my thanks for eternity.