People from all parts of Ireland gathered in Ballina to mark the 36th Anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strike in which ten young men died in H-Blocks of Long Kesh.
The Commemoration also marked the sacrifice of Mayo Hunger Strikers Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg, who died in English prisons in the 1970s, as well as that of another Mayo man Seán ‘Jack’ McNeela and Tony D’arcy from Co. Galway, both of whom died on Hunger Strike in 1940.
We are deeply honoured to welcome, to Mayo, the Families of those who have died on Hunger Strike down through the decades.
It is because of your sacrifices and your endurance that I, and hundreds of thousands like me, continue our struggle for Irish freedom and the reunification of our country.
We can never truly repay the debt of gratitude owed to you and your loved ones but together we will work to make their vision a reality.
Today, we remember ár cara mór agus comrádaí Martin McGuinness.
Martin, with Uachtarain Shinn Féin, Gerry Adams and others who are here today led us on the pathway to peace.
I gcomhair an rud seo, táimid an búioch.
I want to thank Bernie and the McGuinness Family for lending us Martin for all those years.
We miss him greatly and will continue to work to honour his memory by striving to deliver a 32 county republic based on equality, fairness and opportunity for all.
Today we remember an deichniúr fear óg who died in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh in 1981 – Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Patsy O’Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Thomas McElwee and Mickey Devine.
On this the anniversary week of internment we welcome all political prisoners especially the women of Ard Mhacha who fought against attempts to criminalise the struggle for a free and united Ireland.
This afternoon we proudly ‘take it home to Mayo’ as we remember our three Mayo Hunger Strikers, Jack McNeela who died with his friend Tony D’Arcy from Galway in 1940, Michael Gaughan from Ballina who died in 1974 and Frank Stagg from Hollymount who died in 1976.
Like all of the political prisoners they did not go on hunger strike to die.
These young men went on hunger strike because their bodies and minds were the only weapons available to them against the criminalization of the struggle for Irish Freedom and Unity.
So today we gather her to commemorate, reflect and respect.