Today / Yesterday, May 5 th was the 40 th of the death of Bobby Sands during the 1981 Hunger Strike at Long Kesh Prison.
Nine other men followed him on hunger strike and to the grave.
I met Bobby soon after he began his hunger strike and was in the prison hospital wing.
I was saying Mass in Long Kesh every Sunday in different wings.
After one such Mass a prison officer told me that a prisoner in the hospital wing had requested Holy Communion and asked me to bring it to him. Of course, I immediately agreed.
The prisoner turned out to be Bobby Sands.
After giving him Holy Communion, I asked him if we could chat.
He replied: “Only if you are not going to preach at me”.
There was no question of that at all.
We had a long talk and at the end, I asked him how he felt about dying. His answer was awesome:
“When I close my eyes in this world I will in an instant be looking into the eyes and face of the only one who could ever understand me, Jesus Christ”.
Bobby Sands had an amazing faith.
On the following Sundays, at Bobby’s suggestion, I celebrated Mass for all the hunger strikers in the hospital wing common room.
The prisoners were not allowed to associate with each other normally.
I kept them in the common room for a couple of hours, celebrated Mass for them in about twenty minutes and allowed them to chat away for the rest of the time. They appreciated this precious opportunity to be with each other.
I visited all ten hunger strikers in their own room, heard Confessions when asked and generally offered nonjudgemental support.
When they died I went to all their funerals despite fierce opposition from fellow clergy.
The Sands hunger strike was the second hunger strike.
The first one was led by a parishioner of mine, Brendan “The Dark” Hughes.
I visited him regularly too.
We have to view the hunger strikers in the context of the Northern Ireland Troubles – and indeed of the 800 year British / Irish conflict.
Great wrongs and evils were perpetrated on all sides by all sides.
Thousands dead and tens of thousands maimed.
The Hunger Strike is a chapter in a massive book.
But for those of us who lived that chapter, it has left a deep mark on our souls.
70 replies on “BOBBY SANDS AND THE HUNGER STRIKE.”
“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice.”
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Thank you, Jim.
— I thirsted, I hungered. I have now been Blessed! x
Bishop Pat, thank you for sharing this with us all. I watched the film, Hunger, only a-month-or-so-ago, and I have to say it was really upsetting the way they all were treated; most certainly during their incarceration…
Nobody should be ever be treated the way they were. Ever.
I’ve had my fair share of bad treatment over the past year-or-so, including during my “stint” in Spain, which was pretty gruesome (yoursrlf, Bishop Pat, and others have seen the communications and other evidences: truly shocking and horrific! However, we will not discuss this for the time being, owing to the illegally obtained restrictions which have been forced upon me and my family).
Anyhow, all things in perspective: Bobby and his mates were exceptionally brave men indeed, and the way they were treated was beyond words and difficult to express.
I personally believe people do not realise just how much tings have not changed; I, for one, was very much of that mindset before enduring my own abuse, and subsequent mistreatments.
Ps I’m glad it was yourself who brought Bobby Holy Communion, Bishop Pat!
The Parish of Cloughleigh have removed all reference to Fr Ger on their social media – pictures, videos and messages of goodwill. It’s as if he was never there. How sad.
A parish is not about the priests who served there.
Its about the people who live / have lived there.
And Fr Ger did shit in his own nest.
Harsh Pat and unworthy of you
10:17, yes I understand that but erasing all memory of him and the good he did is a little strange? Was the instruction to delete all material a result of this blog? did it come from Ger himself, facebook admin, parish council or Fintan?
Der also crapped heavily on the woman, big time. It’s only right he should be shamed for doing so.
He could easily have assisted her or even made some minor attempts at preventing her from being mobbed — but he didn’t, he let it happen. . .
He did what 99.9% of Romanist clerics would have done — had Der had not been caught out he would now have a big tick in his his file for future episcopal worthiness!
There can be no two-ways about it!
10.17: Priests understand very well that they have an integral role to play in the Parish Community where they are assigned. We have a particular role. We are not in possession of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, thus the on-going involvement of parishioners in all areas of parish life. We priests come and go – visitors if you like – and while in parish we have an important role in ministry. I believe the majority of us try to ensure we build good, caring, Christian communities. We know we cannot do everything on our own. Those of us working at the coal face of parish ministry know only too well that we do not “own” the parish: it is a place, a home, a Community where we all try to create welcome, inclusivity and a Christ-centred home for all. Not easy today to complete this task but one we are very mindful of. To me a Parish IS about all of us working together – people, priests and religious. And the majority of priests I have worked with have made significant contributions to their local parish community. Fr. Ger seemed to have been a good priest but sadly he made very foolish decisions. His failings should not null or eradicate his good work in ministry. I believe we should now allow all people involved find the space for healing. Instead of constantly flinging names and stories around, we should allow them to reflect deeply on their actions and lives. And pray to God for all who are hurting.
Fr All-About-Me off on one again.
Well said, 9.46!!
1.52: If you mean 9.36, I concur with every word. When any person expresses their opinion and insights it is normal to begin with the pronoun “I” not”we” as 10.16 seems to believe. The same poster rages when a priests speaks his mind clearly. He responds with the same ignorant, fatuous slime. Well spoken 9.36.
It came from Fintan and his advisors
People in Cloughleigh are feeling wounded now and have no idea what the future holds as it is an Oratory and the main parish is the Cathedral.
They usually have Mass every night but they have had nothing from Sunday and told to use Cathedral, St. joseph’s and the Friary.
It is up to father tom Ryan he is Vicar Forane however there is a Diocesan pastoral Council tonight so maybe something will be announced or at Mass on Sunday.
11.00: Spare us your moral lecturing. We know the consequences for people who transgress boundaries in the workplace. It should be no different for priests but you are making a living out of the bizarre need you have for a daily execution. Those of us who have real parish responsibilities are well aware of the moral standards we must adhere to. I can never comprehend the relentless pursuance of those who fall and fail. I will always take CHRIST as my model!!
Would your Christ be behaving as Ger is and refusing to offer the woman a simple apology?
Thats all she is asking.
The woman has been vulnerable after posting to social media. May people control there anger and stop belittling her.
Priests have left the priesthood for relationships. People develop relationship anxieties too. A 6 month relationship isn’t the hallmark of a fly by night character. People can change their minds about a relationship. Clergy can have vocational anxieties too. The woman might feel shunned but the end of relationships can be difficult, hurtful and complex. People can be quick to judge without understanding.
She knew what she was getting into Pat.
She may have been led to believe there was more?
Bishop Pat you are correct the parishes belong to the people the days of the PP being the Director and the Bishop the Managing Director have gone.
Sadly the Irish Episcopate are so far behind that they see the church is their Empire and they need to wake up however it does not help PP being in a parish too long and should be an average 8 – 10 years.
You as a Priest know very well Our lord and his Mother Mary will be weeping at Bishop Fintan Monahan and Father Ger Fitzgerald however it got worse on Sunday the Vicar Forane threw more vinegar on the wounds and that was hard to take.
I wonder if Father Ryan understands what he done as he was at the cross throwing the vinegar.
Justice has not been done here and hopefully someday it will be as the people will not forget and Fintan Monahan should be ashamed.
A simple apology is all it would take but Fintan, Tom and Ger the three musketeers and the worry is Fintan is only 54.
11.32: Christ is our guide, our model, the I never must follow and whose values we must imitate, might be promulgation that emanate from Larne. Any moral failings by priests are regrettable. Hypocrisy of denial in the face of such failings is also regrettable and causes much hurt to any victim. We must be cognizant of Christ-like responsibilities in all human sinfulness and failings. I am not sure if we are meant to chase people down into the ground like hyenas and rip them apart on a daily basis. The truth is now known and we hope that the right actions will now be taken for the well being and healing of all who are hurt.
Strange, very defensive and shouty.
The TRUTH is not known as the dioceses is quiet and Father Ger Fitzgerald has said he is taking a sabbatical because he is ten years a Priest.
Maybe if the dioceses or Ger were to come out with the truth then it may assist everyone to move on but where there is denial there is delay and now into TEN weeks
What would have happened if a GP in Ennis had sexual intercourse with a vulnerable patient?
He would have been struck off, permanently.
Priests want to be seen as “professionals” but dont want the accompanying obligations and boundaries.
Not on !!!
Bishop Pat it is not a witch hunt and off course the GP would be suspended and then struck off.
But we have a “youngish” Bishop who knows Best and that is shocking and the first thing Ger will need to do to move on is admit the mistake and Apologise it is not rocket science.
I hope his therapy people tell him he needs to admit the errors and apologise to the victim.
Priests shouldn’t be breaking there vow but there is no law against it and the lapse of the vow can be forgiven.
If a priest is in a relationship, they can leave the priesthood. The priest also has the choice to end the relationship. If the priest has relationship anxiety, upon ending the relationship they might find it difficult to have contact with the other person. The other person will be left feeling hurt and rejected. It’s tough on the other person but it is no reason to shoot the priest. People have a choice to walk away from a relationship.
… But it was very much a
witch hunt for the woman in question, was it not, @ 12:26 pm? x
The confusion surrounding the Fr Ger case is amazing – by any professional code of conduct Fr Ger would be subject to an investigation and then v likely struck off – it’s that simple, it’s that straightforward. However because he’s a Catholic priest we get nothing but confusion, obsfucation, double speak, moral indignation, victimhood (I’m sure Fr Ger sees himself as the victim), lack of leadership and a total inability to be held accountable and responsible.
It’s called Catholic clerical exceptionalism. They don’t believe the same rules that apply to the rest of us should apply to them. Because they are priests, special, anointed, set apart, ontologically different. And because for so long they have been able call the shots. Well, looks like time may be up for them. Or it is rapidly coming….
Your hatred is spotted most Priests do not think they are special, anointed and set apart.
Most priests are hard working clergy trying to help their parishioners through this pandemic.
In the cases of the two Killaloe clergy most clergy in that dioceses will feel sick and disgusted but what can they do they have a self centred career orientated Bishop who lacks common sense.
I am sure Bishop Fintan would not treat his dog the way Yvonne has been treated and Tom Ryan reading an email was like kicking into an injured dog by again Tom Ryan maybe think he is Bishops material but certainly more like Fintan’s Rottweiler for the dioceses of Killaloe.
Bishop Fintan Monahan and his Vicar General posted missing in action and des better watch his back as Tom Ryan will be right in there.
The messages coming from Rome are that a lapse of the vow can be forgiven.
“And what about sex with an ordinary parishioner?
The church needs a frank discussion of these issues with input from the laity. Sex between a priest and adult can be more than simply a violation of celibacy. It can also be a violation of professional ethics. With the advice of laity with expertise in these areas, the church needs to adopt best practices and hold itself to the highest standards. The church needs the help of laity not only in developing standards but also in enforcing them. No profession, including the clergy, is good at policing itself.”
A solution can be found if people would like to work towards a solution.
It is not about breaking their vow Father Ger is not the first and will not be the last.
It is the treament his fan club gave his ex girlfriend of 6 months and how Father Ger constantly liar about it all.
Father Ger can stop the abuse to the victim by a simple fone call to the fan club leader and just say he was not honest with them all and say Sorry to all concern.
It shows that he is not fit for Ministry as a Leader if he cannot be honest.
Really the Bishop needs help because a priest sexually active for 10 years is not going to change with a sabbatical.
@2.08, the woman took to social media and has faced criticism as a result. People are angry that at her for forcing the priest away from his ministry for however long that will be. People should not belittle her and have compassion for her foolishness.
I an sure poor Father Ger will be seeing himself as victim but he is NOT as he knew his vows and knew the boundaries.
However he is in for a shock as the sabbatical that he is going on will be disciplined and structured where he will meet psychologists, sex therapists, religious advisors and discernment team so it will not be a holiday.
Now the location is being kept secret but it will likely be America or England.
The one part Ger will not like is that a starting point is compassion for his victim and an apology.
I sincerely hope that they are honest with him and say really the celibate life is not for him nor the single life.
Bobby Sands wanted buried in Ballina Co Mayo.
Ballina – an odd parish. a young priest took his own life there in 2013, his fellow curate was the gay priest with the cottage, his other fellow curate left the priesthood to go to America. Brenda Hoban was the PP
Apparently 2 other hunger strikers are buried there.
His wishes should have been carried out.
Knew the young PP who took his own life when he was in Rome. Very sad.
He must have had a serious problem 😪
Bishop Pat I visited the Maze just before the Good Friday Agreement- I spent an afternoon with the lads and was given a tour of the block – I saw the cell poor Bobby Sands was martyred in (God rest his soul). Many of the men were studying for degrees in political science and they said that the acolyte was being replaced by the ballot box.
They were very respectful of faith although some of the lads were Marxists they were v nice Marxists!
My hope is that the leadership can bring themselves to locate the body of Captain Robert Nairac – he’s the only one of the disappeared that hasn’t been recovered and I think everyone deserves to be buried with dignity and my heart goes out to his family for their suffering.
Even the men who murdered him said he was a brave soldier and he asked for a priest to hear his confession, which was denied, before he was shot.
Do you think his body will ever be recovered? I pray it wii one day.
Thank you for sharing about Bobby Sands he was a brave and courageous MP.
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I have read your post several times. I agree and disagree with some of your points. You certainly mean well.
The Northern Ireland troubles were very complicated by religious denominations, politics, loud mouths and the orange and the green.
I believe in a united Ireland. Not the same united Ireland that they have all been fighting over on both sides.
As a first step Ireland should come into the Commonwealth. Stormont should be abolished and a devolved government in Dublin like Edinburgh and Cardiff. After all there are plenty of good Irishmen and women in main land UK. We have so much in common. And yes, I am an Irish descendant with Scottish heritage.
Now, I totally agree with Captain Robert Nairac. This young hero’s family needs closure. Incidentally he was taught by Cardinal Basil Hume.
However, I disagree over the hunger strikers. It was their personal choices to hunger strike. No one forced them. Even the Pope’s Irish secretary was sent to plead with them to stop.
I have lived through all the bigotry during that time. It was a very tragic situation. Emotions were running high on all sides.
Let the fragile peace that has held for all these years hold fast and grow strong. Let the rabble rousers hold their tongues. Live and let live.
Why would an independent country like the Republic put itself under Westminster which is the case with Cardiff and Edinburgh?
I found the Tenants of Time and the Year of the French depict a very warm and sympathetic portrait of the ordinary people.
Dominion status should have been accorded during the 19 th century.
I see Mary Mc is being described as a theologian these days:
That might be stretching it, but she’s on the right side of the argument, I believe.
What surprises me is that anybody takes any of this CDF stuff seriously these days ! Except for the odd traditionalist nut job whose oddness probably stems from their own struggles with their own identity and sexuality. Does anybody else bother ? Perhaps we should write to them and tell them how irrelevant and ignored they are these days. But, I suppose if it keeps them happy issuing these things, then I guess we should be grateful that they are not out on the streets or in the parishes where they could do real harm.
2:10, isn’t everyone with a degree in theology a theologian? or are you an academic snob that says unless you have a BahBah funded doctorate then you’re not a theologian.
My understanding is that Mary Mc has a degree in canon law – which makes her a canonist?
A canonist ! Surly you mean a dip-stick
Except they are out on the streets (Roma Termini) and in parishes (at weekends) and their repressed and internalised homophobia does real harm.
I wonder how many of the celibates who composed the recent condemnation from the CDF live with their boyfriends and practice their homosexuality, rather like they practice their Catholicism – after all practice makes perfect.
Vat Inc has conditioned its public to regard RC faith as either folk religion devoid of belief and morals, or rigid wishy washiness devoid of belief and of largely obscured morals.
Mary McAleese rocks – she is highly intelligent, held high office, she’s eloquent and legally qualified, a professor, stateswoman, mother, grand mother, baptised Catholic – Mary Mother of God, how the clergy and conservative and traditionalists must loathe her. Warms my heart that she is under their skin and on their case.
And yes a Phd in Canon Law to boot – she’ll have them all for breakfast.
Shes the adult in the room they all fear.
Run for the hills lads shes a coming!!
What pension is she on. Sorry lets start by asking HOW MANY PENIONS IS SHE ON ?
If she rocks th, the only rocks she knows are diamond rocks Caching caching
Gregory, what’s the problem? By reason of her ability she’s achieved high offices and performed well in each position. So good luck to her and may she enjoy what she’s earned. Some of those criticising her here sound full of spiteful jealousy, male chauvinism, and ‘nose out of joint’ anger that she dares to question their views.
Keep ‘er lit bould Mary Mac
The Irish Church could do with Mary to learn them canon law more so these new bishops that Charlie bhoy elevated to the Episcopate.
Starting in Killaloe and Armagh.
Thou shalt not kill. Mary McAleese voted in favour of abortion.
At 4:16pm, here’s one who is not afraid of the old harridan McAleese. She’ll get her marching orders if she ever shows up around here.
You, at 4:16pm, have almost as high an opinion of Big Mares as she does of herself! 😀
I would just like to say I don’t understand why these tiny Irish dioceses have vicar of this and vicar of that. Some of the dioceses are the size of some parishes in my diocese.
Because they are title mad instead of getting on with parish work.
Look at the set up in Hexham and Newcastle dioceses and all the Vicarates there.
More departments than a department store
Including perfume, underwear and lace and tassel presumably.
Canon Michael McCoy.
As he was mentioned on this blog and I asked people to pray for the repose of his soul here is a letter to the diocese.
Take note from the Bishop not hiding behind Secretaries or administrators.
Click to access Announcement%20at%20Cathedral%20May%2021.pdf
That green eyed monster rearing it’s ugly head again – she’s a former President of a Republic, a Law Professor, a Barrister at Law and no doubt made some private personal pension provision – good luck to her – I don’t begrudge her a penny – do you?
I wonder whether this letter was circulated to every parish in the diocese or was it just directed to parishioners only in the cathedral and parish?
Is it on the cathedral or diocesan website?
The inquest will only have a verdict it is unlikely to answer the deeper pastoral and personal questions?
How will Bishop Byrne handle these?
I remember a post here objecting to this even being discussed – clearly with an inquest on the horizon the Bishop felt he had to make a statement. Because the press will report on its findings and the Bishop seems keen to paint a picture of brotherly fraternity and support whereas clearly Fr McCoy was deeply unhappy – fatally so, in fact. Plus we all know that cathedrals can be cruel and bitchy places – sacristy Queens, power plays, personality clashes, to mention only a few.
I remember a poor priest in Birmingham committing suicide – young fella and no one wanted to talk about it ever – the auxiliary bishops shat themselves – didn’t have a clue – just wanted to get the service done and dusted. Poor lad never mentioned again.
Fr McCoy was under some kind of criminal investigation- safeguarding related? I’m sure that took its toll – I wonder how supported he really was by Bishop Byrne and his fellow clergy. I hope fantastically so and there are no lessons to learn because it was handled perfectly.
Will the details of the investigation Fr MCoy was under come up in the investigation?
One question that people will have is how did Fr MCoy commit suicide. It’s a tough one but people often want to know. I hope Bishop Byrnes seemingly open and transparent, albeit a little weasely, as is his want, will approach this consistently in the same vein throughout.
I hope so and we shall see – being open and transparent isn’t the forte of Catholic Bishops. Cover up merchants that they are. Perhaps this will the exception to the rule.
I’m old enough to remember when the Catholic Church refused a Requiem Mass to a suicide – deplorable and shameful doctrine – plus they often pronounced on the suicides eternal destiny when how could they know – when the balance of the mind is so disturbed all in the mercy of God.
I’m glad this is being discussed – I fear the poster was showboating but that’s easy to see through.
It’s good to talk – better out than in thats what I say, that way we grow in wisdom and understanding and wounds can be healed.
Have NO fear I certainly was not showboating as I take the care of people’s souls very serious and certainly would not showboat over a suicide.
There was a list on here last week and i asked the poster to pray for the repose of canon McCoy’s soul and got attacked.
So it was sent to parishes and it is on both the Cathedral and Diocesan web site.
the inquest will just be the cause of death likely as we all know Suicide they may say by what means.
Under canon law any clergy in the UK under investigation is suspended so Bishop Byrne suspended Canon McCoy however they still provide for his means.
The Police investigation will stop because of the suicide and case closed.
Anything else to be said or done then Canon McCoy’s family would make the statement and nothing would come from the diocesan spin doctors.
As for support to the Canon he would like get a priest to fone and ask how he was and does he need anything but the family would likely say No Thanks.
The dioceses did not even say when the funeral was and to burn a candle nothing and no months mind mass either.
Quite shocking treatment from the dioceses however Bishop Byrne would say they were operating to Canon Law
England, Wales and Scotland clergy do not have the luxuries that the Irish Clergy have and strict Bishops.
To finish the dioceses will be getting plenty of prayers so can you in your compassion say a prayer for Canon McCoy and his family.
All she wants is an apology….
Thats not how it works.
The solicitors will not allow an apology, it prevents the confidential “settlement without admission”.
You are correct the Church Solicitors would not allow it or anything in writing.
However Father Ger should have said nothing at all but he chose to throw fuel on the fire.
Usually a general statement would be read to say as he moves on he would like to thank everyone for his time and apologize to anyone he may have hurt or offense.
That’s what the Comms people would have said.
You’ve had an excellent run of comments on Fr Ger scandal, Bp Pat, which I imagine will continue for a while yet. Sadly no gay twist to events, though.
I’ve noticed Seamus always refers to ‘the lapse of the vow’ which implies it is the vow’s fault for lapsing as in lapsed Catholic. You wouldn’t say ‘the lapse of the Catholic faith’. Interesting.
Fr John Sweeney, a priest of the Archdiocese of Glasgow and former PP of St Maria Gorretti who was suspended after allegations of a safeguarding nature with a 17 pupil at his school has has the case against him dropped. He appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court today where the CPS said the case against him was being dropped.
Although not guilty the Archdiocese has said he will now be subject to a canonical investigation.
The girl changed her story in the court and said two teachers were in charge so that let him off.
It will be up to the next Archbishop as an Administrator cannot make any decision so he continues as one of the many on sabbatical
Bobby Sands did not willingly want to die. He was tortured and kept in inhumane conditions. For better treatment of his colleagues he paid the ultimate sacrifice. His life was given up for the betterment of others. Greater love hath no man