March 1, 1981

On this day in 1981, Bobby Sands began his hunger strike at Long Kesh prison, in protest of his and other IRA members’ loss of Special Category Status within the prison. The SCS granted prisoner of war status to people convicted of Troubles-related offenses. It’s loss meant imprisoned Irish Republicans would be considered criminals, and thus would be subject to standard treatment–wearing prison uniforms, performing manual labor, and being denied extra visits and food parcels. Sands viewed this change in status as an attempt by the British government to criminalize all Irish Freedom Fighters, at detriment to the cause. He died sixty-six days later, officially of “self-imposed starvation,” later amended to simply “starvation,” at age twenty-seven.

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