Hunger striker’s family slams republicans profiting from his memory

Bobby Sands: Freedom Fighter book cover
Bobby Sands: Freedom Fighter book cover

The family of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands has slammed the publication of a book about his life and called on the trust set up in his name to stop profiting from his death.

Commenting following the publication of Bobby Sands: Freedom Fighter, the Sands family said it was “reprehensible” that they were not consulted to ensure accuracy, and said the IRA man’s “ideals and sacrifice” had been “diminished by those who seek to promote different agendas - both personal and political”.

Bobby Sands: Freedom Fighter book

Bobby Sands: Freedom Fighter book

Published by O’Brien Press in Dublin, the book is a comic strip style ‘graphic novel’ that depicts Sands as a heroic, muscular figure who endured beatings and torture by the police and authorities in the Maze prison.

In a statement, the Sands family also called on the Bobby Sands Trust - of which former Sinn Fein publicity director Danny Morrison is secretary - to disband.

It says: “It is reprehensible that the family, including our elderly mother, was first made aware of this book when confronted by extracts displayed in the media today (Feb 24).”

“We are given to understand that the book contains intimate family scenes that no one, other than our family members, would be privy to. It is unfortunate that well meaning people, such as Mr Hunt (author) are misled by those who profess to be authorities on Bobby’s life story.

We again call upon the Trust to disband and desist from using Bobby’s memory as a commercial enterprise

“Our family once again reiterates that the Bobby Sands Trust does not act on behalf of Bobby, nor does it represent our family, in any shape or form. We again call upon the Trust to disband and desist from using Bobby’s memory as a commercial enterprise.”

Unionists have denounced the publication as “republican propaganda” and said it glamorises terrorism.

The Arts Council has defended the allocation of more than £5,000 to help fund its publication, saying it “does not interfere with editorial content nor do we draw a line regarding content chosen by publishers which may attract controversy”.

DUP MLA Nelson McCausland has described the book as “pure propaganda” which followed a “Sinn Fein narrative”.

Mr McCausland told the BBC’s Talkback programme on Wednesday that the book’s claims of widespread discrimination, and justification for terrorism, had no context.

“What [the publishers] omit to say is that he belonged to a terrorist organisation which was responsible for many murders and so much destruction,” he added.

However, Michael O’Brien of O’Brien Press said the book covers an “important period in recent history”.

He said: “Sands was a significant political figure, and his election to the British parliament is testament to this”.

Commenting on the Sands family’s call for the Bobby Sands Trust to disband, Danny Morrison said the latest call echoes a similar plea from family following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in late 1990s.

Mr Morrison said the Trust has, “attempted as best we can, working in a voluntary capacity, to promulgate his writings and perpetuate his memory,” and added: “Bobby – in a signed letter witnessed by his solicitor and which is part of the foundation documents of the Bobby Sands Trust – bequeathed his writings to the republican movement.

“These documents are lodged in the National Library, Dublin, for the Irish nation. The library has promised to digitise copies of all the writings and eventually make them accessible to students and historians.”