1981 Irish hunger strike

The 1981 hunger strike was the culmination of a five-year protest during The Troubles by Irish republican prisoners in Northern Ireland. The protest began as the blanket protest in 1976, when the British government withdrew Special Category Status (prisoner of war rather than criminal status) for convicted paramilitary prisoners. In 1978, the dispute escalated into the dirty protest, where prisoners refused to leave their cells to wash and covered the walls of their cells with excrement. In 1980, seven prisoners participated in the first hunger strike, which ended after 53 days.[1]

A commemoration on the 25th anniversary of the hunger strike

The second hunger strike took place in 1981 and was a showdown between the prisoners and the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. One hunger striker, Bobby Sands, was elected as a member of parliament during the strike, prompting media interest from around the world.[2] The strike was called off after ten prisoners had starved themselves to death, including Sands, whose funeral was attended by 100,000 people.[1] The strike radicalised Irish nationalist politics and was the driving force that enabled Sinn Féin to become a mainstream political party.[3]