BOBBY SANDS and Frankie Hughes are dead now, and Patsy O'Hara and Raymond McCreesh wait to die. Each will give his life for the same reason--to free Ireland of an occupying army of British imperialists. And each deserves every barroom balland that will surely be written about him, for they are courageous parts of a courageous tradition.
There are many who view these soldiers in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) as "terrorists," slaughtering the innocent for bizarre religious reasons. But the cause these men fight for is not Catholicism; it is the unification of Ireland under Irish rule. We endorse that goal, for the same reason that we support movements for self-determination elsewhere in the world. Simply because Britain colonized Ireland long ago and clings to it stubbornly now is not reason to ignore its plight. A united Ireland might well show more respect for minority rights than the Protestant-dominated North does currently; at any rate, the artificial division of a country united by history--and by struggle--would end.
And we do not share the common view of the IRA; some of their violence, especially that which claims the lives of innocent people, is sickening. But the people of the North have tried peacefully to protest their social, economic and political servitude in the past, and all it has gotten them is shot--as it did in the years before 1970, when the current round of hostilities began. It is a sad fact that there is an IRA. History shows, though, that oppressed people will fight if they must for their dignity and freedom, and the Irish are no different in this regard than the citizens of Zimbabwe or El Salvador.
Britain's abstinence in the Sands affair proved, for those who didn't already know it, how ill-equipped Mother England is to rule Ireland. We urge Margaret Thatcher to acquiesce to the demands of hunger-strikers O'Hara and McCreesh before the Long Kesh prison becomes the scene of another death. Though English law may not count these men as political prisoners, their deaths will certainly carry political significance, bloodshed that can and should be averted. And by conceding to demands that certainly are not ludicrous--certainly politics is in many ways involved in the prison terms of these men--Britain would show it had begun to wake up to the problems of her rule in Northern Ireland.
We urge the United States government and all its citizens to pressure England to work for a negotiated political settlement that would reunite Ireland and preserve rights for all its citizens. Delay or inaction will mean only more martyrs.