1981 Irish hunger strike

hunger strike by Irish republican prisoners in Northern Ireland

The 1981 Irish Hunger Strike was a hunger protest in Northern Ireland by Irish republican prisoners during the Troubles. During the protest 10 prisoners from the Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Irish National Liberation Army had starved themselves to death in the hunger strike. The first to die, Bobby Sands, was elected as a Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom during his hunger strike.

Hunger strike memorial in Derry. The shape of the monument represents the H Block of the Maze Prison in Belfast


By the end of the protest 10 prisoners had died. Their names, paramilitary affiliation, dates of death, and length of hunger strike are as follows:

Name Paramilitary organisation Strike started Date of death Length of strike Reason for imprisonment
Bobby Sands IRA 5 March 5 May 66 days Possession of a handgun
Francis Hughes IRA 15 March 12 May 59 days Various offences, including the murder of a soldier
Raymond McCreesh IRA 22 March 21 May 61 days Attempted murder, possession of a rifle, IRA membership
Patsy O’Hara INLA 22 March 21 May 61 days Possession of a hand grenade
Joe McDonnell IRA 8 May 8 July 61 days Possession of a firearm
Martin Hurson IRA 28 May 13 July 46 days Attempted murder, involvement in explosions, IRA membership
Kevin Lynch INLA 23 May 1 August 71 days Stealing shotguns, taking part in a punishment shooting
Kieran Doherty IRA 22 May 2 August 73 days Possession of firearms and explosives, hijacking
Thomas McElwee IRA 8 June 8 August 62 days Manslaughter
Michael Devine INLA 22 June 20 August 60 days Theft and possession of firearms