March on the Sydenham Police Station: Press Release & Memorandum

outside the gate of Sydenham police station
Click here for more photos from the illegally banned march and here to see a short film about this march: Nayager Falls, Abahlali Rises

Update: Click here to see Abahlali and the Police – a list of incidences of police abuse up to 28 January 2008.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Release

March on the Sydenham Police Station

This evening, at 6:00 p.m. representatives from Abahlali baseMjondolo settlements and branches across Wards 23 and 25 will march on the Sydenham Police station from the Kennedy Road settlement. At the police station a candle lit vigil well be held. Senior church figures are expected to attend. A memorandum will be then be handed over to Senior Superintendent Glen Nayager.

For a long time people have been talking about marching on the Sydenham Police station, and Nayager in particular, to protest against the day to day police abuses perpetrated against shack dwellers across the areas in Wards 23 and 25 such as Sydenham, Clare Estate and Reservoir Hills. There has also been growing concern at how the Sydenham Police, led by Nayager, have been attempting to misuse their position to police Abahlali baseMjondolo out of their area. Over the last two years this political hostility from Nayager has resulted in numerous wrongful arrests and numerous entirely unjustified assaults on people active in Abahlali baseMjondolo.

But this long talked about march is happening tonight, immediately after the Easter weekend which is not the best time to mobilize, because of the current Kennedy Road crisis. Five Kennedy Road residents are now in the 9th day of a hunger strike in Westville Prison. Yesterday they were moved to the prison hospital. They are on hunger strike in protest at their wrongful arrest by the Sydenham Police. This follows an incident in Kennedy Road where a man from outside the settlement was apprehended after a particularly violent and near fatal mugging. After he was apprehended the Sydenham police were called and while they were on the way to fetch him some people in the community spontaneously assaulted the man. When the police arrived they also assaulted the man as they arrested him and put him into the van. He died sometime later in police custody. No one has denied that the man was assaulted in Kennedy Road but more than 50 witnesses saw who assaulted him and also saw him being assaulted by the police.

The Police have not investigated their own possible culpability with regard to this death nor have they made any attempt to find out what really happened in Kennedy Road. There were lots of witnesses and so it would be very easy to find out what really happened. Instead they have simply misused this tragedy, in which one poor man almost killed another for his takkies and was then later assaulted himself, to settle their political scores against the Kennedy Road leadership. With a well known and dangerous criminal as their informer, a man who will do what ever they ask to avoid being charged for his many real crimes, they have arrested half the elected members of the Kennedy Road Development Committee and charged them with murder and they say that they will soon arrest the other members of the committee. But everyone knows that they have not arrested the right people. One of the people that they arrested has been too sick to leave his shack for months, another was away at a braai, others were part of the Safety & Security Sub-Committee that immediately called the police when the suspect was apprehended because they could see that the situation was tense. This is very similar to what happened to the Landless Peoples’ Movement in Johannesburg some time ago where key leaders were arrested on an invented murder charge after a man had died in one of the shack fires that plague our communities. This is an openly political attack on the Kennedy Road Development Committee. Nayager is openly boasting about this to all kinds of people. Because Nayager thinks he has the right to say what kind of t-shirts can be worn in his area, who can march and what they can say innocent people are now in prison and in the 9th day of a hunger strike. That is why we can’t wait any longer. That is why we are marching on Glen Nayager and the Sydenham Police station tonight at 6:00 p.m.

For more information please contact:

Mzwakhe Mdlalose 0721328458
Anton Zamisa 0793801759
Thelumusa Lembede 0766837751
S’bu Zikode 0835470474

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Glen Nayager you have vandalized our humanity. We are here to reclaim our police station. Neither you nor your powerful friends own this police station. This police station belongs to the people who live in this area. We live in shacks and we are wearing red shirts and demanding the right to continue to live here in the city, to live in decent houses, to have access to electricity and water and toilets while we wait for these houses and for our children to be able to attend the schools here. But this does not mean that we are not people. None of this makes us criminals. We are part of the people to whom this police station belongs. You have broken the trust of a large part of the people for whom you are supposed to be working. You were supposed to be our servant, not our oppressor.

Since you were entrusted with this police station the police in this area have treated all shack dwellers as criminals. And since we united as Abahlali baseMjondolo you have constantly harassed and attacked our movement. Your job is to protect all of the people in your area but you have decided to make the poor your enemy. You have made this police station famous across the whole city, and sometimes the whole country, and even in other countries, for its racism, its violence, its cruelty, its criminality and its brutal oppression of an organisation that has only asked for what is right.

The main complaints that have emerged against you, and the way that this police station has been run since you arrived here (remembering that shack dwellers worked well with the Sydenham Police before you came here) in our initial discussion over the Easter weekend are the following:

1. RACISM: You, and many of your officers, are guilty of extreme, systematic and casual racism towards African people. You insult us in the most ugly language, language that is supposed to be part of the past. You order us around and insult us and even our mothers and father in isiFanakalo like it is 15 June 1976 and you are a baas sitting at his braai and we are all your garden boys and kitchen girls. When your officers do this ‘stop and search’ it is only Africans who are stopped and searched. If there is a line of young men waiting for the taxi your officers leave the coloured men and the Indian men and search only the Africans. Everyone knows this. Sometimes even the young coloured and Indian men become embarrassed. We joke and say ‘The black man is always a suspect’ but it is not funny. We and our parents and our ancestors did not struggle for this. What goes for one must go for all. Stop and search everyone or stop and search no one. We have built a non-racial movement and we are proud of this. Many poor Indians have joined us and we have welcomed them as brothers and sisters and they have welcomed us into their communities in the same way. But, although there are some officers, Indian and African, at your police station who are embarrassed by the racism that you have bought here you have turned what should be the peoples’ police station into the headquarters for racism in Wards 23 & 25.

2. CRIMINALISATION OF THE POOR: You, and many of your officers, speak and act as though all poor people and especially shack dwellers, are criminals. You openly call us all ‘rogues’ and we have seen how you show us and our communities on your website. You and your officers come to us as though we are all criminals and not as though we are citizens deserving protection.

3. YOU MAKE POVERTY A CRIME: We have very few toilets in our settlements. This is not our fault. We have marched for toilets and had our marches illegally banned and been illegally beaten and arrested by you and your officers on those marches. But still we have the situation where a thousand people share one toilet. For this reason we often have to urinate in the bushes. Yet your officers are always arresting and beating us for urinating in public. On New Years’ Eve one boy who was visiting from the Transkei was even shot in the leg at the Foreman Road settlement for running away after he got a shock when your officers tried to arrest him for urinating in public. We agree that urinating in public is not good. In fact it is a big problem because it is often not safe for women to be alone in the bushes at night. But the cause of this problem is those people who refuse to give us toilets.

4. NO RESPECT FOR OUR HOMES: You and your officers have no respect for the sanctity of our homes. You behave as though our shacks do not exist. You push your way inside anytime without knocking, you break the shacks and our things inside our shacks any time you feel like it, you search our homes without a warrant turning everything upside down and you even arrest people for drinking ‘in public’ while we are sitting in our shacks. There have been cases when your officers have pushed their way into our shack churches. We know that you do not want our shacks to exist but they do exist. They are our homes and they must be treated with the dignity of any other home. From now on we will lay a charge of trespass against any of your officers that enter our homes without permission and we will lay a charge of wilful damage to property against any of your officers that damages our homes or the things that we have inside them.

5. YOU PROTECT AND WORK WITH CRIMINALS: We have always said that there are poor criminals and that there are also rich criminals. You work with both kinds against the innocent. But we are especially concerned that you protect well known violent criminals in our communities, people who prey on rich and poor alike, and then use them as your informers. These are the people who, in exchange for your protection from arrest and prosecution, are prepared to give false statements against innocent people who work for the good of the community. You want to keep criminals out of prison so that you can put innocent people inside.

6. YOU WORK WITH PEOPLE THAT HAVE DECLARED THEMSELVES THE ENEMIES OF SHACK DWELLERS AND OF OUR MOVEMENT: There are people who want all shack dwellers to be forced out of all the areas in Wards 23 and 25. You and some of your officers openly support these people. The police who are supposed to be protecting us tell us to ‘go back where you came from’. Sometimes we are even told that we are ‘bringing AIDS to this community’. Some of these people who don’t want shack dwellers in the city are very angry that shack dwellers have united across these two wards, across Durban and across other towns and made ourselves strong. There are people like the Ward Councillors and the City Manager and others who slander our movement and say that if we speak for ourselves we are ‘criminals’ or that we are being ‘used’ by other people or that we are ‘political’ and that therefore we have no right to speak and must be illegally and violently repressed. You have publicly aligned yourself with these people when as a police officer you should be neutral and treat every one equally before the law. You openly tell us, often while you are beating us, that ‘there will be no more red shirts here’. After your officers had beaten Mnikelo Ndabankulu and stolen his red shirt in September last year you boasted that that shirt was now the mop in your station. You are not even the spokesperson for your station – that is the job of Captain Lazarus and yet you always personally go to the media to lie about us. It is clear that you hate us and that you hate our movement. But as a police officer you are a servant of the public and we are part of that public. You should keep your hatred private and not put it at the centre of your work.

7. YOU IGNORE REAL CRIMES AGAINST SHACK DWELLERS BUT ACT AS THOUGH IT IS A CRIME FOR SHACK DWELLERS TO SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES: When a women in the shacks is beaten by her husband she will probably be ignored if she goes to your station for help. If she refuses to leave until she is helped and brings friends or comrades to stand with her in the station and demand help then you might send a van to the settlement but your officers won’t come into the settlement to arrest the abuser. They will just park outside and tell the victim to go and fetch the abuser which of course she cannot do. But if we have a small protest and are not hurting or threatening to hurt anyone 7 vans can be there in minutes and you’ll immediately start beating us and shooting at us with rubber bullets. Sometimes you’ll even shoot at us with your pistols. You ban our marches which is illegal. You attack us without warning when we are marching which is illegal. You beat us and even shoot at us when we are running away which is illegal. Your officers have even arrested people on charges of Attending an Illegal Gathering and Public Violence while they are sleeping in their beds or standing at the bus stop because you know that they plan to attend a march later. This too is illegal. You arrest us all the time, keep us in the cells and beat us, then make us go to court 5 or 6 times (while you and your offices fail to attend the case as it get delayed again and again) before the charges are eventually dropped when you never had any case against us in the first place. You misuse arrest as a form of punishment and intimidation. It is clear that you do not see shack dwellers as citizens of this country.

8. YOU REFUSE TO ALLOW US TO OPEN CASES AGAINST YOU AND YOUR OFFICERS: Many, many times after we have been insulted, beaten, robbed and had our basic political rights stripped from us by you and your officers we have tried to open cases against the police. You just refuse to allow us to open the cases and hit us again. Your officers fear you too much to allow us to open cases against you. For instance after your officers shot Nondomiso Mke with live ammunition in September last year she was not allowed to open a case. Philani Zungu then went with her to insist that she be allowed to open the case even though he had been personally beaten unconscious by you on the same night as Nondomiso was shot by having his head bashed against the wall. Yet Nondomiso was still not allowed to open the case and now Philani is assaulted every time you find him on Burnwood Road. When S’bu Zikode went to open a case against you other officers feared you too much to open the case. The same happened to System Cele after officers acting on your command beat her so badly that her front teeth were broken. The law allows us to open cases against you but you do not allow us this right.

9. YOU PERSONALLY THREATEN JOURNALISTS AND ACADEMICS AND STEAL PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE: You have personally threatened journalist and academics who have witnessed your illegal behaviour towards us including your racist insults and your assaults, and you have stolen their cameras. One journalist, Carvin Goldstone, lodged a formal complaint against you and one academic, Raj Patel, tried to make a complaint through the ICD. He failed because the ICD told him that he needed a case number first and no police officers were prepared to open a case against you. If you do not allow us to speak for ourselves and if journalists and academics cannot work freely in your area then how will the truth about your criminality ever be told?

Therefore tonight we inform you and we inform the public that:

• We are about to begin our civil court action against you for the wrongful arrest and brutal assault of S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu and the shooting of Nondomiso Mke on 12 September 2006. We are suing you with the support of X-Y in Amsterdam and Amnesty International in London. Shanta Reddy will be acting for us.
• From now on we intend to sue you and any of your officers every time you break the law by taking property from us and our friends (such as our red t-shirts, our loudhailers and the cameras of journalists) and every time you insult, arrest and assault us without good cause.
• We are asking the Independent Complaints Directorate to undertake an immediate investigation of the whole station with a particular focus on your leadership looking at the endemic and very shocking levels of racism and corruption, systemic organised violence against the poor and blatantly illegal and routinely violent political intolerance. We are currently beginning to compile a dossier of complaints against yourself and this station to submit to the Directorate. We will host a meeting in every Abahlali settlement and branch across Wards 23 and 25 to collect a list of all the complaints and we will also invite people in Sydenham Heights and in the various ratepayers’ associations to add their own complaints to our dossier. Furthermore we will also invite the journalist and the academic who have already made formal complaints against you for, respectively, a threat of violence should they report your violence and confiscation of a camera with pictures of your violence to add their complaints to our dossier.
• We are asking the Independent Complaints Directorate to recognise that the investigation into the death of Mzwakhe Sithole by the Sydenham Police has not been conducted with any integrity, that it has been misused to further your political agenda against the Kennedy Road Development Committee and Abahlali baseMjondolo, that you have failed to investigate the role of the Sydenham Police in this death and that, given the violent history of severe political intolerance at this police station under your command, this police station can not mount a credible investigation into this or any other matter involving us. We are asking the Independent Complaints Directorate for a credibly independent investigation from officers outside of your jurisdiction who will be able to look fairly and honestly at the role of both Kennedy Road residents and the Sydenham Police in this death.

And tonight we demand that you:

• Immediately release our innocent comrades who are now in their 9th day of a hunger strike in Westville Prison
• Immediately abandon the investigation by the Sydenham Police into the death of Mzwakhe Stihole
• Immediately agree to an independent investigation into the death Mzwakhe Sithole to be supervised by the Independent Complaints Directorate that will examine the role of people in the Kennedy Road settlement and in the Sydenham Police Station
• Immediately step aside pending the outcome of a thorough investigation of the whole police station with a particular focus on your leadership to be undertaken by the Independent Complaints Directorate. Given your well known tendency to intimidate and harass even your own police officers as well as people in the communities outside the station it is clear that such an investigation has no chance of success while you are still working here. It will even be difficult to get people to be willing to put their names on our list of complaints against you and the station while you are working here. You are a criminal and you are a violent armed criminal hiding behind all the protection of your high office. The people that you are supposed to protect fear you. Therefore it is essential that you step aside while all this work is being done.

And tonight we promise that:

• Immediately after you have stepped down we will approach the Sydenham Police station with a view to setting up a standing committee made up of officers from the station and our communities. This committee will meet weekly and will be able to meet at other times in case of emergencies. Its purpose will be to ensure that shack dwellers and the police can work together to ensure that shack dwellers enjoy the protection of the police and that the police enjoy the active support of shack dwellers in their work to end crime in this area.


  • Memorandum to Nayager 10 April 2007.pdf April 2007
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4 thoughts on “March on the Sydenham Police Station: Press Release & Memorandum

  1. Abahlali_3

    A complex and full day which will require lots of discussion between lots of people to piece together properly. Here are the bones of some it.


    S’bu Zikode is able to visit the Kennedy 5 on the 9th day of their hunger strike. They are in a very high secure ward, about 7 security doors to get through. The prison officials hope that S’bu will persuade them to stop the hunger strike. The requests from the prison’s nurses and social workers have failed. S’bu finds the 5 to be very weak, 3 cannot stand any longer. The other two can only stand for a few minutes. They make it clear that they will stay on hunger strike until they are released or they will die in prison. They will give no consent to their arrest. S’bu asks the prison officials how they will get to court on Friday for the bail hearing when already 3 of the 5 can’t stand and so they clearly can’t be thrown into the usual van where, as he knows well enough, everyone is bumped around between the cells and the court. The officials say it is not their responsibility.

    Early to mid afternoon

    Glen Nayger phones S’bu, insults him and says ‘You rouges think you are too clever but the march is banned’. S’bu immediately goes to see the relevant police officials to find out if this is true. They say that City Manager Mike Sutcliffe has refused to give permission because S’bu failed to attend the meeting scheduled to discuss the march. S’bu explains that he did in fact attend that meeting. They say that he didn’t it. After a while it turns out that a clever trick was played. The meeting was scheduled for Friday in the city’s offices. On Thursday officers from Crime Intelligence had phoned to say that the meeting had been moved to Kennedy Road. S’bu Zikode and Anton Zamisa attended the meeting with the officers from Crime Intelligence at Kennedy Road taking minutes and the officers’ names, rank and numbers etc. Now the City claimed that other police officers were waiting for S’bu to attend the meeting to happen in town but that he failed to do so and so on this basis Sutcliffe has denied permission . The Crime Intelligence officers confirm that they attended a meeting in Kennedy Road and that this was presented as the official meeting for the march. The police officials are informed from above that Sutcliffe’s ban stands. S’bu receives a warning that Sutcliffe has instructed that he should be arrested if the march proceeds.

    Late afternoon

    A lawyer is looked for in order to interdict the city once again to overturn the march ban. Shanta Reddy offers help. It’s after 5 by the time the meeting with the advocate really gets under way and the march is scheduled for 6. After carefully going through everything the advocate concludes that it may be risky to go to court with an urgent application on the basis that the judge may agree, despite the obvious trickery, that the ‘real’ meeting was not attended because the police officer in charge of march authorisation in the city was not present at the ‘fake’ meeting called by Crime Intelligence. It is decided to return to the settlement where people are gathering for the march. On the way back Nayager phones S’bu and threatens him and demands an assurance that the march will not happen. S’bu tells Nayager that the memorandum will be delivered to him tonight as planned. Another calls comes through, this time from David Ntseng, to say that a police helicopter is circling low over the settlement.

    Early evening

    People start arriving at Kennedy Road for the march. People come from Pinetown and Pietermaritzburg as well as Wards 23 and 25 in Durban. Nayager arrives at Kennedy Road in his BMW with back up. S’bu, Philani Zungu and a priest who has come to support the march as well as Pume from the DDP go to the office under the hall to negotiate. It isn’t long since Nayager’s brutal assault on S’bu and Philani. In the hall people sing and dance making sure that Nayager can hear their power underneath. There are lots of journalists there. The mood is angry and defiant. After almost two hours the meeting is over and S’bu addresses everyone. He explains that Nayager had insisted that there could not be any sort of protest at all because Mike Sutcliffe had not given permission but that Philani had bought out a copy of the Gatherings Act and shown Nayager that it is legally acceptable for less than 15 people to march at any time and without permission. At first Nayager disputes this and repeats that there can be no march without Sutcliffe’s approval. But eventually he has to concede Philani’s point. 14 people are chosen to take the memorandum to Nayager. It’s 2 priests and 12 Bahlali – 8 women and 4 men. The journalists leave. The group of 14 go up to the police station. They kneel at the gate with lit candles in the posture of prayer. Nayager stands at the entrance with 4 armed men in bullet proof vests and another who videos everything for the police. Fazel Khan stands right up against the police camera man and films it all for Abahlali – its lens to lens, gaze to gaze. With his 13 comrades behind him S’bu, standing eyeball to eyeball with Nayager, reads the memorandum to Nayager. The spiritual power of the event is extraordinary.

    The delegation of 14 return to Kennedy Road and the video of the whole event is screened to the waiting people. People are deeply moved and inspired. There is huge cheering as everyone sees the video footage of Nayager accepting and signing for the memorandum. Abahalali claim a victory.

    Tomorrow Bishop Reuben Phillip will visit the hunger strikers.

    There are 5 photographs on homepage of the Abahlali website.

    More pictures to come. Video too.

    And more struggle to come.

  2. Anonymous

    The hunger strike frightens me back to those haunting images from The Maze on replied again and again on apartheid TV in my childhood. Then Thatcher was unreprentantly evil while the world watched. The lesson for us, of course, was that she justified Botha. But who will watch this tragedy? The world believes that South Africa is the land of human rights and Mandela and a miracle democracy. Who will be brave enough to admit that for the poor the state remains criminal but now with acclaim rather than censure? Will Sutcliffe and Nayager ever be held to account? How do we measure up to the courage of Abahlali? How do we be worthy of it?

    The Diary of Bobby Sands March 1981

    For the first seventeen days of his hunger-strike Bobby Sands kept a secret diary in which he wrote his thoughts and views.

    Sunday 1st

    I am standing on the threshold of another trembling world. May God have mercy on my soul.

    My heart is very sore because I know that I have broken my poor mother’s heart, and my home is struck with unbearable anxiety. But I have considered all the arguments and tried every means to avoid what has become the unavoidable: it has been forced upon me and my comrades by four-and-a-half years of stark inhumanity.

    I am a political prisoner. I am a political prisoner because I am a casualty of a perennial war that is being fought between the oppressed Irish people and an alien, oppressive, unwanted regime that refuses to withdraw from our land.

    I believe and stand by the God-given right of the Irish nation to sovereign independence, and the right of any Irishman or woman to assert this right in armed revolution. That is why I am incarcerated, naked and tortured.

    Foremost in my tortured mind is the thought that there can never be peace in Ireland until the foreign, oppressive British presence is removed, leaving all the Irish people as a unit to control their own affairs and determine their own destinies as a sovereign people, free in mind and body, separate and distinct physically, culturally and economically.

    I believe I am but another of those wretched Irishmen born of a risen generation with a deeply rooted and unquenchable desire for freedom. I am dying not just to attempt to end the barbarity of H-Block, or to gain the rightful recognition of a political prisoner, but primarily because what is lost in here is lost for the Republic and those wretched oppressed whom I am deeply proud to know as the ‘risen people’.

    There is no sensation today, no novelty that October 27th brought. (The starting date of the original seven man hunger-strike) The usual Screws were not working. The slobbers and would-be despots no doubt will be back again tomorrow, bright and early.

    I wrote some more notes to the girls in Armagh today. There is so much I would like to say about them, about their courage, determination and unquenchable spirit of resistance. They are to be what Countess Markievicz, Anne Devlin, Mary Ann McCracken, Marie MacSwiney, Betsy Gray, and those other Irish heroines are to us all. And, of course, I think of Ann Parker, Laura Crawford, Rosemary Bleakeley, and I’m ashamed to say I cannot remember all their sacred names.

    Mass was solemn, the lads as ever brilliant. I ate the statutory weekly bit of fruit last night. As fate had it, it was an orange, and the final irony, it was bitter. The food is being left at the door. My portions, as expected, are quite larger than usual, or those which my cell-mate Malachy is getting.

    Monday 2nd

    Much to the distaste of the Screws we ended the no-wash protest this morning. We moved to ‘B’ wing, which was allegedly clean.

    We have shown considerable tolerance today. Men are being searched coming back from the toilet. At one point men were waiting three hours to get out to the toilet, and only four or five got washed, which typifies the eagerness (sic) of the Screws to have us off the no-wash. There is a lot of petty vindictiveness from them.

    I saw the doctor and I’m 64 kgs. I’ve no problems.

    The priest, Fr John Murphy, was in tonight. We had a short talk. I heard that my mother spoke at a parade in Belfast yesterday and that Marcella cried. It gave me heart. I’m not worried about the numbers of the crowds. I was very annoyed last night when I heard Bishop Daly’s statement (issued on Sunday, condemning the hunger-strike). Again he is applying his double set of moral standards. He seems to forget that the people who murdered those innocent Irishmen on Derry’s Bloody Sunday are still as ever among us; and he knows perhaps better than anyone what has and is taking place in H-Block.

    He understands why men are being tortured here — the reason for criminalisation. What makes it so disgusting, I believe, is that he agrees with that underlying reason. Only once has he spoken out, of the beatings and inhumanity that are commonplace in H-Block.

    I once read an editorial, in late ’78, following the then Archbishop O Fiaich’s ‘sewer pipes of Calcutta’ statement. It said it was to the everlasting shame of the Irish people that the archbishop had to, and I paraphrase, stir the moral conscience of the people on the H-Block issue. A lot of time has passed since then, a lot of torture, in fact the following year was the worst we experienced.

    Now I wonder who will stir the Cardinal’s moral conscience…

    Bear witness to both right and wrong, stand up and speak out. But don’t we know that what has to be said is ‘political’, and it’s not that these people don’t want to become involved in politics, it’s simply that their politics are different, that is, British.

    My dear friend Tomboy’s father died today. I was terribly annoyed, and it has upset me.

    I received several notes from my family and friends. I have only read the one from my mother — it was what I needed. She has regained her fighting spirit — I am happy now.

    My old friend Seanna (Walsh, a fellow blanket man) has also written.

    I have an idea for a poem, perhaps tomorrow I will try to put it together.

    Every time I feel down I think of Armagh, and James Connolly. They can never take those thoughts away from me.

    Tuesday 3rd

    I’m feeling exceptionally well today. (It’s only the third day, I know, but all the same I’m feeling great.) I had a visit this morning with two reporters, David Beresford of The Guardian and Brendan O Cathaoir of The Irish Times. Couldn’t quite get my flow of thoughts together. I could have said more in a better fashion.

    63 kgs today, so what?

    A priest was in. Feel he’s weighing me up psychologically for a later date. If I’m wrong I’m sorry — but I think he is. So I tried to defuse any notion of that tonight. I think he may have taken the point. But whether he accepts it, will be seen. He could not defend my onslaught on Bishop Daly — or at least he did not try.

    I wrote some notes to my mother and to Mary Doyle in Armagh; and will write more tomorrow. The boys are now all washed. But I didn’t get washed today. They were still trying to get men their first wash.

    I smoked some ‘bog-rolled blows’ today, the luxury of the Block!

    They put a table in my cell and are now placing my food on it in front of my eyes. I honestly couldn’t give a damn if they placed it on my knee. They still keep asking me silly questions like, ‘Are you still not eating?’

    I never got started on my poem today, but I’ll maybe do it tomorrow. The trouble is I now have more ideas.

    Got papers and a book today. The book was Kipling’s Short Stories with an introduction of some length by W. Somerset Maugham. I took an instant dislike to the latter on reading his comment on the Irish people during Kipling’s prime as a writer: ‘It is true that the Irish were making a nuisance of themselves.’ Damned too bad, I thought, and bigger the pity it wasn’t a bigger nuisance! Kipling I know of, and his Ulster connection. I’ll read his stories tomorrow.

    Ag r? an phaidr?n faoi dh? achan l? at? na buachaill? anois. N?l aon rud eile agam anocht. Sin sin. (Translated this reads as follows: The boys are now saying the rosary twice every day. I have nothing else tonight. That’s all.)

    Wednesday 4th

    Fr Murphy was in tonight. I have not felt too bad today, although I notice the energy beginning to drain. But it is quite early yet. I got showered today and had my hair cut, which made me feel quite good. Ten years younger, the boys joke, but I feel twenty years older, the inevitable consequence of eight years of torture and imprisonment.

    I am abreast with the news and view with utter disgust and anger the Reagan/Thatcher plot. It seems quite clear that they intend to counteract Russian expansionism with imperialist expansionism, to protect their vital interests they say.

    What they mean is they covet other nations’ resources. They want to steal what they haven’t got and to do so (as the future may unfortunately prove) they will murder oppressed people and deny them their sovereignty as nations. No doubt Mr Haughey will toe the line in Ireland when Thatcher so demands.

    Noticed a rarity today: jam with the tea, and by the way the Screws are glaring at the food. They seem more in need of it than my good self.

    Thursday 5th

    The Welfare sent for me today to inform me of my father being taken ill to hospital. Tried to get me to crawl for a special visit with my family. I was distressed about my father’s illness but relieved that he has been released from hospital. No matter what, I must continue.

    I had a threatening toothache today which worried me, but it is gone now.

    I’ve read Atkins’ statement in the Commons, Mar dhe?! (Atkins pledged that the British government would not budge an inch on its intransigent position.) It does not annoy me because my mind was prepared for such things and I know I can expect more of such, right to the bitter end.

    I came across some verse in Kipling’s short stories; the extracts of verses before the stories are quite good. The one that I thought very good went like this:

    The earth gave up her dead that tide,
    Into our camp he came,
    And said his say, and went his way,
    And left our hearts aflame.

    Keep tally on the gun butt score,
    The vengeance we must take,
    When God shall bring full reckoning,
    For our dead comrade’s sake.

    ‘I hope not,’ said I to myself. But that hope was not even a hope, but a mere figure of speech. I have hope, indeed. All men must have hope and never lose heart. But my hope lies in the ultimate victory for my poor people. Is there any hope greater than that?

    I’m saying prayers — crawler! (and a last minute one, some would say). But I believe in God, and I’ll be presumptuous and say he and I are getting on well this weather.

    I can ignore the presence of food staring me straight in the face all the time. But I have this desire for brown wholemeal bread, butter, Dutch cheese and honey. Ha!! It is not damaging me, because, I think, ‘Well, human food can never keep a man alive forever,’ and I console myself with the fact that I’ll get a great feed up above (if I’m worthy).

    But then I’m struck by this awful thought that they don’t eat food up there. But if there’s something better than brown wholemeal bread, cheese and honey, etcetera, then it can’t be bad.

    The March winds are getting angry tonight, which reminds me that I’m twenty-seven on Monday. I must go, the road is just beginning, and tomorrow is another day. I am now 62 kgs and, in general, mentally and physically, I feel very good.

    Friday 6th

    There was no priest in last night or tonight. They stopped me from seeing my solicitor tonight, as another part of the isolation process, which, as time goes by, they will ruthlessly implement. I expect they may move me sooner than expected to an empty wing. I will be sorry to leave the boys, but I know the road is a hard one and everything must be conquered.

    I have felt the loss of energy twice today, and I am feeling slightly weak.

    They (the Screws) are unembarrassed by the enormous amount of food they are putting into the cell and I know they have every bean and chip counted or weighed. The damned fools don’t realise that the doctor does tests for traces of any food eaten. Regardless, I have no intention of sampling their tempting morsels.

    I am sleeping well at night so far, as I avoid sleeping during the day. I am even having pleasant dreams and so far no headaches. Is that a tribute to my psychological frame of mind or will I pay for that tomorrow or later! I wonder how long I will be able to keep these scribbles going?

    My friend Jennifer got twenty years. I am greatly distressed. (Twenty-one-year-old Jennifer McCann, from Belfast’s Twinbrook estate, was sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment for shooting at an RUC man).

    I have no doubts or regrets about what I am doing for I know what I have faced for eight years, and in particular for the last four and-a-half years, others will face, young lads and girls still at school, or young Gerard or Kevin (Bobby’s son and nephew, respectively) and thousands of others.

    They will not criminalise us, rob us of our true identity, steal our individualism, depoliticise us, churn us out as systemised, institutionalised, decent law-abiding robots. Never will they label our liberation struggle as criminal.

    I am (even after all the torture) amazed at British logic. Never in eight centuries have they succeeded in breaking the spirit of one man who refused to be broken. They have not dispirited, conquered, nor demoralised my people, nor will they ever.

    I may be a sinner, but I stand — and if it so be, will die — happy knowing that I do not have to answer for what these people have done to our ancient nation.

    Thomas Clarke is in my thoughts, and MacSwiney, Stagg, Gaughan, Thomas Ashe, McCaughey. Dear God, we have so many that another one to those knaves means nothing, or so they say, for some day they’ll pay.

    When I am thinking of Clarke, I thought of the time I spent in ‘B’ wing in Crumlin Road jail in September and October ’77. I realised just what was facing me then. I’ve no need to record it all, some of my comrades experienced it too, so they know I have been thinking that some people (maybe many people) blame me for this hunger-strike, but I have tried everything possible to avert it short of surrender.

    I pity those who say that, because they do not know the British and I feel more the pity for them because they don’t even know their poor selves. But didn’t we have people like that who sought to accuse Tone, Emmet, Pearse, Connolly, Mellowes: that unfortunate attitude is perennial also…

    I can hear the curlew passing overhead. Such a lonely cell, such a lonely struggle. But, my friend, this road is well trod and he, whoever he was, who first passed this way, deserves the salute of the nation. I am but a mere follower and I must say O?che Mhaith.

    Saturday 7th

    I received a most welcome note tonight from Bernie, my sister. old Bernie. I love her and think she’s the greatest.

    I am now convinced that the authorities intend to implement strict isolation soon, as I am having trouble in seeing my solicitor. I hope I’m wrong about the isolation, but we’ll see.

    It’s only that I’d like to remain with the boys for as long as possible for many reasons. If I’m isolated, I will simply conquer it.

    A priest was in today, somewhat pleasant, and told me about Brendan O Cathaoir’s article in The Irish Times during the week, which I saw. We had a bit of discussion on certain points, which, of course, were to him contentious. He was cordial in his own practised way, purely tactical, of course, and at the same time he was most likely boiling over inside, thinking of the reference to this week’s AP/RN (February 28th issue) calling him a collaborating middle-class nationalist, or appropriate words to that effect.

    He is too, says I, and I sympathise with those unfortunate sons of God who find themselves battling against the poverty, disease, corruption, death and inhumanities of the missions…

    I am 61 kgs today, going down. I’m not troubled by hunger pangs, nor paranoiac about anything pertaining to food, but, by God, the food has improved here. I thought I noticed that during the last hunger-strike. Well, there is a lot at stake here.

    I got the Irish News today, but there’s nothing in it, that’s why I got it.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the comrades at Mass tomorrow, all the younger looking faces, minus the beards, moustaches, long rambling untamed hair matted in thick clumps.

    One thing is sure, that awful stage, of the piercing or glazed eyes, the tell-tale sign of the rigours of torture, won’t be gone – if it is ever removed. I wonder is it even conceivable that it could be erased from the mind?

    We got a new comrade during the week. Isn’t it inspiring the comrades who keep joining us? I read what Jennifer said in court. (On being sentenced, Jennifer McCann said: ‘I am a Republican prisoner of war and at the moment my comrade Bobby Sands is on hunger-strike to defend my rights as a political prisoner.’) I was touched and proud, she is my comrade.

    I’ve been thinking of Mary Doyle and Ellen McGuigan and all the rest of the girls in Armagh. How can I forget them?

    The Screws are staring at me perplexed. Many of them hope (if their eyes tell the truth) that I will die. If need be, I’ll oblige them, but my God they are fools. Oscar Wilde did not do justice to them for I believe they are lower than even he thought. And I may add there is only one thing lower than a Screw and that is a Governor. And in my experience the higher one goes up that disgusting ladder they call rank, or position, the lower one gets…

    It’s raining. I’m not cold, my spirits are well, and I’m still getting some smokes — decadence, well sort of, but who’s perfect. Bad for your health. Mar dheas anois, O?che Mhaith.

    Sunday 8th

    In a few hours time I shall be twenty-seven grand years of age. Paradoxically it will be a happy enough birthday; perhaps that’s because I am free in spirit. I can offer no other reason.

    I was at Mass today, and saw all the lads minus their beards, etc. An American priest said Mass and I went to Communion. One of the lads collapsed before Mass, but he’s all right now. Another was taken out to Musgrave military hospital. These are regular occurrences.

    I am 60.8 kgs today, and have no medical complaints.

    I received another note from my sister Bernie and her boyfriend. It does my heart good to hear from her. I got the Irish News today, which carried some adverts in support of the hunger-strike.

    There is a stand-by doctor who examined me at the weekend, a young man whose name I did not know up until now. Little friendly Dr Ross has been the doctor. He was also the doctor during the last hunger-strike.

    Dr Emerson is, they say, down with the ‘flu… Dr Ross, although friendly, is in my opinion also an examiner of people’s minds. Which reminds me, they haven’t asked me to see a psychiatrist yet. No doubt they will yet, but I won’t see him for I am mentally stable, probably more so than he.

    I read some wild-life articles in various papers, which indeed brought back memories of the once-upon-a-time budding ornithologist! It was a bright pleasant afternoon today and it is a calm evening. It is surprising what even the confined eyes and ears can discover.

    I am awaiting the lark, for spring is all but upon us. How I listened to that lark when I was in H-5, and watched a pair of chaffinches which arrived in February. Now lying on what indeed is my death bed, I still listen even to the black crows.

    Monday 9th

    I have left this rather late tonight and it is cold. The priest Fr Murphy was in. I had a discussion with him on the situation. He said he enjoyed our talk and was somewhat enlightened, when he was leaving.

    On the subject of priests, I received a small note from a Fr S. C. from Tralee, Kerry, and some holy pictures of Our Lady. The thought touched me. If it is the same man, I recall him giving a lecture to us in Cage 11 some years ago on the right to lift arms in defence of the freedom of one’s occupied and oppressed nation. Preaching to the converted he was, but it all helps.

    It is my birthday and the boys are having a sing-song for me, bless their hearts. I braved it to the door, at their request, to make a bit of a speech, for what it was worth. I wrote to several friends today including Bernie and my mother. I feel all right and my weight is 60 kgs.

    I always keep thinking of James Connolly, and the great calm and dignity that he showed right to his very end, his courage and resolve. Perhaps I am biased, because there have been thousands like him but Connolly has always been the man that I looked up to.

    I always have tremendous feeling for Liam Mellowes as well; and for the present leadership of the Republican Movement, and a confidence in them that they will always remain undaunted and unchanged. And again, dare I forget the Irish people of today, and the risen people of the past, they too hold a special place in my heart.

    Well, I have gotten by twenty-seven years, so that is something. I may die, but the Republic of 1916 will never die. Onward to the Republic and liberation of our people.

    Tuesday 10th

    It has been a fairly normal day in my present circumstances. My weight is 59. 3 kgs. and I have no medical problems. I have seen some birthday greetings from relatives and friends in yesterday’s paper which I got today. Also I received a bag of toiletries today.

    There is no priest in tonight, but the chief medical officer dropped in, took my pulse, and left. I suppose that makes him feel pretty important.

    From what I have read in the newspapers I am becoming increasingly worried and wary of the fact that there could quite well be an attempt at a later date to pull the carpet from under our feet and undermine us — if not defeat this hunger-strike — with the concession bid in the form of ‘our own clothes as a right’.

    This, of course, would solve nothing. But if allowed birth could, with the voice of the Catholic hierarchy, seriously damage our position. It is my opinion that under no circumstances do they wish to see the prisoners gain political status, or facilities that resemble, or afford us with the contents of, political status.

    The reasons for this are many and varied, primarily motivated by the wish to see the revolutionary struggle of the people brought to an end. The criminalisation of Republican prisoners would help to furnish this end.

    It is the declared wish of these people to see humane and better conditions in these Blocks. But the issue at stake is not ‘humanitarian’, nor about better or improved living conditions. It is purely political and only a political solution will solve it. This in no way makes us prisoners elite nor do we (nor have we at any time) purport to be elite.

    We wish to be treated ‘not as ordinary prisoners’ for we are not criminals. We admit no crime unless, that is, the love of one’s people and country is a crime.

    Would Englishmen allow Germans to occupy their nation or Frenchmen allow Dutchmen to do likewise? We Republican prisoners understand better than anyone the plight of all prisoners who are deprived of their liberty. We do not deny ordinary prisoners the benefit of anything that we gain that may improve and make easier their plight. Indeed, in the past, all prisoners have gained from the resistance of Republican jail struggles.

    I recall the Fenians and Tom Clarke, who indeed were most instrumental in highlighting by their unflinching resistance the ‘terrible silent system’ in the Victorian period in English prisons. In every decade there has been ample evidence of such gains to all prisoners due to Republican prisoners’ resistance.

    Unfortunately, the years, the decades, and centuries, have not seen an end to Republican resistance in English hell-holes, because the struggle in the prisons goes hand-in-hand with the continuous freedom struggle in Ireland. Many Irishmen have given their lives in pursuit of this freedom and I know that more will, myself included, until such times as that freedom is achieved.

    I am still awaiting some sort of move from my cell to an empty wing and total isolation. The last strikers were ten days in the wings with the boys, before they were moved. But then they were on the no-wash protest and in filthy cells. My cell is far from clean but tolerable. The water is always cold. I can’t risk the chance of cold or ‘flu. It is six days since I’ve had a bath, perhaps longer. No matter.

    Tomorrow is the eleventh day and there is a long way to go. Someone should write a poem of the tribulations of a hunger-striker. I would like to, but how could I finish it.

    Caithfidh m? a dul mar t? tuirseach ag eir? ormsa.

    (Translated, this reads as follows):
    Must go as I’m getting tired.

    Wednesday 11th

    I received a large amount of birthday cards today. Some from people I do not know. In particular a Mass bouquet with fifty Masses on it from Mrs Burns from Sevastopol Street. We all know of her, she never forgets us and we shan’t forget her, bless her dear heart.

    I also received a card from reporter Brendan O Cathaoir, which indeed was thoughtful. I received a letter from a friend, and from a student in America whom I don’t know, but again it’s good to know that people are thinking of you. There were some smuggled letters as well from my friends and comrades.

    I am the same weight today and have no complaints medically. Now and again I am struck by the natural desire to eat but the desire to see an end to my comrades’ plight and the liberation of my people is overwhelmingly greater.

    The doctor will be taking a blood test tomorrow. It seems that Dr Ross has disappeared and Dr Emerson is back…

    Again, there has been nothing outstanding today except that I took a bath this morning. I have also been thinking of my family and hoping that they are not suffering too much.

    I was trying to piece together a quote from James Connolly today which I’m ashamed that I did not succeed in doing but I’ll paraphrase the meagre few lines I can remember.

    They go something like this: a man who is bubbling over with enthusiasm (or patriotism) for his country, who walks through the streets among his people, their degradation, poverty, and suffering, and who (for want of the right words) does nothing, is, in my mind, a fraud; for Ireland distinct from its people is but a mass of chemical elements.

    Perhaps the stark poverty of Dublin in 1913 does not exist today, but then again, in modern day comparison to living standards in other places through the world, it could indeed be said to be the same if not worse both North and South. Indeed, one thing has not changed, that is the economic, cultural and physical oppression of the same Irish people…

    Even should there not be 100,000 unemployed in the North, their pittance of a wage would look shame in the company of those whose wage and profit is enormous, the privileged and capitalist class who sleep upon the people’s wounds, and sweat, and toils.

    Total equality and fraternity cannot and never will be gained whilst these parasites dominate and rule the lives of a nation. There is no equality in a society that stands upon the economic and political bog if only the strongest make it good or survive. Compare the lives, comforts, habits, wealth of all those political conmen (who allegedly are concerned for us, the people) with that of the wretchedly deprived and oppressed.

    Compare it in any decade in history, compare it tomorrow, in the future, and it will mock you. Yet our perennial blindness continues. There are no luxuries in the H-Blocks. But there is true concern for the Irish people.

    Thursday 12th

    Fr Toner was in tonight, and brought me in some religious magazines.

    My weight is 58.75 kgs. They did not take a blood sample because they want to incorporate other tests with it. So the doctor says they’ll do it next week.

    Physically I have felt very tired today, between dinner time and later afternoon. I know I’m getting physically weaker. It is only to be expected. But I’m okay. I’m still getting the papers all right, but there’s nothing heartening in them. But again I expect that also and therefore I must depend entirely upon my own heart and resolve, which I will do.

    I received three notes from the comrades in Armagh, God bless them again.

    I heard of today’s announcement that Frank Hughes will be joining me on hunger-strike on Sunday. I have the greatest respect, admiration and confidence in Frank and I know that I am not alone. How could I ever be with comrades like those around me, in Armagh and outside.

    I’ve been thinking of the comrades in Portlaoise, the visiting facilities there are inhuman. No doubt that hell-hole will also eventually explode in due time. I hope not, but Haughey’s compassion for the prisoners down there is no different from that of the Brits towards prisoners in the North and in English gaols.

    I have come to understand, and with each passing day I understand increasingly more and in the most sad way, that awful fate and torture endured to the very bitter end by Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan. Perhaps, — indeed yes! — I am more fortunate because those poor comrades were without comrades or a friendly face. They had not even the final consolation of dying in their own land. Irishmen alone and at the unmerciful ugly hands of a vindictive heartless enemy. Dear God, but I am so lucky in comparison.

    I have poems in my mind, mediocre no doubt, poems of hunger strike and MacSwiney, and everything that this hunger-strike has stirred up in my heart and in my mind, but the weariness is slowly creeping in, and my heart is willing but my body wants to be lazy, so I have decided to mass all my energy and thoughts into consolidating my resistance.

    That is most important. Nothing else seems to matter except that lingering constant reminding thought, ‘Never give up’. No matter how bad, how black, how painful, how heart-breaking, ‘Never give up’, ‘Never despair’, ‘Never lose hope’. Let them bastards laugh at you all they want, let them grin and jibe, allow them to persist in their humiliation, brutality, deprivations, vindictiveness, petty harassments, let them laugh now, because all of that is no longer important or worth a response.

    I am making my last response to the whole vicious inhuman atrocity they call H-Block. But, unlike their laughs and jibes, our laughter will be the joy of victory and the joy of the people, our revenge will be the liberation of all and the final defeat of the oppressors of our aged nation.

    Friday 13th

    I’m not superstitious, and it was an uneventful day today. I feel all right, and my weight is 58.5 kgs.

    I was not so tired today, but my back gets sore now and again sitting in the bed. I didn’t get the Irish News, which makes me think there is probably something in it that they don’t wish me to see, but who cares. Fr Murphy was in tonight for a few minutes.

    The Screws had a quick look around my cell today when I was out getting water. They are always snooping. I heard reports of men beaten up during a wing shift …

    Nothing changes here.

    Sean McKenna (the former hunger-striker) is back in H-4, apparently still a bit shaky but alive and still recovering, and hopefully he will do so to the full.

    Mh?scail m? leis an gealbh?in ar maidin agus an t-aon smaointe amh?in i mo cheann – seo chugat l? eile a Roibeard. Cuireann ? sin amhran a scr?obh m?; bhfad ? shin i nd?il domsa.

    Seo ? cib ? ar bith.

    D’ ?irigh m? ar maidin mar a th?inig an coimhe?d?ir,
    Bhuail s? mo dhoras go trom’s gan labhairt.
    Dhearc m? ar na ballai, ‘S sh?l m? nach raibh m? beo,
    Tch?tear nach n-imeoidh an t-iffrean seo go deo.
    D’oscail an doras ‘s n?or druideadh ? go ci?in,
    Ach ba chuma ar bith mar nach raibheamar in?r suan.
    Chuala m? ?an ‘s ni fhaca m? geal an lae,
    Is mian m?r liom go raibh me go doimhin foai,
    Ca bhfuil mo smaointi ar laethe a chuaigh romhainn,
    S c? bhfuil an tsaol a smaoin m? abh? sa domhain,
    Ni chluintear mo bh?ic, ‘s n? fheictear mar a rith mo dheor,
    Nuair a thigeann ar l? aith?ocfaidh m? iad go mor.

    Canaim ? sin leis an phort Siun N? Dhuibir.

    Translated this reads as follows:

    I awoke with the sparrows this morning and the only thought in my head was: here comes another day, Bobby — reminding me of a song I once wrote a long time ago.

    This is it anyway:

    I arose this morning as the Screw came,
    He thumped my door heavily without speaking,
    I stared at the walls, and thought I was dead,
    It seems that this hell will never depart.
    The door opened and it wasn’t closed gently,
    But it didn’t really matter, we weren’t asleep.
    I heard a bird and yet didn’t see the dawn of day,
    Would that I were deep in the earth.
    Where are my thoughts of days gone by,
    And where is the life I once thought was in the world.
    My cry is unheard and my tears flowing unseen,
    When our day comes I shall repay them dearly.

    I sing this to the tune Siun N? Dhuibir.

    Bh? na hein?n? ag ceili?racht inni?. Chaith ceann de na buachaill? ar?n amach as an fhuinneog, ar a leghad bh? duine ?igin ag ithe. Uaigneach abh? m? ar feadh tamaill ar tr?thn?na beag inni? ag ?isteacht leis na pr?ach?in ag scread?il agus ag teacht abhaile daobhtha. D? gcluinfinn an fhuiseog ?lainn, brisfeadh s? mo chro?.

    Anois mar a scr?obhaim t? an corrcrothar ag caoineadh mar a th?ann siad tharam. Is maith liom na hein?n?.

    Bhuel caithfidh m? a dul mar m? scr?obhain n?os m? ar na hein?n? seo beidh mo dheora ag rith ‘s rachaidh mo smaointi ar ais chuig, an t-am nuair abh? m? ?g?nach, b’iad na laennta agus iad imithe go deo anois, ach thaitin siad liom agus ar a laghad n?l dearmad de?nta agam orthu, ta siad i mo chro? — o?che mhaith anois.

    (Translated, this reads as follows:)

    The birds were singing today. One of the boys threw bread out of the window. At least somebody was eating!

    I was lonely for a while this evening, listening to the crows caw as they returned home. Should I hear the beautiful lark, she would rent my heart. Now, as I write, the odd curlew mournfully calls as they fly over. I like the birds.

    Well, I must leave off, for if I write more about the birds my tears will fall and my thoughts return to the days of my youth.

    They were the days, and gone forever now. But I enjoyed them. They are in my heart — good night, now.

    Saturday 14th

    Again, another uneventful somewhat boring day. My weight is 58.25 kgs, and no medical complaints. I read the papers, which are full of trash.

    Tonight’s tea was pie and beans, and although hunger may fuel my imagination (it looked a powerful-sized meal), I don’t exaggerate: the beans were nearly falling off the plate. If I said this all the time to the lads, they would worry about me, but I’m all right.

    It was inviting (I’m human too) and I was glad to see it leave the cell. Never would I have touched it, but it was a starving nuisance. Ha! My God, if it had have attacked, I’d have fled.

    I was going to write about a few things I had in my head but they’ll wait. I am looking forward to the brief company of all the lads at Mass tomorrow. You never know when it could be the last time that you may ever see them again.

    I smoked some cigarettes today. We still defeat them in this sphere. If the Screws only knew the half of it; the ingenuity of the POW is something amazing. The worse the situation the greater the ingenuity. Someday it may all be revealed.

    On a personal note, Liam Og (the pseudonym for Bobby Sands’ Republican Movement contact on the outside), I just thought I’d take this opportunity tonight of saying to your good hard-working self that I admire you all out there and the unselfish work that you all do and have done in the past, not just for the H-Blocks and Armagh, but for the struggle in general.

    I have always taken a lesson from something that was told me by a sound man, that is, that everyone, Republican or otherwise, has his own particular part to play. No part is too great or too small, no one is too old or too young to do something.

    There is that much to be done that no select or small portion of people can do, only the greater mass of the Irish nation will ensure the achievement of the Socialist Republic, and that can only be done by hard work and sacrifice.

    So, mo chara, for what it’s worth, I would like to thank you all for what you have done and I hope many others follow your example, and I’m deeply proud to have known you all and prouder still to call you comrades and friends.

    On a closing note, I’ve noticed the Screws have been really slamming the cell doors today, in particular my own. Perhaps a good indication of the mentality of these people, always vindictive, always full of hate. I’m glad to say that I am not like that.

    Well, I must go to rest up as I found it tiring trying to comb my hair today after a bath.

    So venceremos, beidh bua againn eigin la eigin. Sealadaigh abu.

    (Translated, this reads as follows:)

    So venceremos, we will be victorious someday. Up the Provos.

    Sunday 15th

    Frank has now joined me on the hunger-strike. I saw the boys at Mass today which I enjoyed. Fr Toner said Mass.

    Again it was a pretty boring day. I had a bit of trouble to get slopped out tonight and to get water.

    I have a visit tomorrow and it will be good to see my family. I am also looking forward to the walk in the fresh air, it will tire me out, but I hope the weather is good. I must go.

    Monday 16th

    I had a wonderful visit today with my mother, father and Marcella. Wonderful, considering the circumstances and the strain which indeed they are surely under.

    As I expected, I received a lot of verbal flak from Screws going and coming from the actual visit. Their warped sense of humour was evident in their childish taunts, etcetera.

    I wrapped myself up well to keep me from the cold. My weight is 58.25 kgs today, but I burnt up more energy today with the visit. I’ve no complaints of any nature.

    I’ve noticed the orderlies are substituting slices of bread for bits of cake, etcetera — stealing the sweet things (which are rare anyway) for themselves. I don’t know whether it’s a case of ‘How low can you get?’ or ‘Well, could you blame them?’ But they take their choice and fill of the food always, so it’s the former.

    They left my supper in tonight when the priest (Fr Murphy) was in. There were two bites out of the small doughy bun. I ask you!

    I got the Sunday World newspaper; papers have been scarce for the past few days.

    There is a certain Screw here who has taken it upon himself to harass me to the very end and in a very vindictive childish manner. It does not worry me, the harassment, but his attitude aggravates me occasionally. It is one thing to torture, but quite a different thing to exact enjoyment from it, that’s his type.

    There was no mirror search going out to visits today — a pleasant change. Apparently, with the ending of the no-wash protest, the mercenary Screws have lost all their mercenary bonuses, etcetera, notwithstanding that they are also losing overtime and so on. So, not to be outdone, they aren’t going to carry out the mirror search any more, and its accompanying brutality, degradation, humiliation, etcetera.

    Why! Because they aren’t being paid for it!

    I’m continually wrapped up in blankets, but find it hard to keep my feet warm. It doesn’t help my body temperature, drinking pints of cold water. I’m still able to take the salt and five or six pints of water per day without too much discomfort.

    The books that are available to me are trash. I’m going to ask for a dictionary tomorrow. I’d just sit and flick through that and learn, much more preferable to reading rubbish.

    The English rag newspapers I barely read, perhaps flick through them and hope that no one opens the door. A copy of last week’s AP/RN was smuggled in and was read out last night (ingenuity of POWs again). I enjoyed listening to its contents (faultless – get off them ! – good lad Danny (Morrison)). I truly hope that the people read, take in and understand at least some of the truths that are to be regularly found in it. I see Paddy Devlin is at his usual tricks, and won’t come out and support the prisoners…

    Well, that’s it for tonight. I must go. O?che Mhaith.

    Tuesday 17th

    L? P?draig inni? ‘s mar is gn?ch n?or th?rla aon rud suntasach, bh? m? ar aifreann agus mo chuid gruaige gearrtha agam n?os gaire, agus ? i bhfad n?os fearr freisin. Sagart nach raibh ar mo aithne abh? ag r? ran aifreann.

    Bh? na giolla? ag tabhairt an bhia amach do ch?ch abh? ag teacht ar ais ?n aifreann. Rinneadh iarracht chun tabhairt pl?ta bidh domhsa. Cuireadh ?s c?mhair m’aghaidh ach

  3. richard

    Dear Richard and all of the participants,

    Your description of the full day was so vivid, I did not bother to actually look at the pictures. Thinking of the people of Sité Soley, I hope that you will get these pictures for them. there are differences and smiliarities, but I was moved and impressed by the discipline and the organization. It was indeed gaze to gaze, but all the way through toe to toe. the whole thing is an amazing exercise of doing away with unjust laws, unjust legal practices and, hopefully, in hte long run, with unjust officers of the law.

    Congratulations to the comrades who are holding the fast in the prison. I do understand their commitment, but, in the end, we must convince them to stay alive. Some of their objectives have been achieved. Humanity can only move inhuman structures a few steps at a time. We shall come back again, just like the tides of the ocean.

    Take care, and thank you again, jd

  4. richard

    In the past few weeks the State Repression Machine has been working hard to silence the impoverished and oppressed of this country. We have seen the way they tried to criminalize normal people but we did not remain silent. We have seen the way they tried to bring false accusations against normal people, but we did not remain silent, we fought them back.

    We fought them back in a strange and curious way, in a way that seems ridiculous and paradoxical: we knelt before them while we were saying: “you have brutalized our humanity”. We have rediscovered our humanity in our kneeling down, moreover, we have discovered that our non-violence adds something to our humanity and dignity.

    First of all, we have said clearly and loudly that we are not like them. We do not use violence to affirm our supposed superiority. We do not treat other human beings as if they were animals. We do not respond with guns and violence when there are conflicts and political divergences. Our courage is grounded in the righteousness of our cause and therefore, we do not need guns and repression to confront other opinions.

    Secondly, we have shown what we really are and the courage which moves us. We have shown that people, especially the impoverished, are ready to pay the price of their ideas and motivations. Kneeling down before 20 armed people is not an act of cowardly on the contrary, it is a demonstration that we are even ready to die in order to win a better life for all. Kneeling down means to say: “you can even kill us but before, please, look straight in our eyes”. That night we forced Nayager and his people to look at what Abahlali are. That night we brought before the police station our stories, our daily struggles, our families, our communities, our longing for a better life, the presence of the whole movement and, like a sacred liturgy, we have offered all these things to them. In this offering we have said that that is what we are, we are our communities, our families, our movement, our longing for a better life. Are we dangerous criminals? Do we deserve such repression and violence?

    That night people of Kennedy Road have grasped something very important about the Good News of Liberation. To begin with, they have grasped that Jesus wants the conversion of the oppressor and not his/her death. Kneeling down before Nayager has also been a prayer, an extreme effort to win his humanity back. It is not enough to have shown our dignity, we want also to see Nayager’s dignity and humanity. That night people of Kennedy road have lived out the Prophetic message of Jesus:

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’

    But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.

    If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.

    Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.

    Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

    But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,

    that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust”. (Matthew 5:38-45)

    The point that Jesus makes here is not to be silent and submissive in front of oppression. Jesus asks the oppressed something very difficult and radical: He asks, through a non-violent struggle, to win the oppressor back. More radically, “Turn the other one to him as well”, “Hand him your cloak as well”, “Go with him for two miles”, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” are not requests to the oppressed but to the oppressor. These actions, somehow, force the oppressor to think at what s/he is doing. In the oppressed non-violent resistance is rooted the question “Why?” Why are you striking, robbing, oppressing, hating me? This can be seen clearly during Jesus’ trial: When the soldier slapped Him, Jesus did not offer the other cheek but asked: “Why do you strike me? If there is some offence in what I said point it out…” (John 18:23) The soldier did not replay anything. That is also what happened in front of the police station. Kneeling down has been like to ask “Why are you doing this to us?” and this has been very effective!! It was clear the embarrassment shown by most of the police who were “protecting” Nayager from us (and maybe, as S’bu pointed out, also protecting ourselves from him). Their embarrassment was revealed by their expressions, by the policewoman who, before wearing the helmet, was singing the same song which we were singing, and other little details…

    The people of Kennedy Road grasped that Nayager needs to rediscover his humanity and helped him in this process. The fact that he and his policeman were embarrassed is a good sign!

    The intuition of the Shack Dwellers tells also another important thing. It tells that Abahlali BaseMjondolo is not struggling for power but for a different society where everyone can be at home, even Nayager. Moreover, in the process of struggling they are already building this new society trough the relationships and solidarity which the struggles itself facilitate. Two examples can help to understand better. The first one is the net of solidarity created during this time of crisis, a solidarity that goes beyond races and nationalities. Above all, the solidarity developed within Abahlali itself.

    Secondly, the new relationships developed among some Priests, Reverends, Ministers and Religious. Paradoxically, the terrible repression faced by Abahlali has been the driving force in uniting several pastors and religious from different denomination. Abahlali BaseMjondolo is a prophetic movement which is helping the Church to be Church and this among other things, means to consider impoverished people the moving principle and not just the beneficiaries of Church’s actions.

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