Nothing but an Unfinished Song: The Life and Times of Bobby Sands

Denis O'Hearn, Author
Denis O'Hearn, Author . Nation $28 (434p) ISBN 978-1-56025-842-1
Reviewed on: 12/05/2005
Release date: 12/01/2005
Paperback - 434 pages - 978-1-56025-888-9
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Irish nationalist and British MP Bobby Sands died in 1981, 66 days into a hunger strike. Sands's story is different from those of other Fenian heroes because most of his exploits were not in the field but rather in prison, where he spent almost all his adult life. Originally arrested by the British in 1972 for a string of armed stickups that apparently had little to do with the IRA, Sands gradually educated himself in prison and became fluent in the Gaelic language. Released for a short time, he found himself again behind bars after the bombing of a furniture showroom went awry. IRA men were being treated as criminals, not political prisoners, and in protest, they went "on the blanket," naked. It eventually became a test of wills between Sands and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who declared she would "never talk to terrorists." O'Hearn chronicles Sands's excruciating death and its aftermath. It galvanized the Catholics of Northern Ireland and, according to O'Hearn, a professor at Queen's College in Belfast, "helped bring Republicans in from the cold," that is, into the political process that culminated in the Good Friday accords in 1998. This extensive—and depressing—biography adds valuable insight into the political evolution of Irish nationalism from the 1960s through today. (Feb.)

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