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Besom Productions

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Director: Margo Harkin
Co-Producers: Margo Harkin for Besom Productions Ltd & Joel Conroy for Inis Films
Executive Producer: Lena Ferguson (BBCNI)
Co-Production: Besom Productions Ltd. & Inis Films
Broadcaster: Broadcast on 4 October 2006 at 10.30pm on TG4


A 60 min. doc. in the Irish language for TG4 on the history and legacy of the hunger strike by Irish Republicans in the Maze prison in 1981.


Of all the volatile periods in Northern Ireland's recent history the period of Hunger Strikes is one of the most impassioned and dramatic. It was a key event in the relationship between the British Government and Irish Republicans, a unifying force for nationalists and a focal point for world opinion. It had a central role in shaping the political landscape of Northern Ireland today by bringing Sinn Fein into electoral politics for the first time and is largely responsible for the strong electoral position it has achieved today.

The 25th anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands took place on 5th May 2006. This documentary revisits the dramatic story of why 10 men starved themselves to death throughout the summer of 1980 to prove the strength of their convictions that they were a different category of prisoner. The people centrally involved – both inside and outside the H Blocks of Long Kesh prison - reveal the inside story of an event that shook the body politic of Ireland and Britain in its day. Hunger striker Laurence McKeown returns to the cells where he survived for 70 days and recalls the physical and psychological effect it had on him. Other key participants include Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams, former prisoners, relatives of the hunger strikers who died and those involved in the negotiations to end the strike. The programme also hears from Lord Gowrie, a key figure in ending the hunger strike and Sir Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s Press Secretary during the hunger strikes who gives an insight into the stance of the British government. Former prison officer Dessie Waterworth also provides a perspective into what things were like for staff inside the prison as events unfolded. The use of news archive also focuses on the pivotal moments and features footage of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the funerals and the people who attempted to broker a deal between the British government and the hunger strikers.

Domestic viewing copies available on DVD for £17 (inclusive of VAT) plus postage and packing. For Institutional rates and/or other teaching purposes, please contact Margo at