The Hunger Strike was the product of a five year protest, beginning with the Blanket Protest in 1976 because the British Government took away the Special Category Status for political prisoners, which meant that those being held for political reasons were then treated like the regular thieving, murdering scum. Those protesting during the Blanket Protest refused to wear the garb they were given because it was exactly like the other prisoners. So instead of wearing it, they draped their blankets around themselves and wore nothing underneath. They were often referred to as “Blanketmen”.

After the Blanket Protest came the “dirty” protest, wherein the protesters refused to clean their cells.

After that was the hunger strike, and it hit quite hard. Ten major people died during it due to starvation, those people were

  • Bobby Sands – 66 days
  • Kieran Doherty – 73 days
  • Francis Hughes – 59 days
  • Raymond McCreesh – 61 days
  • Patsy O’Hara – 61 days
  • Joe McDonnell – 61 days
  • Martin Hurson – 46 days
  • Kevin Lynch – 71 days
  • Thomas McElwee – 62 days
  • Michael Devine – 60 days

Bobby Sands had been elected as a member of Parliament during the strike, despite his prisoner status. The strikes were generally contained to Long Kesh “Maze” Prison in Lisburn, Ireland.

During the protests there were a set of demands that they were attempting to achieve. Here is the list that those who called themselves Political Prisoners of War (rightfully, in my opinion) were asking for:

  1. The right not to wear prison uniforms
  2. The right not to do prison work.
  3. The right of free association with other prisoners, and to organize educational and recreational pursuits. 
  4. The right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week.
  5. Full restoration of the remission lost through protesting.


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The Great Famine

“The Great Famine” began because of a policy failure as well as potato blight, and because the British refused to close ports. It started in 1945 and went on to 1952. Potato blight had already swept through Europe, but it had the largest effect on Ireland.

The Potato was -and is, in most cases- a staple food,  more than one third of the the Irish population was dependent on it to survive. The potato had become a staple food back in the 18th century, especially during the winter seasons. More that one million people died, and at least another million more emigrated out of the country which, in turn, cause the population to fall by 25%

Some people believe that the Great Famine was a Genocide run by England. They call it Ireland’s Holocaust. I don’t believe this, but I do believe that England made some very wrong moves. During the previous famine in the late 1700’s, ports were closed so that Irish-grown food would stay in Ireland to feed the Irish. This upset merchants, but it solved the problem. During the Great Famine, on the other hand, England did not allow the ports to close. This action provoked a lot of hatred between Ireland and England. What’s worse if that the price of foods being exported from Ireland (such as calves, livestock, bacon, ham…) actually increased during the Famine years, which made the cost of living higher and more difficult to contend with. The poor were generally unable to feed their families.

Cecil Woodham-Smith wrote in his book -which is about the Famine- about this, saying “The indisputable fact is that huge quantities of food were exported from Ireland to England throughout the period when the people of Ireland were dying of starvation.” England’s behavior disgusted a great many amount of people.

The Great Famine largely effected the culture and history of Ireland as a whole. So much that some historians even referr to the years before 1845 (between 1600 and 1845, to be exact) as “pre-famine”. Here are some examples:

-The English believed that “anything that happened was their own fault” when it came to the starving people in Ireland, speaking generally of the families who could not afford food. Some, including myself, believe that what the English did was a giant spark on the already open flame that became the acts of Irish Independence.

-Ireland continued to suffer de-population even after the famine ended. Many saw their futures in America, or anywhere other than Ireland. So basically the most active/productive and free-thinking people left the country, leaving the others behind.

-Hundreds of evictions happened after the Famine due to the money raise in crops.

– “The sharp decline in the speaking of Gaelic has been specifically linked to the late 1840’s.” (article quote) Why? The areas in the west of Ireland where Gaelic was the most spoken were the areas that were hit hardest by the famine, both by death and emigration. Also there was little to no reason for speaking Gaelic in England, Scotland and America -where the Irish typically relocated- In America the Irish were hated well enough as it was, so speaking Gaelic was not a very smart thing to do over here. This is also why a lot of names have been changed; because America is a giant bully when it comes to foreigners. My family’s surname was once O’Ryan. Now it’s just Ryan.

– Ireland’s government changed a lot as well. Instead of entirely being run by England, they focused inward and focused on Ireland itself.

-Many members of the Easter Rising in 1916 were from families that had suffered through the Famine.

-Members of the Catholic Church in Ireland thought that the famine was brought as a wrath from God. The church encouraged this. Sunday Sermons increased in number during the famine and afterward, and confession as well as communion became a more frequently done thing. Many families converted to the Catholic religion during this time. There were around 160 nuns in Ireland at the beginning of the century, and by 1860 there were more than 3,700.

*more may possibly be added on this subject later

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The Bog Child

This book was mostly about the troubles going on in Ireland and how they effected a young man. It is set in the 1980s at the time of the hunger strike.

The main character is Fergus McCann. His brother, Joe, is in jail as a political prisoner for being part of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. All of the political prisoners went on a hunger strike, and Joe was one of them. The hunger strike is like a dark cloud that hangs over Fergus for pretty much the whole book.

The novel is historically accurate, although the characters are entirely fictional. Siobhan Dowd’s inspiration was the hunger strike itself, and how it effected the families of the strikers. She was also interested in the Bog People, archaeological discoveries who date back thousands of years and whose bodied are preserved due to the condition of the Bog.

It’s quite a sad story, but the end gets better. It has a relatively “happy” ending.

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Colors of the Irish Flag

Green– represents the Gaelic tradition of/in Ireland

Orange– represents the followers of William of Orange

White– represents Peace, and the balance between green and orange


(p.s; please correct me if I am wrong! )

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Colcannon is an Irish dish that is so absolutely wonderful that it deserves its own post.

It’s basically just potatoes, ham, and cabbage. Generally it’s made in giant batches, but it can be made in smaller quantities as well.

I taught a class a few months ago that was about Ireland and culture, but it was with highschool students so it didn’t go all to far into detail. We watched Angela’s Ashes, talked about random facts having to do with Ireland’s mythology, I had them fill out an question sheet, and we also made amazing food from Ireland.

We made Freckle Bread, Boxties, gooseberry crumble, and Colcannon. They loved it. I loved it.

Here’s how to make it, if any of you are interested:

4 tbsp butter

1 cup sliced green onions

3/4 cups milk

4 potatoes, boiled and mashed

1 small cabbage cooked, drained, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat and saute green onions until soften but not browned, about two minutes. Add potatoes and stir to combine. Add milk and gently stir over low heat. Add cabbage, salt and pepper, reduce heat to low, and stir until heated through.

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The Tuatha de Danann

The Tuatha de Danann is the “god” race of Irish mythology, most of them being the sons or daughters of Danu. They were decended from the Nemedians, who were the previous owners/inhabitants of Ireland. (read.) Leprechauns are derived of their myths and legends.

It is said that the Tuatha de Danann brought four treasures to Ireland when they came. These are the objects:

  • The spear of Lugh, against which no man or army had won.
  • The Stone of Fal, which would give a loud creaking groan if it was touched by the True King of Ireland.
  • The Sword of Nuadu. Apparently no one escaped from it “once it had been drawn from its sheath”.
  • The cauldron of Dagda, which no company ever went away from unsatisfied.

There were a few members of the Tuatha de Danann who were not actually sons or daughters of Danu, but became figures of legend because of their actions. Such as Lugh, who was the son if Cian, who was part of the Tuatha de Danann but there had never been a father-son reunion. Lugh’s grandfather was Balor, one of the last Fomorians, and the Tuatha de Danann and the Fir Bolg hated each other to hell and back. (which is mentioned in other posts).

Generally the Tuatha de Danann have some form of relation to Danu, whether it goes back one generation or five generations. Danu was the grandmother of Lugh, but the mother of The Morrigan. The family line when used with the origins of the Tuatha de Danann is crazy and confusing even for me, and I love family trees so much that I’ll sit there for hours and ponder the things. I’ve found family trees that others have made regarding the subject, but even then I can easily find things that are left out or put in the incorrect place. It’s become so entirely confusing that I’ve decided on giving up.

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Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick was a missionary born into a wealthy family in Wales around the year 460a.d. The family was thought to be religious, but this statement has not been proben and may or may bot be true. He was taken from Wales as a child and was brought to Ireland to work as a slave. After six years he managed to escape by walking two hundred miles from County Mayo all the way to the coast.

He was apparently guided by visions and God spoke to him in his dreams. In one particular dream an Angel appeared and told him to return to Ireland as a missionary.

So that is exactly what he did. He went back to Ireland and raised Churches and Monasteries, baptized thousands of citizens, taught priest how to lead the new Christian communities, and converted many people to his beliefs.

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated both out of Ireland and within, the Holiday having spread to many other countries.

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Danu, “The Mother”


Danu was the mother goddess of the Tuatha de Danann, which is the old Irish race of gods. She is regularly seen as an ancestral or heretical figure, but she is also accosiated with the land. There are some stories that imply to the myth/rumor that she, in fact, is the land. Looking farther back, she seems to originally be a water deity. Many streams and rivers of Ireland are named for her, extending even to some places in Scotland and Wales where her name appears off and on.

There are so many myths and tales about her that it is almost impossible to pinpoint where her story began and why she was regarded so highly in the first place, other than being the “mother of the Gods”, of course.

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American Folklore (mostly for my own comparison purposes)

John Henry

The folklore of America is much different from other countries, including Ireland. Our legends and myths are, unless derived of Native American nature, relatively new. My project -and therefore this blog- is about Ireland, but I think it would be a good idea to incorporate comparisons with my own country in some way, that being music and cultural background.

Some of the more well-known myths and legends found in America are listed here:

  • Calamity Jame
  • Wild Bill Hickok
  • Johnny Appleseed
  • Paul Bunyan
  • John Henry
  • Elvis Presley
  • Daniel Boone
  • Davey Crocket

Even George Washington has become a sort of “mythic” figure to us in some aspects. The pilgrimage as well as the 1848 Gold Rush have gained legendary properties, as well as a few other historic events. It seems to me that all of our legends come from the existence of a thing called “The American Dream”, which is a legend in itself that is sought after by millions. Most Americans strive to accomplish what they want to accomplish, and gain money and prosperity along the way whereas the stories and myths found in other countries have much to do with survival and tradition, the preservation of a culture. Heroism is big in America because we need something to idolize, and we want to be able to idolize ourselves.


(more may be added onto this subject later, but at the moment I feel like I am rambling and I do not wish to write anything without first thinking on it.)

*top picture is of John Henry, a statue dedicated to him and what he did for the mentality and trust of the Railroad workers.

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Poem about the Irish

I found this poem the other day and I thought it was just a great description of who the Irish are, both now and throughout history.

(Author Unknown)

What shall I say about the Irish?
The utterly impractical, never predictable,
Something irascible, quite inexplicable, Irish.

Strange blend of shyness, pride and conceit
And stubborn refusal to bow in defeat.
He’s spoiling and ready to argue and fight,
Yet the smile of a child fills his soul with delight.

His eyes are the quickest to well up in tears,
Yet his strength is the strongest to banish your fears.

His faith is as fierce as his devotion is grand
And there’s no middle ground on which he will stand.

He’s wild and he’s gentle, he’s good and he’s bad,
He’s proud and he’s humble, he’s happy and sad.

He’s in love with the ocean, the earth and the skies,
He’s enamored with beauty wherever it lies.

He’s victor and victim, a star and a clod,
But mostly he’s Irish and in love with his God.

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