Bobby Sands (Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice)

36 years ago yesterday, Bobby Sands died after 66 days on hunger strike in the Maze prison hospital. Bobby, an IRA activist, poet, and member of parliament, inspired generations of activists fighting for justice and freedom. Below is one of the first writings I had published back in 2007, and still one of my most favorite: the encyclopedia entry for Bobby in the Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice. The featured image for this post is of a mural of Bobby that I took that still stands today in Belfast.


Bobby Sands, officer of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who rose to international prominence in 1981 when he embarked on a fatal hunger strike while imprisoned for activities related to the IRA’s armed campaign against the British government. Sands’s rough childhood, which included several assaults by unionist paramilitaries and local Protestant gangs, led to his decision to volunteer for the IRA in 1972. Sands was arrested twice, the first time for weapons possession, in 1972, and imprisoned at Long Kesh Detention Centre as a “special category” prisoner due to his involvement with the IRA. The special category status acknowledged a sort of political status and granted those prisoners the right to wear their own clothing, “free” association with other special category prisoners, the right to organize their own educational and recreational activities, and access to visits and parcels once a week. While in prison, he met other leading IRA activists such as Gerry Adams…

*This is an excerpt from my contribution to the “Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice”, published in 2007.

Full entry available in the Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice (2007)

The Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice presents a comprehensive overview of the field with topics of varying dimensions, breadth, and length. This three-volume Encyclopedia is designed for readers to understand the topics, concepts, and ideas that motivate and shape the fields of activism, civil engagement, and social justice and includes biographies of the major thinkers and leaders who have influenced and continue to influence the study of activism.

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