Northern Ireland news

Tributes paid to 'strong, inspirational' mother of Bobby Sands

Rosaleen Sands with her daughter Marcella in Enniskillen in 1981, after it had been announced that Bobby Sands had been elected MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone

TRIBUTES have been paid to the mother of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, who died yesterday at the age of 95.

Rosaleen Sands campaigned on behalf of republican inmates during the prison protests of the 1980s.

Two days before her son died in the Maze in May 1981 at the age of 27, she made an emotional appeal on television to then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to compromise and save his life.

When asked by reporters if she would authorise her son to be intravenously fed if he went unconscious, Mrs Sands said: "It's a sad thing to say, I love my son just like any other mother does, but I couldn't, he asked me not to and I promised not to."

Bobby Sands, who was elected MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone in a by-election during his hunger strike, became the public face of the prison protests and among his now-published writings was a poem dedicated to his mother called Dear Mum.

His funeral was followed by thousands of people from the family home in Twinbrook in west Belfast to the republican plot in Milltown cemetery.

The family had originally lived in Rathcoole but left the sprawling Newtownabbey estate in 1972 amid increasing sectarian tensions.

Mrs Sands, whose husband John died in 2014, is to be buried at Belfast City Cemetery on Monday following Requiem Mass at St Oliver Plunkett Church in Blackrock, Co Louth, close to her daughter Bernadette Sands McKevitt's home where she is to be reposed.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said he was "extremely saddened to learn of Rosaleen's death" and extended condolences on behalf of the party.

"Rosaleen was a strong, inspirational woman who, like all families of the hunger strikers, bore immense pain but stood by her son Bobby during the darkest of times," he said.

"The dignity and strength she displayed was a testament to her character and her belief in standing up for what was right and just, even if that meant great suffering for herself, Bobby's father John and their family.

"In many ways she epitomised what all the mothers of the hunger strikers endured and her sacrifice will never be forgotten."

Mrs Sands is survived by her daughters Marcella and Bernadette, son John, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

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