Family of Bobby Sands ‘not consulted' about graphic novel

Bobby Sands Book Picture by Hugh Russell.

BOBBY Sands family have said they were never consulted on the accuracy of a controversial comic book about the hunger striker which the Dublin publisher insists is a factual account of his campaign.

The graphic novel by Gerry Hunt has been criticised by unionists for its portrayal of Sands as a `Freedom Fighter' and from within republican circles for its link to Gerry Adams, whose version of the period is disputed by former IRA associates.

The Sinn Féin leader has penned an epilogue for the book, published above a picture of him with former hunger striker Brendan Hughes, who later accused Mr Adams for betraying core republican principles.

Michael O'Brien of O'Brien Press said on Tuesday the book had been "fact checked with Gerry Adams" and that it was "true, important and worthy".

Bobby Sands family yesterday claimed they were never even informed that the book had been written and was due for publication.

"The Sands family wish it to be known that at no time were they consulted regarding the accuracy of the content published in the book Bobby Sands Freedom Fighter, which is claimed to be factual," they said in a statement.

"It is reprehensible that the family, including our elderly mother, was first made aware of this book when confronted by extracts displayed in the media today.

"We are given to understand that the book contains intimate family scenes that no one, other than our family members, would be privy to."

The family make clear that they do not blame the author for these failures, but instead call again for the Bobby Sands Trust to be disbanded.

"It is unfortunate that well meaning people, such as Mr Hunt (author) are misled by those who profess to be authorities on Bobby's life story," the statement continues.

"Our family once again reiterates that the Bobby Sands Trust does not act on behalf of Bobby, nor does it represent our family, in any shape or form.

"We again call upon the Trust to disband and desist from using Bobby’s memory as a commercial enterprise.

"Once again an opportunity to promote Bobby’s ideals and sacrifice that he died for has been diminished by those who seek to promote different agendas- both personal and political."

Arts Council chief executive Roisin McDonagh yesterday again refused to answer media questions about the decision to part-fund the publication of the book.

A spokesman said that she had "nothing to add" to previous statements released by the funding body, which is an arms-length quango of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (Dcal).

Ms McDonagh has been asked to explain why the controversial book received public money at a time when arts funding in general has been slashed.

The row has led the Dcal committee in the assembly to demand a breakdown of books funded by the Arts Council over the past two years.

Chairman Nelson McCausland said he had been told criteria for grants included "if a book is by somebody from Northern Ireland, or a publisher is from Northern Ireland or the subject matter has relevance in Northern Ireland".

"That effectively means if a person in New York wanted to write a book about `My Travels Round the North Coast', even though the author is from New York and the publisher is from New York, they would be eligible for a grant," he said.

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