Northern Ireland

Troubles victims' group is to meet student Labour club after Bobby Sands controversy

The student Labour club shared an online post quoting IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands and describing Britain as an 'oppressor'. Picture by Pacemaker
The student Labour club shared an online post quoting IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands and describing Britain as an 'oppressor'. Picture by Pacemaker

A Troubles victims' group is to meet a student Labour club after it shared an online post quoting IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands and describing Britain as an "oppressor".

Kenny Donaldson of the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) said he had written to Cambridge University’s Labour Club (CULC) following the controversy.

He later said that the club had agreed to meet and they were "currently confirming a date".

It comes after a row erupted among rival political societies at the university after the institution's Labour club shared a post from socialist republican group Lasair Dhearg on Instagram.

The post commemorated the 42nd anniversary of the H-Block hunger strikes and featured a quote from Bobby Sands stating "Generations will continue to meet the same fate unless the perennial oppressor - Britain - is removed".

The quote from Mr Sands, who led the hunger strikes and who died in 1981, adds Britain would "maintain her occupation and economic exploitation of Ireland to judgment day, if she is not halted and ejected".

Lasair Dhearg - which in 2020 erected posters at bus shelters in Belfast condemning "Britain's occupation of Ireland" and erected street signs in the city featuring the names of republican icons including Bobby Sands and Wolfe Tone - published the Instagram post in June.

The Labour club said in a statement to Varsity that the post was shared "by mistake, without any knowledge of the beliefs and affiliations" of Lasair Dhearg.

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Mr Donaldson said while they welcomed the apology, he believes "we should never have been in a place where this was ever required".

He said they had written to Cambridge University Labour Club requesting to "meet with their members at the earliest possible opportunity which is likely to be when the new academic year commences".

"We will educate their members upon the realities of who the hunger strikers were and the crimes for which they were incarcerated, but we will also raise their awareness around the 57 lives lost outside the prison walls over the period of the hunger strikes - remembering those who had no choice, as well as the legacy of terrorism and other Troubles related criminal violence which remains stark for many to this day."

Following confirmation on Wednesday that a meeting is to be held, Mr Donaldson said they "welcome the commitment from the Labour Club at Cambridge University to meet with us".

"We are encouraged at the speed of which our request has been responded and we hope to build a positive relationship with the club and the times ahead alike all other democratic political parties," he said.