‘I am standing on the threshold of another trembling world. May God have mercy on my soul.’
These were the opening words Bobby Sands recorded in his diary on the first day of his hunger strike on the 1st March 1981.The hunger strike started without much fanfare, beginning just two months after a previous hunger strike by Republican prisoners lasting 54 days. This first hunger strike was called off at the 11th hour when Republicans believed they had secured concessions from the British Government, and secured much national and international publicity.
When Bobby Sands began his fast, the British and Irish news media were almost indifferent to the story. The main news outlets, however, reported the significance of March 1st 1981. James Robbins, a BBC News journalist standing on the Falls Road in West Belfast as a protest march in support of the hunger strikers passed him, described the day as follows.“The march through West Belfast was the first major test of public support for this 2nd Republican hunger strike, which has started against a background far more bitter than the first. So far only one prisoner, Bobby Sands, has refused food, chosen apparently because Sands is felt to be a particularly hard man, ready to face death alone.”