The Foal and the Roll of Honour’s Right to Annihilation
A few times a footy season, on violent nights in Glasgow, the Old Firm derby between Celtic and Rangers takes place atParkhead stadium. It’s a hotbed of sectarians, Catholics and Protestants in wintery Stone-Island church gear, holdingcheap beers that turn fingers grenadine red. The Glaswegian police ban many songs for their offensive rhymes to deadplayers and past crimes, but when they’re cocky, the home-ground ultras will belt out rebel songs that turn their throats torazor blades, and the one that always sticks with me is the rebel’s Roll of Honour. In those dreary H-Block cages Ten brave young Irishmen lay Hungering for justice, while their young lives ebbed away For their rights as Irish soldiers and to free their native land They stood beside their leader, the gallant Bobby Sands Arundhati Roy speaks for the right to resist annihilation, but what about the right to annihilate? In the 1981 Irish HungerStrike, Robert Gerard “Bobby” Sands and his ten men, all paramilitary, starved themselves to death in the H-Block ofBelfast’s Maze Prison. In 1976, the British Government removed the Prisoner-of-War status from the nationalist paramilitaries of Ireland,demanding that the interned wear the prescribed prison uniform and do labour in the workshops. In response, the menmade five demands: ● the right not to wear a prison uniform; ● the right not to do prison work; ● the right of free association with other prisoners and to organise educational and recreational pursuits; ● the right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week; ● full restoration of remission lost through the protests. They dressed in blankets only and tossed aside their bedsheets. But with no guns, streets, or flares, the only theatre ofprotest – the only place to march – was from one side of the cell to the other. So, in a grim game of “yes, and” improv withthe guards, the prisoners debased themselves further, away from mere robbers, thugs and other violent figures and backtowards their honour. In the “dirty protest”, prisoners couldn’t leave their cells to empty their chamber pots, and soescalated to smearing their walls with poo, piss and vomit, self-shitting-immolation back towards salvation. From PatMacGeown, “There were times when you would vomit. There were times when you were so run down that you would lie for days andnot do anything with the maggots crawling all over you.” As we can see, this form of nonviolent protest, aside from being an assault on the senses, forces an audience, as it takes allthat denotes one as a standing member of society, clothes, hygiene, even the acceptance of your imprisonment, and puts itin the proverbial chamber pot. But still, the British Government would not budge, and starvation began. Bobby Sands started and ended first; he lasted 66 days. Through nakedness, excrement and the wasting away of ligament,tendons and marrow Bobby Sands and his men were not recognised. And so Bobby went on the ballot. On 9 April 1981,whilst confined to his prison cell, having Cole, M. (2023). Racism and the Tory party from disraeli to johnson. Routledge,gone 30 odd days without feed, Bobby Sands became the independent member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone and theyoungest member of the British Houses of Parliament. He would never take his seat. Nonetheless, this neat parlour trickbrought the theatre to him, and four out of five demands were met, with the fifth, the abolition of prison work, by 1983. This election’s impact on the public perception of this protest is evident. If you search the name of Bobby Sands onGoogle, you will not see “Bobby Sands, Prisoner”. “Bobby Sands, smeared excrement on his prison wall” . “Bobby Sands, died weighing 44 kilograms”. You will see “Bobby Sands, Former Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom.” In 2015, a German fan was arrested at Parkshead stadium under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act, a stunning title if I’ve ever heard one. The Roll of Honour, which he was singing, is consideredoffensive and maybe rightfully so for its ties to the IRA. But whether the martyrdom of these young prisoners fills you with sectarian outrage, a listless sense of tragedy or someslash of determination, you have reacted to their theatre. Their story, however many misdemeanour offences it may incur,is carried from drunken throats and frosty breath into the vile Glaswegian night. It’s taken over the city, across the IrishSea, and back towards the lights of Belfast. In the 2008 film Hunger by Steve McQueen, Michael Fassbender plays an emaciated Bobby Sands, who recounts thestory of the foal.