GUEST BLOG: Lois Griffiths – A Shared Struggle


“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.“ —  Fyodor Dostoyevsky
It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.”
― Nelson Mandela 


Why Ireland? 

The world is aware of the support for the Palestinians from South Africa because of their experiences of living  under the old apartheid regime.

But Ireland?   

Why is there so much sympathy for and solidarity with the Palestinian people, by the Irish?

A Shared Struggle Stories of Palestinian and Irish Hunger Strikers has recently been published, An Fhuiseog (The Lark) 2021.

In the foreward, commentators note that both the Palestinians and the Irish have historically  been victims of cruel British colonial oppression.

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Palestinian -Irish academic Asad Abu Shark explains, “Palestine and Ireland suffered from the same British colonialism. The British colonizers did all they could to subjugate, humiliate and dehumanize both peoples to impose total surrender, resignation and submission.”

The Israeli regime continued practices introduced by mandate Britain, including the notorious, and widely used,  practice of  arresting Palestinians  under  ‘adminstrative detention’,  no charges, no trial.

In A Shared Struggle, former hunger strikers, 24 Palestinians, including 2 women and 7 Irish, including one woman, share their stories. 

The decision to take part in a hunger strike was never taken without careful consideration, being well aware of the risks of severe health consequences, even death. It was only taken as a last resort by prisoners being held under appalling condition that defy international law and universal humanitarian norms. 

The hunger strike is a weapon of last resort. 

Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law, in his forward article explains that the hunger strike is the “ultimate form of nonviolence”. 

It gives “power to the powerless”, as both oppressors, the Israelis and the British are aware of historic examples such as Gandhi’s hunger strikes, that led to the collapse of more powerful regimes by winning the “legitimacy battle” for world opinion. 

The oppressors were determined to break the strikers, sometimes by force-feeding or by holding barbecues near the strikers’ cells so that the aroma of cooking would drift into the cell, sometimes by eating in front of the prisoners.

Their shared experiences of Palestinian and Irish hunger strikers,  answer the question, “Why Ireland?” 

As former prisoner Danny Morrison, secretary of the Bobby Sands Trust declares, “The cause of Palestine is the cause of Ireland. The cause of Ireland is the cause of Palestine”. 

Award-wining Film Director Ken Loach points out,“For many years there has been solidarity between the Palestinians , South Africans fighting apartheid, and the struggle for Irish unity. That mutual support is needed now more than ever, as the oppression of the the Palestinians becomes ever more brutal.” 

Richard Falk points out that “the Irish hunger strikes were given generally sympathetc prominence in mainstream media outlets, with Bobby Sands’ name and martyrdom known and respected throughout the world. “

Bobby Sands died in 1981 after 66 days of hunger strike.

A Shared Struggle includes excerpts from his  H-Block Trilogy;

Beneath the sky men live and die

For man must die from birth.

And some never see the  flower or tree 

Or know their lovely worth,

But in the gloom of prison tomb

Men crave for Mother earth.

In contrast,  Falk argues, mainstream media, by  ignoring Palestinian hunger strikes, help to “reinforce Israeli oppression”  and should be “viewed as a kind of transnational complicity”.

Richard Falk reminds us  that Palestinians are still being harshly treated, citing the figures, as of  his writing, of some 4500 prisoners, 350 under adminsrative detention. 

 He hopes that this new book will be widely read and will lead to a grassroots demand for justice. 

As Falk says, “The suffering of the Palestinian people has gone on for far too long”.


Lois Griffiths is a Human Rights Activist.



  1. I can see how the Irish would embrace the Palestinians’ use of terrorism for which the IRA set the tone. There is also a huge tradition of antisemitism in Ireland thanks to its Catholic Church. Back to the drawing board, Lois.

  2. David Collier has just released a report on the virulent and toxic antisemitism that pervades Ireland. It makes for horrific reading and is strongly recommended to Ms Griffiths.

  3. “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.“ — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.”
    ― Nelson Mandela

    The massive use of ‘administrative detention’ by the Israeli regime should be seen by the world as an is its arrest of so many children, often in the middle of the night. Israel is the ONLY country that tries children in military courts. Israel is out to destroy the hopes and wishes of an entire generation.

  4. It’s the Palestinian leadership who have squandered their kids’ futures. They brainwash them to hate Jews and glorify terrorists through their educational texts and media and then pay them to kill, using them for sick propaganda. Eighty percent of Palestinians want Abbas gone. Mandela’s words are a sad reflection on the Palestinians’ twisted priorities, not Israel. Griffiths only ever looks at the WHAT never the WHY.

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