Hot Best Seller

Ten Men Dead: The Story of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike

Availability: Ready to download

In 1981 ten men starved themselves to death inside the walls of Long Kesh prison in Belfast. While a stunned world watched and distraught family members kept bedside vigils, one "soldier" after another slowly went to his death in an attempt to make Margaret Thatcher's government recognize them as political prisoners rather than common criminals. Drawing extensively on secre In 1981 ten men starved themselves to death inside the walls of Long Kesh prison in Belfast. While a stunned world watched and distraught family members kept bedside vigils, one "soldier" after another slowly went to his death in an attempt to make Margaret Thatcher's government recognize them as political prisoners rather than common criminals. Drawing extensively on secret IRA documents and letters from the prisoners smuggled out at the time, David Beresford tells the gripping story of these strikers and their devotion to the cause. An intensely human story, Ten Men Dead offers a searing portrait of strife-torn Ireland, of the IRA, and the passions -- on both sides -- that Republicanism arouses.


Compare

In 1981 ten men starved themselves to death inside the walls of Long Kesh prison in Belfast. While a stunned world watched and distraught family members kept bedside vigils, one "soldier" after another slowly went to his death in an attempt to make Margaret Thatcher's government recognize them as political prisoners rather than common criminals. Drawing extensively on secre In 1981 ten men starved themselves to death inside the walls of Long Kesh prison in Belfast. While a stunned world watched and distraught family members kept bedside vigils, one "soldier" after another slowly went to his death in an attempt to make Margaret Thatcher's government recognize them as political prisoners rather than common criminals. Drawing extensively on secret IRA documents and letters from the prisoners smuggled out at the time, David Beresford tells the gripping story of these strikers and their devotion to the cause. An intensely human story, Ten Men Dead offers a searing portrait of strife-torn Ireland, of the IRA, and the passions -- on both sides -- that Republicanism arouses.

30 review for Ten Men Dead: The Story of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike

  1. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    I chose to read this book because during one of my last trips to Gaza, I met one of the men who was supposed to join the 1981 Irish hunger strike. He didn't, because it was finally called off after 10 men died in their struggle to force the British government to treat them as political prisoners rather than "common" criminals. Although I found the book tedious to read at times because it was difficult to keep track of all of the players, as well as to figure out some of the code words and Irish I chose to read this book because during one of my last trips to Gaza, I met one of the men who was supposed to join the 1981 Irish hunger strike. He didn't, because it was finally called off after 10 men died in their struggle to force the British government to treat them as political prisoners rather than "common" criminals. Although I found the book tedious to read at times because it was difficult to keep track of all of the players, as well as to figure out some of the code words and Irish terminology the men employed in the notes they smuggled out to their comrades, it served as a fascinating case study of the possibilities and limits of the hunger strike as a tool of resistance. I have to confess that I remain conflicted on the use of hunger strikes; to be truly effective, you must be prepared to die a slow death. In this case, it was a price a growing number of families were not prepared to pay, with the strike finally broken when a growing number of families ordered their loved ones taken off when they lapsed into delirium. (Most of the prisoners themselves stayed committed to the end). I am debating in my mind what this means for Palestinian political prisoners, who frequently go on hunger strike, but do NOT take it to the death. Several of them reached 200+ days -- which means they were not on a true, total hunger strike. The longest the Irishmen could make it before dying was 76 days. I also felt conflicted because the author (a reporter for the Guardian) did a good job of not romanticizing the hunger strikers and their comrades. I don't morally approve of deliberately targeting and killing civilians, even when fighting against an occupier. And many of these men were guilty of that. Still, this does not detract from my sympathy for their overall cause. Margaret Thatcher's administration was truly an oppressive regime, and without the resistance, it paid no price of its own. When will countries learn that when you oppress an entire population/culture, resistance will never die? It is inevitable that some elements of that resistance will be violent. The "original sin" is the occupation, and it must end.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    This is, without a doubt, one of the most harrowing and detailed accounts of the Irish Hunger Strike of the early 1980's that I have read to date. Hailing from a land similarly rife with sectarian divisions (South Africa), the author David Beresford, a writer for the Guardian newsletter, succeeds fully in squarely illustrating the complicated temperament of conflict that led ten men to willingly starve themselves to death in a prison protest. Not once does the discussion lapse into blunt politics This is, without a doubt, one of the most harrowing and detailed accounts of the Irish Hunger Strike of the early 1980's that I have read to date. Hailing from a land similarly rife with sectarian divisions (South Africa), the author David Beresford, a writer for the Guardian newsletter, succeeds fully in squarely illustrating the complicated temperament of conflict that led ten men to willingly starve themselves to death in a prison protest. Not once does the discussion lapse into blunt politics, instead always taking the high ground and focusing on the more personal nature of the struggle and its larger overtones of humanity. In a conflict so often characterized by political invective, Beresford masterfully weaves the story with almost unsettling frankness, and cuts through the public posturing and labeling used by both sides to present a ravaging portrait of ten fiercely dedicated men and their families. Interspersed between the author's narrative of the hunger strikers is a wealth of primary source material in the form of 'comms', small kite messages smuggled out of Long Kesh as the main mode of communications between the strikers and the larger movement leadership. Many of these written exchanges offer up a vision of the mentality of the radical element of republicanism at that time and also serve the reader some uniquely surprising revelations on the happenings within the Kesh (One set of messages sticks out in particular, in which Brendan McFarlane, the hunger strikers operational organizer, discusses his feelings on the Protestant prisoners in the jail in strangely unequivocal tones - "My feelings are not sectarian. Believe it or not, I never really was that way inclined...") Also breaking up the narrative and the sourced material, Beresford includes small details of news and troubles outside the jail that appear virtually at random and strike home the greater implications of the strike on the country. These small bites, written in eerily measured tones, detail what appear like random deaths and community killings that are both chilling and without discrimination. This only augments the way in the which to book opts out of partisanship and instead becomes the chronicle of a singularly human tragedy - the 'terrible beauty' of Yeats' poem all those long years ago. This is a most worthy read of any interested in understanding the history of the movement and its larger mentality.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Noah

    One of the best works of non-fiction I've ever read. Even though it is from the perspective of the Republican Movement, the author is surprisingly objective. Although he does note that no one can actually be objective about the Troubles. One of the best works of non-fiction I've ever read. Even though it is from the perspective of the Republican Movement, the author is surprisingly objective. Although he does note that no one can actually be objective about the Troubles.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    This is a journalistic account of the 1981 IRA Hunger Strikes, detailing with a keen eye the struggles of the prisoners and their families, the impact this had on the politics of Northern Ireland, and drawing parallels with earlier Irish struggles. The book makes great use of the communiques smuggled in and out of the Maze Prison, and catches the dark humour of the men behind the wire - one prisoner who managed to smuggle in a pen, tobacco, a radio and a wad of messages became known as "The Suit This is a journalistic account of the 1981 IRA Hunger Strikes, detailing with a keen eye the struggles of the prisoners and their families, the impact this had on the politics of Northern Ireland, and drawing parallels with earlier Irish struggles. The book makes great use of the communiques smuggled in and out of the Maze Prison, and catches the dark humour of the men behind the wire - one prisoner who managed to smuggle in a pen, tobacco, a radio and a wad of messages became known as "The Suitcase". It is a moving read, sympathetic to the plight of the prisoners, and makes a good case for this being the watershed event that led to the Republican Movement fully embracing the political process - leading to a Northern Ireland where Martin McGuinness & Ian Paisley lead the country together.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Arwen

    This is such a good and thought-provoking book looking at the Irish troubles from the viewpoint of I.R.A. prisoners and their families. While not condoning the violence it does at least give you an idea as to the reason for it and as the hunger strikers die one by one it's pretty harrowing stuff and a total condemnation of politicians and their hypocrisy. I've read it loads of times and still find it moving This is such a good and thought-provoking book looking at the Irish troubles from the viewpoint of I.R.A. prisoners and their families. While not condoning the violence it does at least give you an idea as to the reason for it and as the hunger strikers die one by one it's pretty harrowing stuff and a total condemnation of politicians and their hypocrisy. I've read it loads of times and still find it moving

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    The Spring and Summer of 1981 had the world riveted as ten Irishmen starved themselves to death rather than wear prison clothing. Why did they do it? And how could they endure the agonizing pain as their bodies literally ate themselves. Beresford writes a poignant piece of journalism relating the story and the human beings involved. This is an emotional story, one of agony and triumph. To understand the hunger strikers and their conviction, this is a must read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

    Very informative book. If you are interested in the 1980 Hunger Strikers in Northern Ireland, this is definitely a book for you. It has actually excerpts from notes smuggled out of prison from the hunger strikers which is really cool for history buffs. It is a tough read because of the many characters and historical aspects though.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    An important book in terms of contributing an objective point of view to the literature around the hunger strikes and the wider field of colonisation and resistance in general. Well-written, gripping but heartbreaking at the same time, it is a book I am sure I will be returning to in the future.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brian Mcmahon

    if you havn't read this read it now. What a sad moving story, that really shows the mentality on both sides, were no side could afford to lose, really lets you see what was going on inside & outside the Maze at that terrible time. if you havn't read this read it now. What a sad moving story, that really shows the mentality on both sides, were no side could afford to lose, really lets you see what was going on inside & outside the Maze at that terrible time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Pátraic Mc

    A very harrowing and thought provoking read. Telling a story of comradeship, selflessness and courage, all in the pursuit of something bigger than themselves.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    Probably the best thing I’ve read on anything remotely germane to the “Troubles.” Also of unique historical value, since the late author David Beresford managed to gain access to the hunger strikers’ “comms” - intensely politically and personal revealing messages scribbled on cigarette paper and smuggled out routinely through orifices . Thus the story almost takes on an “oral history” quality, narrated as much by the inner turmoil of monk-to-be-turned-sectarian-killer Brendan “Bik” MacFarlane as Probably the best thing I’ve read on anything remotely germane to the “Troubles.” Also of unique historical value, since the late author David Beresford managed to gain access to the hunger strikers’ “comms” - intensely politically and personal revealing messages scribbled on cigarette paper and smuggled out routinely through orifices . Thus the story almost takes on an “oral history” quality, narrated as much by the inner turmoil of monk-to-be-turned-sectarian-killer Brendan “Bik” MacFarlane as by Beresford the journalist. Not that Beresford isn’t up to the task. His sympathies were obviously in the right place but not at the expense of a broad historical perspective and the requisite “balance” it takes to convey a narrative on such a charged topic. His later reporting on the end of apartheid, Palestine, and US imperial adventurism in the Middle East bore out this even yet empathetic sensibility. Ultimately this book is just so tragic. You feel like you get such an up-close sense of all the hunger strikers, only to watch them waste away just as their families, loved ones, comrades, jailers, and the British government did. Anyways - I’ll let some of Beresford’s own words take up the rest of this review. “There is a sense in which the centuries-old struggle ... goes beyond the mundanities of borders, constitutions and governmental systems. And in the same way there is a sense in which the hunger strike rises above the rights or wrongs of penal administration, or politicians’ posturing on the criminality of ‘terrorism.’ The story of how those ten very ordinary men died - a draper’s assistant, a mechanic, an upholsterer, a milkman . . . - belongs more to humanity than to a limited Nationalist cause, no matter how ancient. It is the stuff of tragedy, of Shakespearean proportions.” (333)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tracie

    This book is very intense and very detailed. I appreciated the details, especially the biographical information on each of the hunger strikers. Even having this information, it did not glamorize the 10 men or any of the others. Lots of facts, history and dates. I found this all to be useful in my attempt to understand this particular conflict. Very well written.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Superb telling of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike. Beresford personalizes the struggle very well, the reader gets to know each of the ten who died as well as others especially Brendan "Bik" McFarland. If one is not sickened by Margaret Thatcher, the English government and their lackeys in Northern Ireland , read the section regarding the assassination attempt on Bernadette Devlin McAliskey. Beresford does a great job providing background on hunger strikes as a tactic. Purchased in the Sinn Fein Bookst Superb telling of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike. Beresford personalizes the struggle very well, the reader gets to know each of the ten who died as well as others especially Brendan "Bik" McFarland. If one is not sickened by Margaret Thatcher, the English government and their lackeys in Northern Ireland , read the section regarding the assassination attempt on Bernadette Devlin McAliskey. Beresford does a great job providing background on hunger strikes as a tactic. Purchased in the Sinn Fein Bookstore in Belfast.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Riley

    As someone who makes his living as a journalist writing about pretty much the worst heartache, this book was even for me horribly depressing. It is an account of the ten Irish Republicans who starved themselves to death in prison in protest during the Thatcher-era. It tells each man's personal story, from the reasons for their arrests to their final moments. This book was written for a United Kingdom audience and assumes readers have more knowledge of the Irish conflict than I did. I can't really As someone who makes his living as a journalist writing about pretty much the worst heartache, this book was even for me horribly depressing. It is an account of the ten Irish Republicans who starved themselves to death in prison in protest during the Thatcher-era. It tells each man's personal story, from the reasons for their arrests to their final moments. This book was written for a United Kingdom audience and assumes readers have more knowledge of the Irish conflict than I did. I can't really speak to the politics of the inmates' decisions, but at a human level it is really heartbreaking. This quote by Terence MacSwiney, an Irish leader who starved himself 60 years before, in 1920, pretty much captures how bleak the perspective of those struggling was. It makes a commentary that is both heroic and very, very, sad. "[T]he contest on our side is not one of rivalry or vengeance, but of endurance. It is not those who can inflict the most, but those that can suffer the most who will conquer."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Ten Men Dead offers very good insight into the 1980 Maze Hunger Strike. While it is a consuming read, it offers a balanced account of not only the hunger strike, but also the political, social and religious climate in Ireland at that time. The author also does a nice job explaining the context of the strike and prision, which I think dispells many misconceptions surrounding the IRA and its command structure as well as the resulting decisions of the prisoners. I also appreciated the level of deta Ten Men Dead offers very good insight into the 1980 Maze Hunger Strike. While it is a consuming read, it offers a balanced account of not only the hunger strike, but also the political, social and religious climate in Ireland at that time. The author also does a nice job explaining the context of the strike and prision, which I think dispells many misconceptions surrounding the IRA and its command structure as well as the resulting decisions of the prisoners. I also appreciated the level of detail as it put the story into better context for me -- I could visulaize many places easily. I would have given this five stars, but I felt the inclusion of the fictional text took away from the general plot and served no real purpose. Overall, this book is excellent.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    The author was given unheard-of access to the IRA's library of "comms"--notes secretly sent in and out of Britain's most secure prison. Critics of the hunger strike say that the hunger strikers were forced to do it, but here you can read in their own words why they decided to have a hunger strike and what they went through. The author was given unheard-of access to the IRA's library of "comms"--notes secretly sent in and out of Britain's most secure prison. Critics of the hunger strike say that the hunger strikers were forced to do it, but here you can read in their own words why they decided to have a hunger strike and what they went through.

  17. 5 out of 5

    emma

    I knew next to nothing about the hunger strike before I picked up this book. Reading Ten Men Dead was a harrowing experience and not one that will fade from my mind any time soon. The measured tone of the writing only amplifies the tragedy of ten completely avoidable deaths and the strength and courage of those who sacrificed themselves in struggle.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Julie Browne

    This story will make you cry your eyes out! a true story of the H block huger strikers that fought for Irish rights in a time where they were viewed as less than human by the British. Who in this story are the ones who do not deserve to be called human.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    It has been over 37 years but I still well remember following the deteriorating condition of IRA soldier Bobby Sands as he slowly starved himself to death protesting prison conditions and the lack of political status in Margaret Thatcher's Britain. The American press and media covered the story with attentiveness not usually given to Northern Ireland affairs, and while I did not then have a very firm grasp of what was at stake nor why it was happening, I remember my mixed and intense feelings of It has been over 37 years but I still well remember following the deteriorating condition of IRA soldier Bobby Sands as he slowly starved himself to death protesting prison conditions and the lack of political status in Margaret Thatcher's Britain. The American press and media covered the story with attentiveness not usually given to Northern Ireland affairs, and while I did not then have a very firm grasp of what was at stake nor why it was happening, I remember my mixed and intense feelings of both admiration and revulsion, of bewilderment and respect at the level of commitment required for such a singular act of defiant protest. I also remember learning from media reports that at some point in the starvation process Sands would go irreversibly blind before succumbing entirely, and I remember finding that as horrifying as death itself. What I do not recall because I do not think it received anywhere near the coverage of Sands is that fact that nine other IRA volunteers followed him to death, one after the other, in exactly the same manner. This volume is a definitive account of those events, told with excruciating detail, and it fills in a lot of missing pieces of context, particularly the political context and gamesmanship that surrounded both the blanket protest and the hunger strikes. My only criticism of the book is the sometimes excessive direct quotation from the "comms"; i.e., the communications smuggled into and out of the Long Kesh prison complex on cigarette papers stashed in one or another private orifice. Some editing and summarizing might have been in order on that score, else a longer book altogether. That minor criticism aside, this is a difficult book to read because of the grimness of its subject matter, but is also a fitting chronicle of a most remarkable historical event.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mary McDonough

    This book emphasizes that *ten* men died, and others suffer(ed) lifelong ill health due to their participation in the hunger strikes at Long Kesh. Even though this was not long ago, many people only remember Bobby Sands. I agree with reviews that say it is at times difficult to follow. I would very much recommend Say Nothing, a gripping book that explains the very important role the Price Sisters played in the history of hunger strikes in Irish resistance. Some have mentioned that killing civili This book emphasizes that *ten* men died, and others suffer(ed) lifelong ill health due to their participation in the hunger strikes at Long Kesh. Even though this was not long ago, many people only remember Bobby Sands. I agree with reviews that say it is at times difficult to follow. I would very much recommend Say Nothing, a gripping book that explains the very important role the Price Sisters played in the history of hunger strikes in Irish resistance. Some have mentioned that killing civilians is wrong, which is true. The entire system of the English government under Thatcher,as well as Irish republican leadership, must be taken into account. Talking about history as a group is individuals instead of connected systems is like carrying sand in your hand- you’ll never get what you need.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    A really interesting read but often difficult to follow. The author will use an individual's nickname for a while and then suddenly switch to their surname. There's a lot of expectation that the reader is quite familiar with the subject area, the names of all the hunger strikers and political figures, and the various unionist and nationalist groups. I also felt the ending was rushed, like he suddenly lost his momentum and just wanted to be done. The emotional impact of the story was powerful tho A really interesting read but often difficult to follow. The author will use an individual's nickname for a while and then suddenly switch to their surname. There's a lot of expectation that the reader is quite familiar with the subject area, the names of all the hunger strikers and political figures, and the various unionist and nationalist groups. I also felt the ending was rushed, like he suddenly lost his momentum and just wanted to be done. The emotional impact of the story was powerful though and carried me through.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kim Q.

    Poignant and forward, Ten Men Dead breaks through the myth and intrigue of the Hunger Strike, and brings about the foiled dreams and helpless humanity of ten men determined to die for their cause. A more personal exploration of the men who comprised the strike that shook Thatcher England to their bone, with neither a positive or negative lean - more a straightforward revelation that the Troubles had brought a whirlwind of death, and ten men would not be the last. Nevertheless, they continued.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sammy Fee

    This was an interesting and challenging read. At first I had a really hard time following what was happening as it jumoped right in and I didn't know the history around what was happening and why. But as the book went on some of the gaps were filled so I was better able to grasp what was going on. Reading the comms from inside the prison was pretty amazing! You get a look at the men behind the crimes and start to wonder about their cause. This was an interesting and challenging read. At first I had a really hard time following what was happening as it jumoped right in and I didn't know the history around what was happening and why. But as the book went on some of the gaps were filled so I was better able to grasp what was going on. Reading the comms from inside the prison was pretty amazing! You get a look at the men behind the crimes and start to wonder about their cause.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    An eye opening brutal look into the 1981 Irish hunger strikers in Long Kesh prison, Northern Ireland. A gripping true story of the will and determination of Bobby Sands and other Irish political prisoners interned in Long Kesh Prison, commonly referred to as The Maze. It doesn’t matter what side of the political divide you stand on, you can learn from this book.... Highly Recommend!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Klf Barrett

    Very interesting and sad. The Hunger Strikes were for their right to be categorized as political prisoners. Bobby Sands died fighting for this right, and bloody Margaret Thatcher let it happen. He was an elected MP whilst in prison.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Killian

    Really detailed and impartial account of the hunger strike in 1981, gives an insight into all 10 men

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jason Betts

    Not the easiest to read. But it was well worth muscling through.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cieran Hughes

    Well written, well informed

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jason Brophy

    This is the first book in a while I have read surrounding The Troubles. Brilliantly and informatively written it shows a good insight into one of the most tragic stories in Irish history.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Green

    4.5 stars. Devastating and inspiring.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...