Modern Ireland: Past, Present, and Future
Hunger is a film written by Edna Walk and Steve McQueen and also directed by Steve McQueen. McQueen, an Englishman, is known in the art industry for having a very creative and detailed eye for identifying, capturing, and magnifying the slightest detail and assigning it a multitudinous of different contextual meanings. Hunger, McQueen’s first feature film, does not disappoint or deviate from his artistic fashion and as a result, Hunger brings to life the political, social, and disturbingly graphic conflicts that occurred in the Maze prison complex during the hunger strike of 1981. The historical context of Hunger, being released into the current media market, acts as an emotional thermometer for gauging how modern-day society remembers, learns from, and reflects on this modern-day historical event that is personal, yet, controversial to many people in the UK and around the world.
The film takes place in Northern Ireland in 1981 and follows the events of Bobby Sands, a Provisional IRA member who spearheaded and actively participated in both the hunger strike. During this time period of violence and tension between the Nationalist Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister to Britain, Margaret Thatcher, had withdrawn the rights of political prisoners five years previously. In 1981, she famously said in a redeclaration of withdrawn rights, “There is no such thing as political murder, political bombing, and political violence. There is only criminal murder, criminal bombing, and criminal violence.” The protests and hunger strike of 1981 were a successful but drastic attempt to regain the status of political prisoner, from a government who considered Irish Nationalism and promoting Irish Identity by retaliation to the Crown, to be acts of terrorism.
The events that led to Britain withdrawing the status of political prisoner from Irish Nationalists has much to do with the Provisional IRA’s miscalculated and perhaps, overly advantageous plan for Britain to regain Direct Rule over Northern Ireland. The IRA assumed that Direct Rule by Britain would lead to more direct talks of Ireland becoming a unified republic, separate from Britain. Prior to 1972, British military presence decreased in Northern Ireland and the IRA took full advantage. The Provisional IRA staged a number of attacks, including leading British officials into ambushes that were organized by a section of the IRA known as the “Young Hooligans”. The increase in IRA violence eventually resulted in Britain regaining Direct Rule and a ceasefire was called in May of 1972. During the ceasefire, Sean MacStiofain, an Irish republican nationalist, flew to London to make a deal with the British government that provisioned the removal of all British troops from Ireland within three years. When the British Government rejected the agreement, the Provisional IRA unleashed a strong and fierce reign of terror and bombings on all...