It is just over 100 years ago that Michael Fitzgerald became the first republican combatant to die on hunger strike during the War of Independence.
Fitzgerald died on October 17, 1920, in Cork Gaol after a 67-day hunger strike. His was the first death of a hunger striker in an Irish prison since that of Thomas Ashe in Dublin in October, 1917.
Fitzgerald’s comrade, Joseph Murphy, died in the same jail the following day, while Cork's Lord Mayor, Terence MacSwiney, died in Brixton prison in England eight days later.
Their deaths are credited with bringing worldwide attention to the cause of Irish independence. MacSwiney’s hunger strike was covered extensively by theand other US newspapers, as well as by some in France.
Our 21st-century mores may question the morality of fasting to the death, and recoil in horror at the thought of their gruesome demise. Whether or not we support the method they used to help bring about independence, we must acknowledge their resolve, courage, and self-sacrifice in using their bodies as weapons of last resort.