Marriage equality activist Brendan Fay, found of the annual Queens St. Pats for All inclusive parade in Sunnyside and Woodside, joined Gerry Adams, a recently elected member of the Irish Parliament and head of the Sinn Féin political party, at the Calvary Cemetery in Queens on March 19 in commemorating the 30th anniversary of the H-Block Hunger Strike.
The Hunger Strike culminated a five-year protest by Irish republican prisoners held by the British government following London’s decision to reverse its policy of treating them in similar fashion to prisoners of war –– and to instead hold them under conditions severely limiting their basic rights.
Brendan Fay honors Irish republican martyrs; Gerry Adams says marriage equality a goal
By 1981, the resistance targeted British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s hard-line policies against the republicans, and in the hunger strike ten republican prisoners, including Bobby Sands, elected to the British House of Commons from a Northern Ireland constituency during the strike, died. Sands’ funeral drew an estimated 100,000 mourners.
Despite the deaths, the Hunger Strike was pivotal in moving Sinn Féin, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army, toward greater political engagement. Today, Sinn Féin is the second largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly and one of the top four parties in the Irish Parliament. Adams played a critical role in the success of the peace process of the 1990s.
The party is committed to full marriage equality in Ireland, where a civil partnership law was enacted last year.
Fay was among the Irish-Americans who met on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day with the new Tánaiste or deputy prime minister of Ireland, Eamon Gilmore, leader of the Labour Party that on March 9 formed a coalition government with Fine Gael, led by Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny. Gilmore, who also serves as foreign minister, told the New Yorkers he too is committed to working toward marriage equality, likely through the reform efforts aimed at establishing a new constitution in time for the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising that led to Irish independence from the UK.