10 April 1981: The IRA Hunger Striker Bobby Sands was deemed elected to the British House of Commons on this day. When the votes were counted it emerged that he had gained over 30,000 votes with over 52% of the vote in the by-election compared to 49% for the candidate of the Official Unionist party, Harry West. It was a straight fight between the two men with most political experts not rating Sands chances very high of being elected. Most analysis completely underestimated the strength of feeling within the Nationalist Community over what was happening in the H Blocks. Sands election though was met with consternation, anger and almost disbelief by the Unionists and within both the British and Irish Establishments.
His election was a huge boost to himself and his comrades within Long Kesh as he led the Hunger Strike to secure Political Status from the British. News teams from around the World covered this story and the unfolding drama within the H Blocks moved from being National to International News.
Bobby Sands' election agent, Owen Carron, said when interviewed that day that the British Government had been sent a message.
The nationalist people have voted against Unionism and against the H blocks. It is time Britain got out of Ireland and put an end to the torture of this country.
It was hoped that such an emphatic Election Victory would force Mrs Thatcher to arrange a compromise that would allow for an honourable settlement and avoid the embarrassment of an MP dying on Hunger Strike while the World looked on. But this challenge to her authority only strengthened her resolve not to be seen to back down to people she viewed as dangerous enemies. Bobby Sands died on 5 May on the 66th day of his Hunger Strike.