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Last Updated: Friday, 15 September 2006, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Sands book aimed at children
Mural of Bobby Sands
Bobby Sands died after 66 days on hunger strike
A version of hunger striker Bobby Sands' life story aimed at primary school children is being launched.

Bobby Sands, an IRA prisoner, died in 1981 aged 27 after refusing food for 66 days in a protest over political status for republican prisoners in the Maze prison.

The first of 10 men to die in the protest he was the subject of a biography Nothing But An Unfinished Song, published earlier this year.

The author of that book, Denis O'Hearn and former hunger striker Laurence McKeown have written an illustrated children's version entitled I Arose This Morning, which has also been translated into Irish.

The authors plan to distribute the book to every Irish language primary school and want it to become part of the syllabus.

Mr McKeown said the book was in essence a simplified story of Bobby Sands, which someone aged from nine to 14 could read and appreciate.

H-blocks

He said that the events of that time were now history and could feel distant, even to him, but that to children it could seem like a different world.

"It's about that time in history and the life of an ordinary person, what he did with that life and the impact he had," he said.

The impact of the hunger strike was huge and is already taught in history lessons in Northern Ireland's post-primary schools.

Mr McKeown said he did not want to get "hung up" on the age range the book was aimed at and that it could be read as easily by adults as children.

He said the reason for the Irish translation was that prison was where he learnt the language.

"I learnt Irish in prison, it was part of the whole protest situation in the H-blocks," he said.

Whether the book itself will form the basis of lessons could be a moot point.

A spokesperson for the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers told the Irish News in Belfast teachers tried to provide a "balanced view".

"If a document or material was directly biased a teacher wouldn't deliver that information, they would prepare their own material," he said.

"If a school was going to use something like that there should be a counter to it.

"We are not in the age of burning books."

A simultaneous launch of both the English and Irish language versions published by Beyond the Pale Publications and Coisceim, respectively, will take place in An Culturlann on Belfast's Falls Road on Saturday.


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