Sands funeral: an appeal to unite

The funeral of Bobby Sands was a massive spectacle, said to be the biggest of its kind ever seen here, filled with black flags, marching IRA youths -- and contrasts, Monitor correspondent David K. Willis reports.

Inside the low, circular brick walls of St. Luke's Roman Catholic Church the Rev. Liam Mullan looked out at a grim-faced congregation and called for all Christians in Northern Ireland to unite in peace.

He urged an end to violence, appealed to parents to teach their children Christlike behavior, and asked for prayers not only for Mr. Sands but for a Protestant policeman shot to death in Belfast the night before.

Minutes later, four Catholics waiting outside for the funeral procession to start said angrily that they would support the hunger-strike movement until Britain was forced out of Northern Ireland.

A young construction worker from Sands' constituency in Fermanagh accused British soldiers of murdering Catholics, and spoke contemptuously of "British justice."

A Belfast man who, like thousands of others, had left his job to walk in the funeral procession said that more and more prisoners would fast to death until the British government recognized their demands for political status and a united Ireland.

Entire Catholic housing projects emptied as more than 50,000 people walked four miles under rainy skies through the Milltown Cemeter y, where masked Provisional IRA gunmen, officially outlawed, fired a volley of rifle shots before the burial.

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