Anti H-Block was the political label used in 1981 by supporters of the Irish republican hunger strike who were standing for election in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. "H-Block" was a metonym for the Maze Prison, within whose H-shaped blocks the hunger strike was taking place.

Anti H-Block
LeaderCollective leadership
Founded1981 (1981)
Dissolved1981 (1981) (merged into Sinn Féin)
IdeologyIrish republicanism
The Five Demands

Bobby Sands, the first of these hunger strikers, was nominated in the Westminster April 1981 by-election in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. After his victory and death, the Representation of the People Act was passed to prevent convicted prisoners serving sentences of more than one year from standing for Parliament in the United Kingdom, so Owen Carron, Sands' agent, stood as an "Anti-H-Block Proxy Political Prisoner" and won the seat in the subsequent by-election.[1][2]

In the Republic of Ireland's general election in June 1981 twelve candidates ran under the Anti H-Block banner, nine of whom were prisoners. Kieran Doherty and Paddy Agnew won seats in Cavan–Monaghan and Louth respectively, while both Joe McDonnell and Martin Hurson narrowly missed election in Sligo–Leitrim and Longford–Westmeath .[3] Eamonn Sweeney noted that:

Altogether, H-Block candidates averaged 15% of the first-preference vote in constituencies they contested. This was a remarkable performance, given that they had been without money, television exposure (thanks to censorship laws), or any sympathetic media. It was probably beyond the wildest dreams of even their director of elections, Daithi O Conaill, who said the day before the election that "if the H-Block prisoner candidates get between 2,500 and 3,000 votes they will have put up a credible performance"[4]

The successes of the Anti H-Block movement galvanised the Irish republican movement, and led to the entry the following year into mainstream electoral politics of Sinn Féin.

Candidates in the 1981 Irish general electionEdit

Nine candidates were officially endorsed by the Anti H-Block committee, eight of which were imprisoned at the time. Three other candidates also ran as Anti H-Block candidates, but it is unknown[by whom?] whether they received formal backing.

Endorsed candidates:

     Denotes candidates elected to Dáil Éireann

Constituency Candidate Paramilitary and political affiliation 1st Pref. votes % Notes
Cavan–Monaghan Kieran Doherty Provisional IRASinn Féin 9,121 15.10 Elected on the fourth count
Clare[5] Tom McAllister INLAIrish Republican Socialist Party 2,120 4.68
Cork North-Central Mairéad Farrell Provisional IRASinn Féin 2,751 6.05
Dublin West[6] Anthony O'Hara INLAIrish Republican Socialist Party 3,034 6.49 Candidate was the brother of Patsy O'Hara
Kerry North[7] Seán McKenna Provisional IRASinn Féin 3,860 11.26
Longford–Westmeath[8] Martin Hurson Provisional IRASinn Féin 4,573 10.08 Was not eliminated. Deemed not elected on last count
Louth Paddy Agnew Provisional IRASinn Féin 8,368 18.29 Topped the Poll
Sligo–Leitrim Joe McDonnell Provisional IRASinn Féin 5,639 11.82 Eliminated on fourth count
Waterford[9] Kevin Lynch INLAIrish Republican Socialist Party 3,337 7.63


Other candidates:

Constituency Candidate Political affiliation 1st Pref. votes % Notes
Cork South-West Sean Kelleher[12] Independent Anti H-Block 1,097 3.25 Son of Tom Kelleher member of the Cork IRA during the war of independence.
Dublin North-Central Vincent Doherty[12] People's Democracy/National H Block/Armagh Committee 1,481 3.65 Stood in the Taoiseach Charles Haughey's constituency.
Dublin North-East Paddy Healy[12] League for a Workers Republic/Trade Unionists against the H-Blocks 1,063 3.65 Brother of Seamus Healy TD.


Paddy Healy served as Secretary of the National H-Block Trade Union Committee; he resigned in protest at the winding-down of the campaign in the Republic of Ireland following the death of Bobby Sands, despite several remaining on hunger strike and subsequently dying.


  1. ^ "The Hunger Strike of 1981 – A Chronology of Main Events". CAIN. Archived from the original on 31 May 2007. Retrieved 26 May 2007.
  2. ^ Nicholas Whyte (25 March 2003). "Fermanagh and South Tyrone 1973–1982". Northern Ireland Social and Political Archive. Archived from the original on 7 June 2007. Retrieved 26 May 2007.
  3. ^ General Election: 11 June 1981 Sligo–Leitrim
  4. ^ Down Down Deeper and Down: Ireland in the 70's and 80's pg 233 – Eamonn Sweeney
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^ a b Down Down Deeper and Down pg232–233 – Eamonn Sweeney
  12. ^ a b c Other Candidates – Remembering 1981: Hunger Strikers among candidates in 26 Counties Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine