Now in the 65th day of his hunger strike the death of Bobby Sands seems increasingly imminent.
Bobby Sands has not regained consciousness since he slipped into a coma on 3 May 1981. His family are now keeping a permanent bedside vigil from a room allotted to them in the Maze prison hospital.
Bobby Sands' father John and brother-in-law stayed overnight at the prison hospital. They were joined shortly before 10am by his mother Rosaleen and sister Marcella.
Meanwhile the world's press watched the proceedings from their position outside the prison.
There are now reckoned to be more foreign journalists in the North than at any time in the past ten years.
Some sporadic violence broke out in West Belfast but there was no serious damage.
An RTÉ News report broadcast on 4 May 1981. The reporter is Michael Good.