July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike


An Online Historical Reference Guide to the 1981 Hunger Strike

This website is a resource for those who are interested in the truth of the events of July, 1981, during the hunger strike. Allegations that an offer was made by the British government, with the approval of Thatcher, that contained 4 of the 5 demands of the striking prisoners, which the prison leadership of the hunger strike, Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane (Officer Commanding) and Richard O’Rawe (Public Relations Officer) accepted first surfaced into the wider public with the publication of O’Rawe’s memoirs of the hunger strike, Blanketmen, in March 2005. Since then, the question of whether there was an offer from the British and if so, why the outside leadership of the time, Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison, Martin McGuinness, Jim Gibney and Tom Hartley, rejected the offer has challeged the traditional narrative of the hunger strike. With the release of contemporary documents from the British which detail the offer made, and the confirmation from the Mountain Climber link, Brendan Duddy, that the offer documented was the offer he delivered to Martin McGuinness in Derry, the only question remaining is why the outside leadership rejected the British offer, overruling the prison leadership and prolonging the hunger strike through six more deaths.

Using this website, those who are interested in the subject can find links to primary sources, videoes, documents and news articles so that a fully informed look at history can be obtained.

Much of this information has been pulled from the very well researched series of “Rusty Nail” posts on the popular Slugger O’Toole website.

It is hoped that by collating all the available information, people will be able to better understand the events of July, 1981, and why, all told, 10 men had to die.

This reference guide is organised chronologically. It has indexes by date and subject; clicking into a subject or date will open into one post – use the ‘Next’ link to move through the full section, from newest item to oldest. Each post contains a link to the original online source, where possible. Links to other sources, including books, websites and articles for further reading are provided.

Full index of site ordered by date


55 Hours: A day-by-day account of the events of early July, 1981.

Using the timeline created with documents from ‘Mountain Climber’ Brendan Duddy’s diary of ‘channel’ communications, official papers from the Thatcher Foundation Archive, excerpts from former Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald’s autobiography, David Beresford’s Ten Men Dead, Padraig O’Malley’s book Biting at the Grave, and INLA: Deadly Divisions by Jack Holland and Henry McDonald, Danny Morrison’s published timelines, as well as first person accounts and the books of Richard O’Rawe and Gerry Adams, the fifty-five hours of secret negotiations between British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Gerry Adams’ emerging IRA leadership group are examined day by day.

The Five Demands

1. The Right not to wear a prison uniform;
2. The Right not to do prison work;
3. The Right of free association with other prisoners;
4. The Right to organize their own educational and recreational facilities;
5. The Right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week.

The July offer from Thatcher

I. Extend to all male prisoners in Northern Ireland the clothing regime at present available to female prisoners in Armagh Prison (i.e. subject to the prison governor’s approval);

II. Make available to all prisoners in Northern Ireland the allowance of letters, parcels and visits at present available to conforming prisoners;

III. Allow the restoration of forfeited remission at the discretion of the responsible disciplinary authority, as indicated in my statement of 30 June, which hitherto has meant the restoration of up to one-fifth of remission lost subject to a satisfactory period of good behaviour;

IV. Ensure that a substantial part of the work will consist of domestic tasks inside and outside the wings necessary for servicing of the prison (such as cleaning and in the laundries and kitchens), constructive work, e.g. on building projects or making toys for charitable bodies, and study for Open University or other courses. The prison authorities will be responsible for supervision. The aim of the authorities will be that prisoners should do the kinds of work for which they are suited, but this will not always be possible and the authorities will retain responsibility for decisions about allocation.

3. Little advance is possible on association. It will be permitted within each wing, under supervision of the prison staff.

4. Protesting prisoners have been segregated from the rest. Other prisoners are not segregated by religious or any other affiliation. If there were no protest the only reason for segregating some prisoners from others would be the judgment of the prison authorities, not the prisoners, that this was the best way to avoid trouble between groups.


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A day-by-day account of the events of early July, 1981.

There's an inner thing in every man,
Do you know this thing my friend? It has withstood the blows of a million years, and will do so to the end.