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Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Monsignor Faul regrets his ‘late intervention’ (2005)

Monsignor Faul regrets his ‘late intervention’

(Catherine Morrison, Irish News)

A key player in the 1981 hunger strikes last night (Monday) said he regretted not intervening earlier in the protest.

Monsignor Denis Faul, was a regular visitor at the Maze prison at the time and a supporter of the prisoners’ families.

Mgr Faul described how, by the end of June 1981, he believed the strikes were all but over.

Four prisoners had died agonising slow deaths from starvation, but unbeknownst to Mgr Faul at the time, six more would die before the protest was brought to an end.

“The prisoners had gotten to wear their own clothes and I remember distinctly going into the prison at the end of June, and many [prisoners] were of the opinion the strike should stop,” he said.

“I went on holiday – I thought the whole thing was over.”

But by the time Mgr Faul returned to the prison, two more men – Joe McDonnell and Martin Hurson – had died.

“I called a meeting on 28 July in Toomebridge – all the relations were there and they all decided unanimously that they wanted the strike ended,” he said.

“We headed down to Belfast to meet Adams at 12 midnight and had a long discussion until about 2.30am. We told him he was to get an order from the IRA [to stop the strike].

“We pushed our point and were very blunt about it. The families had a clear cut request.

“They [the republican prisoners] had got the clothes and if they stopped, they would get the rest.”

Mgr Faul recalled Gerry Adams agreeing to the families request, and said he would go to the Maze to talk to the prisoners.

“But the next day Mr Adams phoned me and said he was bringing somebody into the prison with him – Owen Carron.

“My heart sank.

“I was suspicious, was this for political reasons?

“We gave the IRA the opportunity to end it, I went back to the families and told them to take them off the strike as soon as the men became unconscious.

“But by that stage the political aim had been met and the election was over.”

Richard O’Rawe, in his book Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike, contends that the IRA army council and Sinn Féin leadership may have decided to keep the strike going for political gain.

If that was the case, Mgr Faul said, that claim is potentially devastating for the republican leadership and more so, for the families of the hunger strikers.

“If these men died for votes it would be a sad event,” he said.

“I mean, what was important – the votes or their lives? It is damaging if it is true and I regret I did not intervene earlier.”

March 4, 2005
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This article appeared first in the March 1, 2005 edition of the Irish News.

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Category: 2005, Irish News, Media, News articles

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