July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Was my father’s death PR exercise? (2005)

Was my father’s death PR exercise?

(Seamus McKinney and Catherine Morrison, Irish News)

The son of a Derry hunger striker has voiced concerns over claims that the republican leadership could have allowed his father to die for political gain.

Michael Devine, whose father Mickey was the last of the 10 men to die in the 1981 protest, was speaking after publication of Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-block Hunger Strike.

The book’s author, Richard O’Rawe, was a public relations officer for the hunger strikers in the Maze. Along with IRA prisoners’ ‘OC’ Brendan Bik McFarlane, he was closely in-volved in the day-to-day events of the hunger strike.

Mr O’Rawe has claimed that the British government offered to meet four of the prisoners’ five demands after the death of the fourth hunger striker, Derry man Patsy O’Hara.

But in a startling allegation denied by other republicans yesterday he said that while he and Mr McFarlane wanted to accept the deal, it was rejected by the IRA’s army council.

Mr O’Rawe suggests one interpretation is that the six men who went on to die were sacrificed for political gain, to ensure Owen Carron’s election to the Westminster seat left vacant by the death of Bobby Sands.

He writes: “If that were so, Joe [McDonnell] and the five other hunger strikers who died after him [Sands] were used as cannon fodder.”

Mr Carron was elected to the Fermanagh/South Tyrone seat in August 1981.

Now a teacher in Co Leitrim, he refused to comment on Mr O’Rawe’s book, as did Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.

Michael Devine (31) last night said that if Mr O’Rawe’s allegations were true, it could mean his father need not have died.

Stressing that he wished to find out more about the claims, he said: “My thoughts are that it may have been a PR exercise to gain support.”

However, Mr McFarlane was among a number of republicans who denied the book’s claims.

“It did not happen. No deal was offered to the hunger strikers whereby they could say it was acceptable,” he said.

March 3, 2005
This article appeared first in the March 1, 2005 edition of the Irish News.

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Category: 2005, Families, Irish News, Media, News articles, Statements

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