July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Thatcher’s ‘offer to hunger strikers’

Thatcher’s ‘offer to hunger strikers’
Former priest reveals how IRA spurned PM’s compromise deal to save prisoners’ lives in 1981

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
The Observer, Sunday 30 April 2006

Margaret Thatcher offered a compromise deal that would have ended the 1981 hunger strike early and saved six of the remaining prisoners who went on to die, according to the man who maintained a secret link between successive British governments and the Provisionals.

DenisBradley2Denis Bradley, the link in Derry for more than two decades between MI5 and the IRA, claims that the IRA leadership had been handed a deal in early July 1981 – which eventually the prisoners did accept, but only after six more of their comrades had starved to death. Bradley’s account contradicts claims by loyal supporters of Gerry Adams that there had been no offer on the table in July that could have ended the hunger strike after four prisoners died.

Last night Richard O’Rawe, the IRA’s spokesman in the H-Blocks at the time of the hunger strike, said Bradley’s recollection of a deal endorsed by Thatcher bolstered his own claim that the external republican leadership vetoed the compromise for electoral gains.

O’Rawe has contended that the July deal was spurned because Sinn Fein and the IRA’s high command believed prolonging the strike would get their candidate Owen Carron elected as MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone in a by-election caused by the death of Bobby Sands.

Bradley reveals the existence of Thatcher’s offer in a two-part documentary on the hunger strike. The former priest and one-time confidant of Martin McGuinness recalls that ‘there was a phone call on a particular night direct to Maggie Thatcher as she was on her way to a conference in Portugal, and the agreement was, and what she was offering that night, was basically what the hunger strikers settled for.’

The deal offered would have met most of the prisoners’ demands. IRA inmates would have been able to wear their own clothes; be segregated from loyalists; work in prison would have been orientated towards education; and the prisoners would get their own parcels from outside.

The demand for free association was not agreed in this offer.

Bradley accepts that there may be some dispute about the offer but adds that the story he heard from others involved in the ‘back channel’ involving MI5 and the IRA was that there was a ‘representative of the republican movement who was in the room, or who was called for to be in the room… that he was there when a phone call was coming through.’

Bradley says this senior republican was not directly offered the deal from Thatcher ‘but she made an offer of doing the settlement basically on the grounds of what was ultimately settled for, and the person who was on the phone, involved in this linkage, said to the person from the republican movement: “I think you have to take this offer. You should take this offer.” And I think the answer was, no, I think it has to be the prisoners who have to make that up and it didn’t happen and it [the hunger strike] went on.’

O’Rawe, author of a controversial book Blanketmen, argues that this offer was agreed by himself and the IRA’s commanding officer in the Maze, Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane. But McFarlane said last year that ‘there was no offer whatsoever’.

The first part of Hunger Strike is broadcast on RTE 1 at 10.15pm on Tuesday and the second part is on 9 May at the same time.

Sourced from The Guardian

Category: 2006, Margaret Thatcher, Mountain Climber

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One Response

  1. […] dealings with IRA go back to hunger strikes (by Henry McDonald, The Observer) See also: Thatcher’s ‘offer to hunger strikers’ […]


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