July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

O’Rawe responds to Gibney (2006)

Former Blanketman Speaks Out Against ‘Vitriolic Attack’

Richard O’Rawe, Irish News • 15 May 2006

A fellow republican said to me last week that over the period of Bobby Sands’ anniversary, the republican movement had done everything except paint the Star of David on my windows and daub Juden Raus on my front door.

I laughed when he made that analogy but when I had time to think about it, I don’t think he was too wide off the mark.

The recent attempts to demonise me from on high, the vitriol, raw hatred and the ferocious endeavours to destroy my integrity have, in terms of sheer viciousness, been unprecedented within the republican family.

The same republican pointed out that Freddie Scappaticci had not received such a ‘battering.’

Sinn Fein’s silence on the question of this super-tout contrasted sharply with their crazed attacks on my character. An agent, it seems, is better thought of than a blanketman. Scap apparently had both the republican movement’s blessing and its promise of ‘omerta’ as he made haste from Dodge, his saddlebags full of Brit money.

Yet when audacity arose to challenge mendacity, I got the jackboot on the neck treatment. No free passage to Italy in my case. But then Scap was the leadership’s man. I was not.

The root cause of their anger is that they are losing the argument about what actually happened in the days that preceded hunger striker Joe McDonnell’s death and they know it. They are losing the argument wherever they make it, in print or on TV and everyone can see that.

Denis Bradley, who had previously acted as an intermediary between the British government and the republican leadership, has confirmed in a recent RTE documentary that the Brits had made an offer to end the hunger strike – before Joe McDonnell died.

Danny Morrison has also confirmed that an offer had been made, most recently when he was interviewed on RTE Morning Ireland 10 days ago. So has Hugh Logue who was involved with the Irish Commission during this part of the prison protest.

Contrast this with Bik McFarlane’s interview with UTV’s Fearghal McKinney on February 28 2005, on the day that my book, Blanketmen, was published in which he responded to a question about the British proposal by saying that there was no offer “whatsoever.”

Later he tried to amend this by saying: “There was no concrete proposals whatsoever in relation to a deal.”

So Morrison and Bradley say there was an offer – as does Hugh Logue – but Bik at first said there wasn’t, then that it wasn’t ‘concrete.’

It washes just about as much as we did during the blanket ‘dirty’ protest. Bik and Danny should have got their story right before going public because they now look downright silly.

This is what lies at the heart of the dispute between myself and those who pretend that the prison leadership did not convey their intent to settle up and save lives.

It is what prompted Jim Gibney to write a vituperative piece in The Irish News on Thursday May 11, which is so full of distortions and mutilations of the truth that it actually takes the breath away.

I wish to single out one of his allegations for special reply.

He claimed that the conversation between myself and Bik in which we agreed the British offer should be accepted, was not overheard by my cellmate. Does he have any evidence to back this up?

I now challenge him to produce it or withdraw the charge.

At no point have I sought to enlist my cellmate’s public support for my position and risk exposing him to the hate campaign that would surely follow where he to confirm my account.

But now that Jim Gibney has brought my cellmate into this, I strenuously challenge him to provide the evidence that my cellmate heard no conversation. I am confident he won’t or can’t.

There is another allegation which is so stunning in its inaccuracy that it must be answered.

He says that for 24 years I never mentioned this offer to any ex-prisoners. Such a ridiculous statement to make!

How could Gibney know the context of conversations I had with other ex-prisoners over a 24 year period? And what a selective memory he has!

Several years ago, when he and I were in Danny Morrison’s company in the Rock Bar, I told him about the British offer and that myself and Bik had told the leadership it was acceptable.

The fact is, I told many ex-prisoners about this as many of them, I am sure, can confirm.

In keeping the best nonsense to the last, Gibney writes: “O’Rawe stands alone in this, awkwardly close to those who stood with Thatcher 25 years ago this year.”

I stand with Thatcher? What a strange aspersion from someone so eager to stand beside Paisley.

As one of the blanketmen, I stand with the hunger strikers, Jim, six of whose deaths in 1981 have yet to be explained by the leadership of which you were a part.

Sourced from The Blanket

Category: 2006, Irish News, Media, Richard O'Rawe, Statements, The Blanket

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

There's an inner thing in every man,
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