July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Derry Journal: ‘There was no offer to end hunger strike’– ex-prisoner

‘There was no offer to end hunger strike’– ex-prisoner
Date: 08 April 2008
By Staff reporter

A CLAIM that the lives of six IRA Hunger Strikers including Derry men Michael Devine and Dungiven’s Kevin Lynch could have been saved by a British deal has finally been dispelled.

A former blanket man from County Derry has hit out at claims in Belfast newspapers in recent weeks claiming that he was witness to a deal six weeks after the death of another Derry hunger striker Patsy O’Hara.

Blanket man Richard O’Rawe has sparked controversy in the past year by claiming in his book that the British government had offered a deal in early July 1981. He claimed the British ‘deal’ would have met three of the five IRA demands and claimed the offer was shouted to him, in Irish, by fellow prisoner Brendan McFarlane.

McFarlane has consistently denied the claim, saying an offer was made but that this offer did not amount to a deal and fell short of what the prisoners were demanding at the time.

Last week O’Rawe repeated his claim in the ‘Irish News’, this time quoting a cellmate backing him up.

However, the ‘Journal’ has learned that the former cellmate was County Derry man Colm Scullion.

And yesterday Mr Scullion told us: “I wrote to the ‘Irish News’ to complain about the article because it quoted Richard O’Rawe saying that he had been, in some way, vindicated by his cellmate at the time. The letter has not appeared as yet. I believe the article is a reference to me because I was on the blanket and shared a cell with Richard at this time during the hunger strike in July 1981.

“What is being said is untrue. There was no deal. I agree with Richard that there was certainly an offer which Richard was made aware of by Brendan McFarlane who was a few cells away. I didn’t hear anything like what Richard is saying. We all desperately hoped that there would be a deal. Unfortunately, the British government refused to stand over or verify what it was offering. It refused to send any of its representatives into meet the hunger strikers and tragically Joe McDonnell died and his death was followed by five more of our comrades.”

Mr Scullion insisted there had never been any deal, only an offer which the British failed to follow up or discuss. And he was in no doubt as to who he believed was to blame for the deaths of all ten hunger strikers, including the six who died after the so-called ‘offer’.

“Mrs Thatcher and her government were responsible for their deaths,” he said.

The alleged incident has been the subject of continued controversy since O’Rawe’s claims emerged 25 years after the hunger strikes.

Derry man Brendan Duddy was working through his Foreign Office contacts to broker a deal.

In a TV documentary on BBC last month he sobbed as he read out a letter sent to him by the first hunger striker to die Bobby Sands.

O’Rawe claims three of the five demands were met on July 5, two days before the death of a fifth hunger striker Joe McDonnell.

He insists that it offered that IRA inmates could wear their own clothes, have remission restored and enjoy more visits and letters.Work could include education, though free association in the wings would be banned.

O’Rawe claims McFarlane shouted what was offered out to him. They spoke in Irish, he claimed, so that prison officers could not understand the conversation.

However McFarlane vehemently – and now Scullion – deny any such conversation took place.

Republicans had insisted in July 1981 that a government official would stand over any offer as the IRA/INLA had called off a hunger strike in 1980 before any meeting took place, only to find the British had reneged on the deal.

Sourced from The Derry Journal

Category: 2008, Colm Scullion, Derry Journal, Media, Statements

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

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