July 1981

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Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

The Sile Darragh letter

Disputed events during hunger strike
Tue, Apr 21, 2009

Madam, – Richard O’Rawe (April 10th) claims that Brendan “Bik” McFarlane denies there was an offer to end the 1981 hunger strike, and other people, including spokespersons for the IRSP, have said that it knew nothing of an offer until Richard O’Rawe published his book in 2005.

I have before me, David Beresford’s book Ten Men Dead which was published in 1987 and which presumably Richard O’Rawe has read. Here are some quotes from 1981: “The Foreign Office, in its first offer . . .” (p293); “a vague offer” p294; “parts of their offer were vague” – Brendan McFarlane (p295); “nothing extra on offer” (p295); “what was on offer” (p297); “he [Gerry Adams] told the two men [Fr Crilly and Hugh Logue of the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace] what the Government had been offering” (p297). On p294 and p302 it reports that Danny Morrison in the prison hospital told the hunger strikers (Joe McDonnell, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Tom McElwee and Mickey Devine) the details of what the British appeared to be offering. So much for Mr O’Rawe claiming they were kept in the dark.

Mr O’Rawe didn’t speak to the hunger strikers, didn’t visit the prison hospital or meet the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace.

This whole matter will be put to rest when he grasps the difference between an offer and a deal (which the British refused to stand over). – Yours, etc,

SÍLE DARRAGH,

Ex-Armagh Gaol POW,
Strand Walk, Belfast.

armagh

 

Sourced from the Irish Times

“Rusty Nail”: When in a hole…

Sunday, April 19, 2009

When in a hole…
Rusty Nail at the Slugger O’Toole website

The questions over the July 5th hunger strike deal still go on. Danny Morrison is very disappointed Liam Clarke did not have a full story about the issue in this week’s Sunday Times (don’t worry, Danny, this story is one that is set to run and run, as long as answers aren’t forthcoming; just because it may have been quiet one weekend does not guarantee silence the next!). He uses his position as the secretary of the Bobby Sands Trust to complain about Clarke’s handling of the story. One wonders would that handbaggery not be better suited to his own website rather than sullying the Sands Trust with it but, no matter, it’s out there now. And so to cast our jaundiced eye:

First, the good news: he has retreated from his ridiculous premise that the it was the British reneging on a deal over the first hunger strike that led the second hunger strikers to not accept the deal on offer in July 81. That assertion of his only made him look more foolish than not, especially as there was no deal for the British to renege on given the hunger strike was called off first. (See comments of Danny’s under Documents Still Withheld) Well done, Danny, that is a subtle but masterful retreat from an untenable position.

However, Danny Morrison has managed to escape one hole only to furiously dig himself into another bigger one. This one is to do with Sean Flynn’s running into him at at Long Kesh. Danny’s recollection and piqueish questions can be found in his self-referential article at the Trust site, Sunday Times Refuses to Publish Answers.

Morrison put to Clarke a number of questions.
“Did you ask him [Sean Flynn] how does he explain getting into the jail on a Sunday? The only way he could have gotten in was by arrangement with a representative of the British [which is how I got in]. He can’t on the one hand say that the IRSP knew nothing about contacts with the British and then be claiming that he got into the jail by arrangement with a rep from the British. It is a basic contradiction. Did you ask him who drove him to the prison? Did you ask him what entrance did he use? Did you ask him what business was he on?”
Clarke replied: “Yes I asked him all that. He is trying to get me the number of the person who brought him and has already given me the name. He says he was rung by the NIO to go to the prison after being told that there was the possibility of a breakthrough and seems to have assumed that was about the ICJP [Irish Commission for Justice and Peace]. He says he got in as a result of the NIO call that there was a possibility of a breakthrough. He says he did not know of any secret goings on beyond the ICJP though he says there was suspicion in IRSP circles that there might be something they weren’t being told about.”
Morrison again emailed Liam Clarke for Sean Flynn’s detailed replies to the questions he posed: “Well, if he has answered all those questions he will have said whether he asked the INLA hunger strikers what I was doing there and what I told them. So, what was his answer?”
Liam Clarke did not furnish Morrison with Flynn’s replies nor did he publish them in today’s edition of the Sunday Times. He merely tags on at the end of another story the following statement: “Last week I wrote that Danny Morrison visited the Maze prison twice on June 5, 1981 and that Sean Flynn, an IRSP leader, was with him on the second visit. Morrison says he only visited the prison once that day and did not see Flynn. Flynn is equally adamant that he met Morrison in the Maze that evening.”
“Sean Flynn’s allegations,” says Morrison, “explicitly claim that INLA hunger striker Kevin Lynch knew nothing about exchanges at resolving the prison crises, other than the ICJP initiative, despite my presence in the jail to apprise them of just that. It seems strange that Sean Flynn makes no mention of meeting Micky Devine, whom presumably he would have met given that he says the NIO phoned him to go to the prison hospital because of “the possibility of a breakthrough”. Could it be that this is an indication that he has got his days mixed up? I am asking Sean Flynn to release the answers to my questions which the Sunday Times has refused to publish. Furthermore, given that he claims he went into the jail with me could he tell us what we talked about? For example: ‘What are you doing in here, Danny? What do you think is happening? Do you know anything of the ‘breakthrough’ the NIO telephoned me about?’ and a host of other relevant life and death questions. I await a full response.”

These questions bring to mind the old quip about a good lawyer never asking questions he doesn’t already know the answer to (hold the jokes about good lawyers, please). Of course we presume Morrison knows the answers to these already but is doing a poor bluff thinking no one else does.

Fortunately for Slugger readers, Rusty has a copy of Jack Holland’s and Henry McDonald’s INLA: Deadly Divisions to hand, where the answers to all Morrison’s questions can be found.

First, on page 175 of the 1994 edition:

The IRSP leadership discussed the dangers of being swamped by the Provisionals. They were concerned about having to accept statements from the Provos on behalf of INLA prisoners. Sean Flynn, Gerry Roche and Osgur Breatnach arranged a meeting with the INLA’s bigger brother to straighten out such issues. It was agreed that the PRO of the strikers – Bik McFarlane – could deal only with issues of harassment of the prisoners, and that he could not make any deal as a result of negotiations unless the INLA’s representative had taken part in them. 

Let’s let that sink in a moment before moving on.

Next, on page 179:

The Provisionals not only lacked the will to co-operate on a united front basis but the IRSP suspected them of being engaged in secret negotiations with the British. Shortly before Joe McDonnell’s death, Councillor Flynn received a telephone call from a man in the Northern Ireland Office, who told him to go to Long Kesh. “There are developments,” was all he said. Even though it was late at night, Flynn went, accompanied by Seamus Ruddy. The NIO official, who refused to give his name, met him, and revealed that there had been discussions between Sinn Fein and the government and that it looked like they might settle. Flynn was given permission to go into the jail and speak to Lynch and Devine, who corroborated the NIO man’s assertion but said that the five demands were not being met, so whatever the Provisionals did, the INLA hunger strikers would not budge. Flynn could not get the official to reveal what was being offered. Later, when he confronted the Provisionals, they denied that they were engaged in any secret talks with the NIO.

Clarke could also ask Flynn for Danny which Provisional it was that he confronted about the secret talks at the time, couldn’t he?

While he is at it, he may want to ask Jake Jackson about this too, and perhaps Sid Walsh and Padraig O’Malley. Certainly O’Malley’s previous interviews have already proven helpful to this issue, what with his interview with MI5 agent John Blelloch getting so much play by Morrison. His interview with Jackson would likely be just as much if not possibly more illuminating to the question at hand, given this quote from his book, Biting at The Grave, 1990, page 96, where the events of 5-8th of July are discussed. Here we find another of Morrison’s questions to Liam Clarke answered:

According to Jake Jackson, the only people he could say knew for sure about the Mountain Climber initiative at that point were himself, McFarlane, block OCs Pat McGeown, and Sid Walsh and the PRO Richard O’Rawe, and the hunger striker Joe McDonnell. As for the rest, he says, it would have been on “a need-to-know basis”: the closer a hunger striker was to dying the more likely he was to know. Micky Devine and Kevin Lynch, the INLA members, wouldn’t have been informed, one way or the other, nor would the hunger strikers who were still on the blocks.

This has been confirmed elsewhere with Gerard Hodgins asserting had he any idea about this deal he wouldn’t have gone on hunger strike. From Slugger previously:

Former hunger striker Gerard Hodgins has said, “If I had had the full facts at the time — that there was a deal on offer — I definitely wouldn’t have had anything to do with the strike.”

Former INLA hunger striker, Liam McCloskey, who went on hunger strike after the secret deal fell through, according to the Sunday Times “believed the offer would have been enough for him if the leadership of the INLA, of which he was a member, had endorsed it.” This forms a picture of men going on hunger strike without being in possession of the full facts of what had gone on before they joined the strike.

So Danny Morrison today has questions he wants answered. Good. He’s not the only one.

 

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

Bobby Sands Trust: Sunday Times Refuses to Publish Answers

Sunday Times Refuses to Publish Answers
April 19, 2009 · Bobby Sands Trust

On Sunday 12th April last the Sunday Times printed an allegation from Sean Flynn (IRSP) that he had visited INLA hunger striker Kevin Lynch on Sunday 5th July in 1981 and that Kevin Lynch “knew nothing” about behind-the-scenes attempts to resolve the prison crisis. Flynn, according to Liam Clarke, also claimed that he “went into the prison with him [Morrison] on the second of his [Morrison’s] two visits that day.”

Danny Morrison challenged Clarke’s report and Flynn’s account. Clarke had been in regular contact with Morrison in the days before he wrote his report yet never put the allegation to Morrison.
Read the rest of this entry »

“Rusty Nail”: What were the hunger strikers told?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What were the hunger strikers told?
Rusty Nail at the Slugger O’Toole website

Liam Clarke follows up on last week’s story about the 1981 hunger strike and secret deals in today’s Sunday Times. This week, it is members of the IRSP, including one former INLA hunger striker, whose memories of the time cast more doubt on the Sinn Fein denials and Morrison narrative of the hunger strike offer/deal. This follows the direct rebuttal earlier in the week from Kevin McQuillan clearly refuting Danny Morrison’s suggestion on Radio Foyle that he had told McQuillan of the secret deal while McQuillan was driving him to the prison: “This did not happen. If he had of appraised me of such a serious development, my first point of reference would have been to contact the National leadership of the Republican Socialist Movement, in particular those delegated with the struggle within the Blocks. At no point had I cause to.” Willie Gallagher’s statement last week on behalf of the IRSP also undermines Morrison’s claims: “…the IRSP has been speaking to relatives of the three INLA Hunger Strikers, ex-INLA Army Council members who were involved in the Strike at that time and also to the then OC of the INLA prisoners […] All have stated that they were not aware of the ‘back-channel initiative’ or of an ‘acceptance of the content of Thatcher’s offer but not the tone’ by the PIRA in July 8th 1981…Both the then INLA Army Council and the INLA prisoners OC have stated to the IRSP that if they had have been made aware of the content of these developments at that time they would have ordered the INLA prisoners to end their hunger strike.”

Former hunger striker Gerard Hodgins has said, “If I had had the full facts at the time — that there was a deal on offer — I definitely wouldn’t have had anything to do with the strike.”

Former INLA hunger striker, Liam McCloskey, who went on hunger strike after the secret deal fell through, according to the Sunday Times “believed the offer would have been enough for him if the leadership of the INLA, of which he was a member, had endorsed it.” This forms a picture of men going on hunger strike without being in possession of the full facts of what had gone on before they joined the strike.

This picture is fleshed out further:

“Sean Flynn, an IRSP leader […] met Kevin Lynch, an INLA hunger striker and friend of McCloskey, who was to die on August 1. Flynn is quite clear that Lynch “knew nothing about the Mountain Climber or that there was going to be a deal”.

Another then-IRSP leader, Tommy McCourt, also visited the prison: [he] “visited Michael Devine who died on August 20, the last hunger striker to expire. He told Devine that the hunger strike was unlikely to succeed and that if he came off it, the INLA would back him. Devine replied that to end the strike would represent complete defeat and moved the conversation on to his funeral arrangements. He was aware of no honourable way out.”

A clear picture is emerging that the INLA and IRSP were kept completely in the dark regarding the negotiations being conducted by the Adams team and the Mountain Climber. Given the amount of INLA prisoners on hunger strike, and that 3 of their volunteers died on the strike, 2 after the secret deal was claimed to have been accepted by the Provo prisoners’ representatives, O’Rawe and McFarlane, why were the IRSP and INLA kept in the dark?

What were the arrangements between the IRSP, INLA and the PIRA, Sinn Fein, in regards to negotiations with the British? Did the Provo representatives have carte blanche, and no need to keep the IRSP or INLA informed of developments or progression? Was it not required that they keep all hunger strikers, regardless of affiliation, informed? Given that the Provisional IRA Army Council was also kept in the dark regarding the complete activities of the Adams team’s negotiations with the British, the picture emerging of hunger strikers and their representatives also being kept in the dark, and allowed to proceed on hunger strike without being made aware of all that was on the table, is not one that should surprise anyone. It is, however, a terrible blow to the Morrison narrative of what had been, until O’Rawe’s book, the accepted version of the 1981 hunger strike.

 
Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

Why Adams sticks to his Maze myth

From The Sunday Times April 12, 2009

Why Adams sticks to his Maze myth
Liam Clarke

Thatcher’s role in the offer of IRA concessions is no longer of any real importance – but Adams’s is

Sinn Fein was quite disorganised last Sunday after this newspaper published British government documents, released under the Freedom of Information act, about the 1981 hunger strike.

The documents showed that around July 5, 1981 Margaret Thatcher made a substantial offer to the IRA leadership through a secret conduit known as Mountain Climber. The prime minister conceded that republican prisoners could wear their own clothes, and gave ground on other issues.

The offer was not made public at the time and was officially denied after it was turned down. Had it been accepted, the lives of as many as six of the 10 hunger strikers who died might have been saved. The rejected offer was similar to what did actually happen after the hunger strike ended months later.

Sinn Fein wouldn’t comment on the documents before publication, and afterwards told The Irish Times “these allegations are not true. They emanate from British Military Intelligence”. Danny Morrison of the Bobby Sands Trust welcomed the release of the papers but accused me of misinterpreting them. “The British government documents, far from being incriminating, actually corroborate the account of what happened at the time by Sinn Fein [and] surviving hunger strikers,” he claimed.

Both interpretations cannot be true and, judging by the current edition of An Phoblacht, Morrison’s comments are now accepted by Sinn Fein. The documents are reproduced in full in the republican newspaper, while the Sinn Fein press office’s contribution has been quietly dropped.

Denial may still be a fallback position. The only comment on the Bobby Sands Trust website in response to Morrison’s interpretation reads: “Danny, it is just propaganda to drop the leadership into the ashes. Hold your heads up. We have faith in you and your words.”

The schizophrenic reaction shows how difficult this is for Sinn Fein. One of the problems was set out by the Northern Ireland Office as it explained the four years of denial, equivocation and delay in releasing these documents and why it was still withholding the most sensitive material. “Many of those involved in the original issue are still intimately involved in the ongoing political process,” it told me. “To release this information at such a sensitive time might have an adverse impact on the relationship between the British and Irish governments and consequently impact on the completion of devolution of policing and justice powers.”

The main people active in 1981 and still important to the political process are in the Sinn Fein leadership. British and Irish ministers are dead, like Charlie Haughey, or long retired, like Thatcher. Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are still operating at a senior level.

As a result of the peculiar circumstances of Northern Ireland, and their own consummate skills, Adams and McGuinness have survived long enough to accumulate the political baggage and the skeletons in the cupboard that only retired political leaders usually have. This is the most obvious reason why Sinn Fein and the Northern Ireland Office have a common interest in dampening disclosure. While Thatcher was in active politics, it was expedient for the British government to deny offering the IRA concessions. Now it doesn’t matter to the Tories or the British government what she did, but it does to Adams, who received the messages.

For a time, British figures such as Sir John Blelloch and Sir Humphrey Atkins denied any concessions were offered. Now we have official records of discussions between Atkins and Thatcher on this issue, the denials are redundant.

Yet last week Sinn Fein relied on Blelloch’s 1980s denial to maintain its position that the Brits offered nothing worth talking about to Adams, who denies he was ever in the IRA. Since he is the party president, Sinn Fein has to back Adams even if his position makes no sense.

The blanket protest was started in 1976 after Kieran Nugent told prison officers the only way he would wear the garb of a criminal was if they nailed it to his back. The anthem of the subsequent protest, the H Block song, ran: “I’ll wear no convict’s uniform or meekly serve my time/that Britain might brand Ireland’s fight, 800 years of crime.” The issue of prison uniform was the rallying cry of the whole protest. That is why Thatcher’s offer was so significant.

Ending the strike in July 1981 might have spoiled Sinn Fein’s chance of winning the Fermanagh/South Tyrone by-election. As it was, Owen Carron’s victory secured its entry into electoral politics and paved the way for the IRA ceasefire 13 years later. Richard O’Rawe, part of the IRA prison leadership, revealed in Blanketmen how he and Brendan “Bik” McFarlane, the IRA’s prison leader, discussed the British government offer and agreed it could end the hunger strike. McFarlane denied there was any offer, while Morrison says there was but it was not pinned down.

In the face of these contradictory attempts to rubbish his account, O’Rawe appears to be winning the argument. Gerard Hodgins, who was on hunger strike when the protest was called off, is a recent convert to his point of view. When O’Rawe first published his claims, Hodgins sprang to the republican leadership’s defence. “The more I see his spurious accusations in the media, the more I am inclined to believe that he is following a political agenda through which he is happy to intensify and prolong the hurt and anguish the families of our dead friends and comrades endure,” he wrote to the press in May 2006.

Last week Hodgins courageously said he had changed his mind after weighing the evidence, including the recent papers. Describing the issue as a festering sore, he called upon both the British government and the Sinn Fein leadership to “come out with full details to set all this to rest”.

Another former hunger striker, Liam McCloskey, underwent a religious realignment of his life around the time of his 55-day fast and now repudiates violence. Like Hodgins, he went on hunger strike believing that defeat was inevitable. “I didn’t think it would work but I felt a duty to the others and I knew that if I didn’t go on it, someone else would have to take my place,” he said.

McCloskey believed the offer would have been enough for him if the leadership of the INLA, of which he was a member, had endorsed it. However the INLA, three of whose members died on hunger strike, was not given any say.

Danny Morrison is clear that he gave a full explanation of an offer to the hunger strikers on July 5, but Sean Flynn, an IRSP leader who went into the prison with him on the second of his two visits that day, recalls nothing of the kind. Flynn met Kevin Lynch, an INLA hunger striker and friend of McCloskey, who was to die on August 1. Flynn is quite clear that Lynch “knew nothing about the Mountain Climber or that there was going to be a deal”. Lynch died a few weeks later.

Tommy McCourt, now a community worker but then a leader of the IRSP, visited Michael Devine who died on August 20, the last hunger striker to expire. He told Devine that the hunger strike was unlikely to succeed and that if he came off it, the INLA would back him. Devine replied that to end the strike would represent complete defeat and moved the conversation on to his funeral arrangements. He was aware of no honourable way out.

The question is, were he and the last few hunger strikers in possession of all the facts when they made their decision to die? Protecting political positions is no reason to hold back information that could answer this question.

Sourced from The Sunday Times

Richard O’Rawe: Let’s have the whole truth about the Hunger Strike

Let’s have the whole truth about the Hunger Strike

It is encouraging to read (April 7) that Danny Morrison welcomed the newly-released Freedom of Information documents which show that the British government made an offer to end the hunger strike on July 5 1981, three days before hunger striker Joe McDonnell died.

However, the news of this offer reflects badly on the 1981 prison OC, ‘Bik’ McFarlane, who has consistently said that there was ‘no offer whatsoever’.

Whatever possessed Bik to say that in the first place is beyond me as Danny has always admitted the existence of the offer.

This debilitating fracture, which runs right down the spine of the conventional hunger strike story, can only but cast grave doubts on anything Bik McFarlane has said in the past while adding considerable weight to my assertion that he and I accepted the offer and that the outside leadership rejected our acceptance.

In the Freedom of Information documents, it is confirmed that Thatcher approved the offer from No10 Downing Street, but ?they [the PIRA] did not regard it as satisfactory and that they wanted a good deal more?.

As well as that, the documents state that the republican negotiators, Gerry Adams and Danny Morrison, changed their minds when the British warned that they were going to pull the plug on the process, and that this threat: ?produced a very rapid reaction which suggested that it was not the content of the message which they had objected to but only the tone?.

This begs some questions which Adams and Morrison must answer:

– Do they agree with this interpretation?

– If they do, why did they not inform the prison leadership, the hunger strikers, their families, and the Blanketmen about this enormous volte-face?

– If only a Parius softer’ tone stood between hunger strikers living or dying, why did they not make the most strenuous efforts to agree language with the British?

– How is it that the last six hunger strikers died – if there was no fundamental disagreement between them and the British on what constituted a settlement?

Perhaps Adams and Morrison do not agree with the British interpretation of events, as shown in the documents.

If this is the case, why then would Danny ‘welcome’ the documents and say that they ‘corroborated’ his account of events?

– Why are the NIO still blocking the release of information about the hunger strike?

– Is Gerry Adams ever going to break his silence about all this, and give republicans his version of events?

I call on the British to release all documents which they appear to have withheld, including the communications between themselves and Adams and Morrison.

Richard O’Rawe
Irish News, letters, 09/04/2009

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

Statement: Oliver Hughes

Francis Hughes’s family speaks out

francishughes

THE family of Francis Hughes, the second Hunger Striker to die in 1981, have responded to the Sunday Times story. Speaking through Oliver Hughes, they said:
Read the rest of this entry »

Sinn Fein Timeline

Timeline referred to in Sinn Fein statement
*Compare with previous timeline from Danny Morrison, 2006
See also Expanded Timeline 29 June – 12 July 1981

Timeline around Joe McDonnell’s death, 1981 H-Block Hunger Strike

29 June 1981
Four hunger strikers have already died: Bobby Sands on Day 66, Francis Hughes on Day 59, Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O’Hara on Day 61 of their hunger strikes.

Joe McDonnell is on Day 52 without food. NIO Secretary of State Humphrey Atkins reaffirms that political status will not be granted and that implementing changes in the areas of work, clothing and association present “great difficulty” and would only encourage the prisoners to believe that they could achieve status through “the so-called ‘five demands’”.
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Statement: Sinn Fein

Allegations ‘false and without any substance’ – Sinn Féin

10-hunger-strikers2

SINN FÉIN said the claims in The Sunday Times were “nothing new” and have been “comprehensively refuted, both by documentary evidence and witness testimony, when they first appeared in Richard O’Rawe’s book some year ago.”

A Sinn Féin spokesperson described the allegations as “false and without any substance”, adding:

“Indeed, all of the documents, including those published in the Sunday Times, point clearly to a republican leadership seeking to find a resolution and a British side seeking a victory over the prisoners.”

The spokesperson said these include the recent discovery and publication by the Bobby Sands Trust of a previously unpublished interview with Sir John Blelloch, a member of MI5 who had been seconded to the NIO as a Deputy Secretary at the time of the 1980 and 1981 Hunger Strikes (see ‘Timeline’ on facing page and, for the full interview with Blelloch www.bobbysandstrust.com/archives/1069).

The Sinn Féin representative ended by saying:

“If people study the documentary evidence and follow the actual timeline of events then these allegations are exposed for what they are and show clearly where the truth of this matter lies.”

ICJP001

Sinn Fein Timeline

Sourced from An Phoblacht

Statement: Danny Morrison

An Phoblacht, Top Stories: British Government holds back documents on 1981 Hunger Strike‘Sunday Times’ H-Blocks story backfires

AN attempt by The Sunday Times last weekend (5 April) to call into question the republican leadership’s handling of the 1981 H-Blocks Hunger Strike by publishing British Government documents released under the Freedom of Information Act has actually boomeranged on the reporter who wrote the story, Liam Clarke. [Liam Clarke, after being challenged by the Bobby Sands Trust, had to admit last month that a quote he attributed to Bobby Sands and used in a lurid headline – “Sinn Féin is turning into Sands’s dodo” – wasn’t said by Bobby Sands.]

The British Government documents themselves, far from being incriminating, actually corroborate the account of what happened at the time by Sinn Féin, surviving Hunger Strikers, O/C Brendan McFarlane, the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace and detailed research by authors David Beresford, Padraig O’Malley and Denis O’Hearn.
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Bobby Sands Trust: Documents Still Withheld

Documents Still Withheld
April 7, 2009 · Bobby Sands Trust

An attempt by the ‘Sunday Times’ [5th April] to call into question the republican leadership’s handling of the 1981 hunger strike by publishing British government documents released under the Freedom of Information Act has actually boomeranged on the reporter who wrote the story, Liam Clarke. [Liam Clarke, after being challenged by the Bobby Sands Trust, had to admit last month that a quote he attributed to Bobby Sands and used in a lurid headline – “Sinn Fein is turning into Sands’s dodo” – wasn’t said by Bobby Sands.]
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“Rusty Nail”: Did Thatcher Kill All Ten, or only 4?

Did Thatcher Kill All Ten, or only 4?
Rusty Nail at the Slugger O’Toole website

The question over the deaths of the last six hunger strikers still remains. The debate has moved on since the publication of Richard O’Rawe’s Blanketmen, which raised the point that the prisoners had accepted an offer from the British which the outside Republican leadership overruled. When his book first came out, denials from the Sinn Fein camp abounded: there was no offer, there was no deal, there was no conversation, O’Rawe made it all up to sell books. Since then, however, more and more information and confirmation has come out that supports O’Rawe’s contention, and the SF position has moved from total denial to one of agreeing that there was a back channel with Mi6 via the ‘Mountain Climber’ and Brendan Duddy, and that an offer was made and conveyed to the prisoners. But the question still hangs – what happened with the prisoners’ acceptance of that offer/deal? All the irrelevant details explaining the timelines, the different strands of negotiations, who was driving who to the prisons when, avoids the crux of the matter. The prisoners said yes, there is enough there, and the outside said, not quite, which meant six other hunger strikers died. Each argument that the SF camp advances, in the main from Danny Morrison, who is reported to currently be back in their fold, unwittingly gives added weight to O’Rawe’s point. Sooner or later, however, they are going to have to stop the denials and confusion and answer in simple terms. Why were the prisoners over-ruled? And when that answer is given, it had better not be supported by yet more lies.

 
Update: Statement from Kevin McQuillan in response to Danny Morrison
Update: O’Rawe responds to Morrison, Irish News

Sunday:
‘Adams Complicit Over Hunger Strikers?’
NIO Documents on Sunday Times website
“The Thatcher Intervention”, Anthony McIntyre

Monday:
Irish News: Hunger Strike deal ‘must be disclosed’
Irish Times: SF denies claims on hunger strike deaths
Radio Foyle, The Morning Programme (link lasts a week): Willie Gallagher, IRSP and Danny Morrison, begins @ 8 mins

Statement from Kevin McQuillan in response to Danny Morrison’s comments on Radio Foyle:

During the period of the Hunger Strikes(s) I sat on the Belfast Executive of the H-Block, then H-Block/Armagh Committee.  I did so as the Republican Socialist prisoners’ representative. During this I time interacted and consulted with numerous senior members of the provisional movement in relation to the ongoing Prison campaign, and developments therein.

I wish to respond to claims made by Danny Morrison on Radio Foyle, yesterday April 6th 2009. I did take Danny Morrison (as I had other provisional representatives) to Long Kesh in July of 1981.

Whilst I have yet to personally hear the said interview, I am led to believe that Danny Morrison said that I was told of, or was already aware, of a set of proposals that were to be put to the prisoners, and that we had talked of this.

This did not happen. If he had of appraised me of such a serious development, my first point of reference would have been to contact the National leadership of the Republican Socialist Movement, in particular those delegated with the struggle within the Blocks. At no point had I cause to.

Clearly put…it did not happen.

Tuesday:
Irish News: Morrison rubbishes renewed claims of Hunger Strike deal
Bobby Sands Trust: Documents Still Withheld

Thursday:
Irish News: “Let’s have the whole truth about the Hunger Strike”, Richard O’Rawe response to Danny Morrison

IRSP Response to Downing Street Documents 02-04-09

The IRSP believe that these Downing Street documents, at face value, appear to vindicate Richard O’Rawe in the claims he made in regards to this crucial period of the Hunger Strike. These confidential 10 Downing Street letters, which were written contemporaneous, certainly contradict PSF’s version of events from that period. The IRSP have been investigating similar claims that are contained in these documents for quite some time and will be making their conclusions public after examining the evidence in its totality.

Over the past number of days the IRSP has been speaking to relatives of the three INLA Hunger Strikers, ex-INLA Army Council members who were involved in the Strike at that time and also to the then OC of the INLA prisoners about these particular documents. All have stated that they were not aware of the ‘back-channel initiative’ or of an ‘acceptance of the content of Thatcher’s offer but not the tone’ by the PIRA in July 8th 1981 which these documents clearly indicate.

Both the then INLA Army Council and the INLA prisoners OC have stated to the IRSP that if they had have been made aware of the content of these developments at that time they would have ordered the INLA prisoners to end their hunger strike.

Many questions now arise from these documents which only the NIO, PSF, the Mountain Climber and Brendan Duddy can answer and therefore the IRSP would call on all these parties to reveal all the documentation and information that are relevant to this period. The IRSP, on behalf of some of the relatives of the Hunger Strikers, will be seeking meetings with the relevant parties in the very near future.

Michael Devine Junior speaking this morning to the IRSP has stated that -“the families demand and deserve the truth about what really happened during this period. These latest disclosures have added substantial weight to previous claims that the last six hunger strikers lives could have been saved. Did my Father and his five comrades die because a number of individuals didn’t like the tone of Thatcher despite accepting the content of her offer? Why were the families or the prisoners themselves never told about the nature and content of these contacts? I would appeal to SF and the British Government, given their public positions on truth and reconciliation, to tell us the truth and give us closure.”
Willie Gallagher on behalf of the IRSP Executive 02-04-09

From the McIntyre interview with O’Rawe:

About the end of the first (1980) hunger strike:

Q: [Gibney] wrote one time that the peace process does not want truth and cannot function with it. Another time he claimed that Bobby Sands wrote out on the evening of the end of the 1980 hunger strike that he would begin a new hunger strike on the 1st of January. Which meant the Brits had no time to renege on the offer they supposedly made to end the first strike. This was an admission that the first strike collapsed and the Brits did not renege. It also means that Gibney is contradicting himself when he wrote in the Irish News that ‘the document could have been the basis’ to end the protest. Why otherwise would Bobby have written out stating his intention to start a new strike when there was absolutely no time to test the Brits for sincerity? I look for the faux pas rather than the intent in what he writes. I am waiting on you to be labelled a securocrat in that column. The problem is that you support the peace process.

A: Firstly, let’s look at what Gibney said in the first part of his 11 May article. In relation to the Brit document that was delivered to the hunger strikers after they had come off the 1980 strike, he said, ‘hours before the document arrived the strike was ended rather than let Sean McKenna die. The document could have been the basis on which the prison protests ended. However the document was an offer from the British to the prisoners not an agreement. There is a huge difference.’ How right he is! But if there was no ‘agreement’ between the two parties at the end of the first hunger strike, then how could the Brits be accused of ‘reneging’ on an agreement? That’s why Bob immediately wanted a second hunger strike. He knew there was no agreement. We all did. The first hunger strike collapsed. The Dark told the Daily Mirror, that the boys had indicated they were not prepared to die. So all this stuff that Big Laurny McKeown is going on about, you know, the ‘we wanted to avoid a repetition of what happened at the end of the first hunger strike, when the Brits reneged on a agreement/deal,’ is pure bullshit. Understanding that is crucial to removing the gobbledygook that Laurny, Morrison and Co. have thrown up to cloud the issue in the second hunger strike. They are talking what Mick Collins called ‘ballsology.’

Q: It seems that you are right and that once again Gibney has put his foot in it. I have written elsewhere that the need to have firm guarantees on any offer from the Brits was understandable but not because of what happened at the end of first hunger strike. 1980 failed before the Brits made any offer that needed to be guaranteed. If the leadership is inaccurate about the ending of the 1980 hunger strike then its account of the 1981 hunger strike depreciates in value.

About the chain of command between inside and outside the prison:

Q: I think there is some confusion that you could help clear up. It relates to the decision making process during the hunger strikes. What was the chain of command and what say if any had the prisoners in the decision making process?

A: Anyone listening to the likes of Laurny would think that the hunger strikers had the ultimate say in this. Let’s get real here. Laurny is trying to protect Big Gerry. The foot-soldiers in the trenches never dictate strategy. Why, even the majors and the colonels – in this case, Bik and myself – didn’t have that power. Tactics come from afar; from people who are removed from the field of conflict, but who have the power to determine strategy. People should read Bik’s comm to Adams on page 336, Ten Men Dead. On that page Bik told the hunger strikers that, ‘I explained the position about my presence being essential at any negotiations …’

Q: What is the significance of this? Would Bik not have a right, even an obligation to be there?

A: Let me give you an example which shows the real purpose served by Bik’s presence. It also illustrates their tactic of dictating the ground on which the debate will take place – and they’ve done this rather successfully, I think. Right, they have restricted the whole debate to the four days before Joe died. But 11 days later, the Mountain Climber came back with the same offer. Adams was on the blower to him. Adams told the hunger strikers about this offer when he visited the camp hospital on 29 July, so there is no disputing that this offer was genuine. Yet when the Mountain Climber came off the mountain for the second and last time, Bik didn’t even know what had been rejected on his behalf. This is evident from Bik’s comm to Adams, dated 22.7.81, written after the Mountain Climber had gone. Bik said, ‘you can give me a run-down on exactly how far the Brits went.’ (Page 330 Ten Men Dead).

Q: This seems to suggest that the prison leadership had a very tenuous grip on the actual negotiations. They left it to outside leaders.

A: Outside was always in control. Whoever claims otherwise is talking bullshit.

Q: It certainly reveals the true nature of the balance of power between the leadership and prisoners. I consistently argued within the prison in the mid-1980s that the jail leadership was a mere extension of the outside leadership into the ranks of the prisoners. Its primary function was to represent the interests of the leadership against the prisoners and then only to represent the interests of the prisoners against the regime. They did both quite well.

A: Bik was Adams’ man. When Bik spoke, Adams spoke. Everybody knew that. The hunger strike was in safe hands when Bik was in control. The frustrating part in all of this is that the likes of Laurny and Bik know the score. But rather than confront the leadership and ask for an account as to why their last six comrades died, they feel a perverse duty to defend that leadership. It’s part of the shameful cover-up to protect the leadership from acute questioning. The first four lads knew the score. They accepted that there was little chance of them surviving. But Joe reaching critical point was different. And this was eating away at me. What made it all the worse was that people were running around as if the history of the hunger strike was a beautiful box of chocolates wrapped in roses. I knew that the roses were nettles, there to jag your finger if you tried to open the box. Everyone could look at and admire the chocolate box but no one was ever really allowed to open it up and look inside to see what was really there.
Regarding the IRA Army Council’s role

Q: There are many memorable pages in your book. It is a moving account of how naked men for years defied a vicious and brutalising prison management working for the British government to brand the mark of the criminal on republicanism. But the real point of controversy is your assertion that the Army Council stopped a deal being reached that would have delivered to the prisoners the substance of the five demands. Army Council people of the time seem to dispute this. Ruairi O’Bradaigh, for example, is on record as saying that the council did no such thing although he does state that your claims must be explored further. It seems clear that he suspects you are right in what you say but wrong in whose door you lay the blame at. What have you to say to this?

A: At the time we had no reason to believe we were dealing with any body other than the Army Council of the IRA. What reason was there to think otherwise?

Q: And not a sub-committee specifically tasked with running the hunger strike?

A: Whether they called it a sub-committee or not, we were of the view that everything went to the Army Council. Nobody led us to believe any different. Did you think any different?

Q: At the time, no.

A: We all felt it was the Council. Brownie was representing the Council and he wrote the comms. Why would we think we were dealing with anything less than the Council when he was the man communicating with us?

Q: You might not wish to say it but for the purpose of the reader – and this has been publicly documented in copious quantities – Brownie is Gerry Adams, who was a member of the Army Council and the IRA adjutant general during the hunger strike.

A: I have nothing to add to that.

Q: But do you still hold to the view, despite the protests from O’Bradaigh, that the Council actually prevented a satisfactory outcome being reached?

A: No, I do not. Army Council was the general term I used to describe the decision makers on the outside handling the hunger strike. I was not privy to Army Council deliberations. But I believed they were the only people who had the authority to manage the hunger strike from the outside. So it seemed safe then to presume that when we received a comm from Brownie it was from the Army Council as a collective.

Q: But what has happened to lead you to change your mind and accept that the Council may have been by-passed on this matter by Gerry Adams?

A: I have since found out that people on the Army Council at the time have, after my book came out, rejected my thesis and refused to accept that the Council had directed the prisoners to refuse the offer.

Q: Bypassing the Council as a means to shafting it and ultimately getting his own way would seem to be a trait of Gerry Adams. Do you believe then that the bulk of the Council did not approve blocking an end to the hunger strike before Joe McDonnell died?

A: Absolutely. The sub committee managed and monitored the hunger strike. Given that comms were coming in two and three times a day it is simply not possible to believe that the Council could have been kept informed of all the developments. Could the Council even have met regularly during that turbulent period?

Q: Could they not be covering for their own role?

A: I have not spoken to any of the council of the day. But those that have claim that they appeared genuinely shocked that my book should implicate them. And they do allow for the possibility that the wool was pulled over their eyes by the sub-committee handling the strike.

Q: So what do you think did happen?

A: As I said in my book, Adams was at the top of the pyramid. He sent the comms in. He read the comms that came out. He talked to the Mountain Climber. As I said earlier, we know that he, and possibly the clique around him, decided to reject the second offer, at least, without telling Bik what was in it. Nobody knows the hunger strike like Adams knows it. And yet he is maintaining the silence of the mouse, the odd squeak from him when confronted.

Here’s what he said in relation to the Mountain Climber in the RTE Hunger strikes documentary,

‘There had been a contact which the British had activated. It became known as the Mountain Climber. Basically, I didn’t learn this until after the hunger strike ended.’

He didn’t learn what? About the contact and the offers, or the Mountain Climber euphemism? If he’s saying he didn’t know about the offers, then why did he show the offer to the Father Crilly and Hugh Logue in Andersonstown on 6 July 1981? And if he’s saying he didn’t know of the Mountain Climber euphemism, I’d refer your readers to Bik’s comm to Adams on pages 301-302, Ten Men Dead, where Bik tells Brownie, who is Adams, that Morrison had told the hunger strikers about the Mountain Climber: ‘Pennies has already informed them of “Mountain Climber” angle…’ So he knew about the Mountain Climber euphemism, and he knew of the offers. As a defensive strategy, this lurking in the shadows, this proceeding through ambiguity, can only work for so long. At some point academics and investigative journalists are going to ask the searching questions and Gerry Adams is not going to be up to them.

Q: Are you now suggesting that Adams may have withheld crucial details from the Army Council?

A: I don’t know the procedural detail of the relationship between Adams and the Army Council. What I do know is that my account of events is absolutely spot on. You said yourself on RTE on Tuesday that there was independent verification of the conversation between myself and Bik McFarlane.

Q: Indeed. I think you realise there is a bit more than that. As you know I have enormous time for Bik. It goes back to the days before the blanket. But I can only state what I uncovered. I am not saying that it is conclusive. These things can always be contested. But it certainly shades the debate your way. If Morrison and Gibney continue to mislead people that there is no evidence supporting your claim from that wing on H3 I can always allow prominent journalists and academics to access what is there and arrive at whatever conclusions they feel appropriate. That should settle matters and cause a few red faces to boot. We know how devious and unscrupulous these people have been in their handling of this. They simply did not reckon on what would fall the way of the Blanket. Nor did I for that matter. A blunder on their part.

A: If the Army Council say they received no comm from us accepting the deal, and also say that they sent in no word telling us effectively to refuse the deal, then I think the only plausible explanation is that those who sent in the ‘instruction’ to reject the Mountain Climber’s offer were doing so without the knowledge or approval of the Army Council.

Q: When you say ‘those’ you presumably mean Adams and Liam Og who was also sending in comms coming to the prison leadership?

A: Yes.

Q: Liam Og has been identified by Denis O’Hearn, author of the biography of Bobby Sands, as Tom Hartley. It appears that Hartley was privy to every comm between the leadership and the prisoners.

A: That would be the case.

Q: How can we be sure that Adams rather than Liam Og was responsible for withholding information from the Army Council?

A: Because, while we might not know the procedural detail, Adams had a relationship with the Army Council that was vastly different from Liam Og. You point out that this is well recorded in public.
Regarding the crux of the matter:
Q: If you absolve the Army Council of the day, as a collective, of responsibility for sabotaging a conclusion to the hunger strike that would have saved the lives of six men, who do you hold responsible?

A: Maggie Thatcher had the responsibility for bringing this all to an end.

Q: But given that she made an offer, which would have brought it to an end, and which was sabotaged, who then on the republican side, if not the Council, was responsible?

A: You are trying to tie me down.

Q: I should not have to. You should be telling us directly if as you say you believe in our right to know.

A: Let’s put it like this. The iron lady was not so steely at the end. She wanted a way out. The Army Council, I now believe, as a collective were kept in the dark about developments. The sub-committee ran the hunger strike. Draw your own conclusions from the facts.

Q: What could be the possible motive for Adams and the sub-committee wanting to prolong the hunger strike?

A: I don’t know for sure. I can only speculate and this time it would be wrong for you to try to nail me down on what is only opinion.

Q: Yet one way of reading your book is to see the decision to sabotage a successful conclusion to the hunger strike in the context of Sinn Fein needing to strike while the electoral iron was hot.

A: I floated it as a possibility, yes.

Q: John Nixon from the 1980 hunger strike team was very forthright in asserting this perspective on the RTE documentary.

A: John Nixon demonstrated that it is probably the most persuasive argument made in relation to the longevity of the hunger strike. The absence of an Army order to end the hunger strike, when it was blatantly obvious that nothing more was to be got from the Mountain Climber, reinforces this opinion. It is impossible to believe that Gerry Adams did not see the bigger picture and did not realise how omni-important Owen Carron’s election was to the future of republican strategy. He would have been a fool not to. And Gerry Adams is no fool.

Q: But being a fool not to see the electoral opportunity does not mean that it is ethical to follow such a premise to the point of allowing six comrades to die in order to fulfil the potential of that opportunity?

A: It would be an absolute disgrace if it were the case that six men were sacrificed to bring Sinn Fein onto the constitutional altar. I just find it impossible to believe that any republican would let six of their comrades die so they could work partition.

Q: But the logic of your book is precisely that?

A: It is one of a range of possibilities. I am not going to be dogmatic on it. I can only state what I know and anything after that is speculation. I know that there was an offer made and somebody outside rejected it.

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

Statement from Kevin McQuillan

Statement from Kevin McQuillan in response to Danny Morrison’s comments on Radio Foyle:

During the period of the Hunger Strikes(s) I sat on the Belfast Executive of the H-Block, then H-Block/Armagh Committee. I did so as the Republican Socialist prisoners’ representative. During this I time interacted and consulted with numerous senior members of the provisional movement in relation to the ongoing Prison campaign, and developments therein.

I wish to respond to claims made by Danny Morrison on Radio Foyle, yesterday April 6th 2009. I did take Danny Morrison (as I had other provisional representatives) to Long Kesh in July of 1981.

Whilst I have yet to personally hear the said interview, I am led to believe that Danny Morrison said that I was told of, or was already aware, of a set of proposals that were to be put to the prisoners, and that we had talked of this.

This did not happen. If he had of appraised me of such a serious development, my first point of reference would have been to contact the National leadership of the Republican Socialist Movement, in particular those delegated with the struggle within the Blocks. At no point had I cause to.

Clearly put…it did not happen.

Irish Times: SF denies claims on hunger strike deaths

SF denies claims on hunger strike deaths
GERRY MORIARTY, Northern Editor, Irish Times

Mon, Apr 06, 2009

SINN FÉIN has rejected the latest claims that the IRA leadership prevented a deal that possibly could have saved the lives of six of the 10 republicans who died in the 1981 H-Block hunger strikes.

These claims follow on repeated allegations that the IRA and Sinn Féin leaderships in 1981 refused to countenance ending the strike in July in order to facilitate the election of hunger strike candidate Owen Carron in August 1981. The election of Mr Carron as MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone, which followed the election of Bobby Sands who died in May of that year, marked the rise of Sinn Féin as a political force.

The Sunday Times reported yesterday that it had seen documents that showed the then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, despite publicly being opposed to the prisoners’ demands, privately was prepared to make critical concessions.

These reported concessions, including a key demand that prisoners be allowed wear their own clothes, were made in July at a time when Bobby Sands and three other prisoners had died. By the time the hunger strike began to peter out in late August, six more prisoners had died. The last of the hunger strikers to die was INLA member Michael Devine, who passed away on August 20th, the day Mr Carron was elected MP.

The allegation that the republican leadership, driven by Gerry Adams, was prepared to prolong the strike in order to see Mr Carron elected, has been raging for a number of years now.

Four years ago former IRA prisoner Richard O’Rawe, in his book Blanketmen , said the IRA army council blocked a deal that possibly could have saved the lives of six of the hunger strikers. The Sunday Times report quoting documents it received under freedom of information legislation effectively supports Mr O’Rawe’s account of events.

Mr O’Rawe said that in July 1981, when four prisoners had died, the prisoners’ leadership accepted a deal to end the strike but that this was over-ruled by the IRA army council. Mr O’Rawe wrote that a British intermediary effectively conceded most of the prisoners’ five demands. In his book, Mr O’Rawe said that he and Brendan McFarlane, the IRA commanding officer in the Maze Prison at the time, agreed the offer should be accepted.

Both Mr McFarlane and Mr Morrison have repeatedly insisted the claims by Mr O’Rawe and others are wrong.

A Sinn Féin spokesman also said yesterday that the allegations were untrue. He said they emanated from British military intelligence “and ignore completely the actual timeline of events”.

© 2009 The Irish Times

 

Sourced from The Irish Times

Irish News: Hunger Strike Deal Must Be Disclosed

Hunger Strike Deal Must Be Disclosed
Seamus McKinney, Irish News


TRUTH: The 10 republican hunger strikers – pictured on the first day of each of their individual protests at the Maze Prison – and the dates on which they died PICTURE: Alan Lewis/Photopress

The first IRA hunger striker to speak about a possible deal which could have saved the lives of five or possibly six of his colleagues has called for the full facts of the initiative to be made public.
Read the rest of this entry »

Anthony McIntyre: The Thatcher Intervention

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The Thatcher Intervention

Sunday, April 5, 2009
Anthony McIntyre, The Pensive Quill

Two weeks ago I commented on an interview that appeared on the website of the Bobby Sands Trust. The view of the Trust, my own also, was that the document was valuable in that it purported to shed light on some of the issues associated with the hunger strike era. All such documents, flawed as they may be, are coveted nuggets; the building blocks of historical reconstruction, which whether challenging to or supportive of our pre-existing perspectives, should be welcomed for their ability to enlighten us.

The interviewee was John Blelloch, a key NIO official and alleged MI5 operative. The Trust rightly felt that this placed him on the inside track from where he was pivotally placed to fully understand the governmental processes at play. It would also enable him, were he so inclined, to misrepresent the same processes. At no point did the Trust issue a health warning to indicate that Blelloch’s account, because he was what Sinn Fein had longed termed a securocrat, should be treated with some scepticism. It was sold as a fixed proof of an equally fixed British state position in 1981. No allowance was made for the possibility that it might have been a self-serving fiction aimed to conceal rather than reveal.

For the Trust, Blelloch was presented as confirming that there was no hint of flexibility on the part of the British government during the strike and in particular in and around the time of the death of Joe McDonnell, the fifth striker to die. For my part, I felt the Blelloch document was an important addition to our understanding of how the British five years after the strike were still intent on withholding the truth from us.

Because I had serious reservations about the purpose of Blelloch’s interview and had solid reason to believe that in terms of documents it was not the most important one available to researchers, I concluded my article with the comment that ‘it will hardy even make the 7 day wonder category. 7 days is a long time in politics, long enough to see perspectives turned completely on their head.’

Today, 14 days later rather than the magical 7, the Blelloch perspective would indeed seem to have been turned on its head. The Sunday Times ran with a feature article in its prestigious Focus section which purported to show that the British prime minister of the day, Margaret Thatcher, had made serious overtures to elements within the leadership of the IRA aimed at ending the hunger strike. When informed by those IRA elements that the tone rather than the substance was the obstacle to a resolution Thatcher worked on more appropriate wording.

The Sunday Times based its findings on documentation supplied by the NIO to the journalist Liam Clarke. Because it is contemporaneous it has more weight than the Blelloch interview given five years after the event. Gerard Hodgins, an IRA hunger striker and the INLA leadership of the day both claim not to have been informed that such a settlement was on offer. Had they been aware of it the INLA would have intervened and ordered their volunteers, two of whom later died on hunger strike, to end their fast. Hodgins, for his part, armed with the same knowledge would not have embarked on hunger strike.

Today I looked at the Trust website in the hope that the documents featuring in the Sunday Times would have appeared there. They did not. Perhaps in time they will otherwise the Trust will leave itself open to the same allegation that, like Blelloch, it used his interview with a self-serving motive in mind. The documents available to the Sunday Times might not correspond to the Trust’s reading of events but deliberation on the era they address can not be definitively shaped by any one party with a dog in the fight, neither the Trust nor republicans such as Richard O’Rawe who challenge the official Sinn Fen narrative on the hunger strikes. If public understanding is to grow it needs to be informed – not managed and manipulated to produce stupification in the place of understanding – and all documents of relevance should be made available. There is no need for the Trust to remove the Blelloch document even though its value has rapidly diminished as a result of today’s revelations. It should stay there as a historical trace from one of the most difficult and contentious issues in modern Irish history. But the Trust should add the NIO documents so that people can weigh up for themselves the strengths and weaknesses of two distinct accounts.

The NIO documents reinforce the contention of Richard O’Rawe, author of Blanketmen, that just before the death of Joe McDonnell the British government made an offer which was acceptable to the prisoners. O’Rawe’s claims that the army council figure responsible for the day to day management of the hunger strike overruled the prisoners is now even more weighty than before. For his efforts O’Rawe was maligned, harangued, vilified, and described as having penned a scurrilous book. Par for the course in the suffocating world of Sinn Fein wherever an alternative voice is raised.

Prior to O’Rawe’s book there was one republican narrative of the hunger strike. Thatcher was vindictive and vengeful, alone bearing responsibility for the ten deaths. When the book emerged, the hostile way in which O’Rawe’s critics tried to neutralise him and denigrate his account, caused the pixellation in their own narrative to look a bit blurred. Nevertheless, if somewhat tarnished, it remained the dominant account. O’Rawe was out there but the picture he offered was far from focussed. It would take a lot of time before the mind’s eye could sufficiently adjust itself to take in what was being shown. With each passing gambit in the struggle for interpretation the narrative of the hunger strike has gradually slipped from Sinn Fein’s control and into the hands of O’Rawe. The hunger strike is no longer mentioned without O’Rawe being introduced as an alternative voice; one that increasingly draws more listeners. His critics have sought to depict him as pissing in the well. Others saw him as an anti-pollutant dispersing the mud that had gathered in the well, allowing us to peer into it even more deeply than before.

The hunger strike is now a sharply contested event in the history of republicanism giving rise to sharply divided opinions. Ten men died and the only thing we can be sure of is that Thatcher bears culpability for the deaths of the first four.

Sourced from The Pensive Quill

Sunday Times: Was Gerry Adams complicit over hunger strikers?

From The Sunday Times April 5, 2009

Was Gerry Adams complicit over hunger strikers?
Papers suggest IRA snubbed a conciliatory offer from Margaret Thatcher to ensure Sinn Fein by-election win to Westminster

Liam Clarke
Read the documents here

Did five, or even six, of the republican prisoners who were on hunger strike in the Maze prison in 1981 die to advance the political strategy of Sinn Fein?

Did Gerry Adams and other members of the IRA kitchen cabinet snub a conciliatory offer from Margaret Thatcher, then the British prime minister, which met the substance of the prisoners’ demands, just to ensure that Sinn Fein would win a crucial by-election to Westminster?

These are the explosive questions raised for Sinn Fein by papers released to The Sunday Times under the Freedom of Information Act.
Read the rest of this entry »

Statement: IRSP Response to Downing Street Documents

The IRSP believe that these Downing Street documents, at face value, appear to vindicate Richard O’Rawe in the claims he made in regards to this crucial period of the Hunger Strike. These confidential 10 Downing Street letters, which were written contemporaneous, certainly contradict PSF’s version of events from that period. The IRSP have been investigating similar claims that are contained in these documents for quite some time and will be making their conclusions public after examining the evidence in its totality.

Over the past number of days the IRSP has been speaking to relatives of the three INLA Hunger Strikers, ex-INLA Army Council members who were involved in the Strike at that time and also to the then OC of the INLA prisoners about these particular documents. All have stated that they were not aware of the ‘back-channel initiative’ or of an ‘acceptance of the content of Thatcher’s offer but not the tone’ by the PIRA in July 8th 1981 which these documents clearly indicate.

Both the then INLA Army Council and the INLA prisoners OC have stated to the IRSP that if they had have been made aware of the content of these developments at that time they would have ordered the INLA prisoners to end their hunger strike.

Many questions now arise from these documents which only the NIO, PSF, the Mountain Climber and Brendan Duddy can answer and therefore the IRSP would call on all these parties to reveal all the documentation and information that are relevant to this period. The IRSP, on behalf of some of the relatives of the Hunger Strikers, will be seeking meetings with the relevant parties in the very near future.

Michael Devine Junior speaking this morning to the IRSP has stated that -‘’the families demand and deserve the truth about what really happened during this period. These latest disclosures have added substantial weight to previous claims that the last six hunger strikers lives could have been saved. Did my Father and his five comrades die because a number of individuals didn’t like the tone of Thatcher despite accepting the content of her offer? Why were the families or the prisoners themselves never told about the nature and content of these contacts? I would appeal to SF and the British Government, given their public positions on truth and reconciliation, to tell us the truth and give us closure’’.

Willie Gallagher on behalf of the IRSP Executive 02-04-09

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Sourced from the IRSP

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SPRING 2013: 55 HOURS
A day-by-day account of the events of early July, 1981.


There's an inner thing in every man,
Do you know this thing my friend? It has withstood the blows of a million years, and will do so to the end.