July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

“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

Category: "Rusty Nail", 2009, Commentary, Media, Slugger O'Toole

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

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