July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

“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

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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