July 1981

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Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration speech

Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration speech

The Chicago cumann of the Irish Freedom Committee and the Irish Republican Socialist Committees of North America joined together for the second time since 2005 under the banner of the Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee (CHSCC), to host the June 6th commemoration. Event attendees came from across the United States from as far as Washington State, Missouri, Minnesota, downstate Illinois and New York.

CHSCC Chairman, Colm Mistéil’s Address:

colm_speechA chairde agus a chomrádaí,

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir as teacht an tráthnóna seo, chun chuimhnigh ar cothrom an lá ocht mbliain is fiche ó lá an Stailc Ocrais sna H-blocanna.

Thank you all for joining us this afternoon to remember the 28th anniversary of the Hunger Strike.

Today the Charlie Kerins cumann of the Cumann na Saoirse / the Irish Freedom Committee, and the Irish Republican Socialist Committees of North America come together in unity under the banner of the Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee. We see, as the hunger strikers saw, unity as the way forward. Inside the H-Blocks of Long Kesh seven volunteers of the Irish Republican Army, and three of the Irish National Liberation Army starved to death and gave their lives for their comrades. They were guilty of no crime, but were imprisoned for their unwavering dedication to the cause of Irish Freedom, and for the establishment of a 32 county Irish Workers’ Republic.

For about the last four years, a controversy has surrounded the events of 1981, one that our former comrades in Provisional Sinn Féin wish would disappear. In 2005 Richard O’Rawe, H-Block Public Relations Officer during the hunger strike, published his book Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike in which he offers us a version of the events of 1981 that we never heard before. He reveals to us that on July 5th an offer was made by the British Government and delivered to Republicans through a Derry businessman who served as a go between, codenamed by the IRA as ‘the Mountain climber.’ The prison leadership of Bik McFarlane as O/C (officer commanding) and Richard O’Rawe as Public Relations Officer thought that the offer was enough to end the Hunger Strike as it would have granted 4 of the 5 demands. They sent their answer to the outside Provisional leadership, who turned down the offer. At this time four men had died, and 8 were on hunger strike with Joe McDonnell only days away from death. It all could have been over then, and 6 young men would not have lost their lives. I will not go into the reasons why the outside Provisional leadership turned down the offer, but suggest that you read Richard O’Rawe’s book.

Since the book was published O’Rawe has faced vicious condemnation from those in Provisional Sinn Féin. Bik has said no offers were made, and has denied that the acceptance conversation ever took place. But Richard O’Rawe has stuck to his story and continues to demand the truth. The provos’ story keeps changing, but O’Rawe’s has remained the same. At first, I did not believe him, and thought he was a liar; but more and more evidence has come out to vindicate O’Rawe. One of the main charges against him was if the acceptance conversation took place, then someone on the wing must have heard it. For four years no one had come forward, that is until two weeks ago. At a talk held in Derry titled “What is the Truth Behind the Hunger Strike?” a former blanketman, Gerard Clarke, who was on the same wing in H3 as Bik and O’Rawe confirmed O’Rawe’s claim that the acceptance conversation took place. I now have no doubt what so ever that Richard O’Rawe’s account of the Hunger Strike is accurate and the lives of six young men could have been saved. We in the Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee join with our Republican comrades back home in demanding that Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison, and Bik McFarlane come clean and give us the truth once and for all.

Keeping the Hunger Strikers in mind, we must also remember current Irish Republican POWs, of which there are nearly 100, many of whom still fight for the political status that the hunger strikers gave their lives for. There are some who like to think that there are no more Republican Prisoners, they were all let out in 2000 when Long Kesh was closed. I think the children of Terry McCafferty, who haven’t spent a Christmas with their father in over 6 years, would tell them differently. There are others who would like to think the war is over and there is now peace in the North of Ireland, the brave actions of the Real IRA and Continuity IRA of early March have shown the words of Pádraig Pearse ring true, “Ireland unfree, shall never be at peace.” While there is a one British soldier on Irish soil, and while one Irish worker is exploited by his capitalist oppressor, the war for the Irish Workers’ Republic will continue.

Now is the time for Republicans to unite together to make the next phase of the struggle the last one. We should not waste time condemning our former comrades in the Provisional Movement; we need to demand the truth from them on the hunger strike, otherwise we should just forget about them and move forward. Our numbers may be small, but we must remember the words of Terence MacSwiney “If only a few are faithful found they must be all the more steadfast for being but a few.” We must do all we can to help our comrades in Ireland to finally see the Irish Workers’ Republic become a reality.

Beir Bua!

Sourced from saoreire.com

Category: 2009, Irish America, Statements

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