July 1981

Icon

Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Irish News letters page: Who killed the hunger strikers?

Who killed the hunger strikers?
Irish News letters page
Sam Greer, Belfast
28/08/2009

If the people of Cappagh in Co Tyrone love the hunger strikers as much as Francie Molloy says they do, they should ask what those men died for.

It is common knowledge that six lives could have been spared in a deal offered by the British which was turned down by the leadership outside to garner votes for the future British administration in Stormont. Like the loyalists, the republican leadership was bought out.

To the people of Cappagh, I ask: What was it all about?

Sourced from the Irish News

Pádraic Wilson in Andersonstown News

You can’t rewrite history, says leading republican
Andersonstown News,Thursday 21st of August 2009
By Anthony Neeson

A leading Belfast republican has told a hunger strike commemoration in the West of the city that you can’t rewrite history.

Pádraic Wilson was speaking at a gathering of several hundred people in Whiterock Leisure Centre on Sunday evening.

Earlier that day republicans had taken part in a march commemorating the 1969 pogroms as well as a hunger strike rally in County Tryone.

Mr Wilson said that while republicans were used to being demonised by political rivals and the mainstream media, now some “former comrades” had “aligned themselves” with revisionism.

Speaking about the former he said: “They vilified and demonised our comrades, their families and each and every one of us.

“They provided a rationale for the murderous attacks against the Relatives’ Action Committees and others.

“In recent times there have been attempts, led by some of the same people, to rewrite the history of that period.

“If we didn’t know better we could be forgiven for thinking that these people actually cared about our comrades or their families.”

He said people needed to be clear about a number of things.

“The British government, led by Thatcher, was not an honest broker trying desperately to find a solution to a situation for which they had no responsibility.

“Thatcher had shown quite clearly in December 1980, when the opportunity for a solution to the situation in the H-Blocks and Armagh arose, that she had one intention and one only, and that was to demoralise us, crush us, and to deliver a death blow to republican resistance. According to her we had played our last card… the game was still going in Brighton in 1984, Maggie.

“She and her allies failed inside the prisons and they failed on the outside.

“They failed because we, and that means those of us who were in prison, those of you who fought and campaigned on the outside, and those of you who provided the resources for that, all of us refused to be intimidated, refused to bow down and refused to be criminalised.

“While we expect it from those quarters, there are others, some of them former comrades, who have aligned themselves with this revisionism. The logic of their position is that our comrades were like sheep being led aimlessly along.

“That is an insult and it needs challenged.”

Mr Wilson spoke about Andersonstown hunger striker Kieran Doherty, a man he knew well, and recalled the punishment that he and others endured in the H-Blocks.

“I’ve been asked at various times over the years if it was all worth it,” he told the audience. “I’ve always responded that everything that I’ve experienced and all that I’ve been a part of were necessary and worthy.

“Mindful that some people might think that’s an easy answer to give because I’m alive and well, I can only say that any other response would be a lie and a betrayal.”

Sourced from the Andersonstown News

Sinn Fein spokesman: No evidence exists to prove ‘bogus claims’

SDLP and SF clash over H-Block GAA club event
GERRY MORIARTY, Northern Editor
Irish Times

Thu, Aug 20, 2009

THE SDLP and Sinn Féin have clashed over the holding of a H-Block commemoration on Sunday in the grounds of the Galbally GAA club in Co Tyrone.

SDLP deputy leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell accused Sinn Féin of “hijacking” the commemoration, while Sinn Féin accused him of attempting to demonise the memory of the 10 men who died in the 1981 hunger strikes.

Dr McDonnell made his criticism after he and a senior party delegation met top GAA officials yesterday. Holding such events on GAA grounds is against the rules of the organisation. Dr McDonnell said that “like thousands of fellow members of the GAA” he was angry the “Provos had hijacked a GAA premises to cynically deflect attention from Sinn Féin’s internal problems”.

He said it was also part of Sinn Féin’s attempt to divert attention away from Sinn Féin “allowing a number of the hunger strikers to die” to serve the party’s electoral ambitions in 1981.

“GAA grounds should not be prostituted or used politically,” he said. He added that he respected the rights of family and friends of the hunger strikers to commemorate them but that it should not be done in GAA grounds.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said that in relation to the hungers strikers that Dr McDonnell would not be able to “produce a shred of evidence to back up his bogus claims about the circumstances surrounding the men’s deaths as none exists”.

The Sinn Féin spokesman added, “republicans are justifiably proud of the hunger strikers and their families. We make no apology to McDonnell or anyone else for commemorating their sacrifice. The Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee event on Sunday saw up to 10,000 people gather to pay tribute and to remember. That is what the focus needs to remain on, rather than deliberately constructed arguments by anti-republican elements in the media and elsewhere aimed at taking away from the purpose of the day.”

When contacted GAA headquarters referred the matter of the commemoration at its ground in Galbally to the organisation’s Ulster Council which said it had no comment to make on the matter at this time.

GAA sources acknowledged, however, that holding the commemoration on its ground in Galbally is contrary to rule 7 (a) of the organisation.

A similar situation arose in 2006 when a major commemoration was held in Casement Park in Belfast on the 25th anniversary of the hunger strikes.

The instruction from Croke Park not to hold the commemoration in Casement Park was ignored. Subsequently, the GAA refused to make tickets available to senior Sinn Féin members for the 2006 hurling and football All-Ireland finals, a decision Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness described as “childish”.

In the past year or so the GAA has made a determined effort to engage in “outreach” with the unionist community and unionist politicians. In June DUP First Minister Peter Robinson and the GAA leadership broke new ground when they met at Stormont.

Sourced from the Irish Times

Text of Padraic Wilson speech at Hunger Strike commemoration in West Belfast

Padraic Wilson speaks at Hunger Strike commemoration in West Belfast
Published: 18 August, 2009

‘This morning the 40th anniversary of the burning of Bombay Street was remembered with a march retracing some of the main sites of the August 1969 pogroms. Along with the Battle of the Bogside those events were the catalyst that radicalised a generation of men and women and brought them into armed conflict with the Orange state and the British Empire.

‘This afternoon in Tyrone we gathered to remember the deaths, on hunger strike, of 13 Irish Republicans spanning the period from the 1940’s to 1981 in prisons across Ireland and in England.

‘Last week I was in the audience at the premiere of a play, Young Guard of Erin, that focused on the lives of 10 young republicans, members of Na Fianna Eireann and Cumann na gCailiní, from Ballymurphy and Turf Lodge, who died in the period spanning the 1940’s to the 1980’s. The play was a brilliant piece of drama and a fine tribute to the memory of those young people.

‘Tonight we’ve come together to primarily celebrate the lives and honour the commitment of our comrades and friends who died on hunger strike in the H-Blocks in 1981. All of these events are of course linked and all of them have had an influence in one way or another upon each of us.

‘Over the years a lot has been written and said about the hunger strike of 1981. Some notable pieces of work stand out such as Nor Meekly Serve My Time, Ten Men Dead or the recent film, Hunger.

‘But not all of what has been written or said is deserving of praise, in particular stuff that originated from the political and media establishments.

‘They vilified and demonised our comrades, their families and each and every one of us.

‘They provided a rationale for the murderous attacks against the Relatives Action Committees and others.

‘In recent times there have been attempts, led by some of the same people, to rewrite the history of that period.

‘If we didn’t know better we could be forgiven for thinking that these people actually cared about our comrades or their families.

‘Whatever else we disagree about lets be clear about a number of things:

•The British Government, led by Thatcher, was not an honest broker trying desperately to find a solution to a situation for which they had no responsibility.

•Thatcher had shown quite clearly in December 1980, when the opportunity for a solution to the situation in the H-Blocks and Armagh arose, that she had one intention and one only; that was to demoralise us, crush us, and to deliver a death blow to republican resistance. According to her we had played our last card…the game was still going in Brighton in 1984, Maggie.

•She and her allies failed inside the prisons and they failed on the outside.

•They failed because we, and that means those of us who were in prison, those of you who fought and campaigned on the outside and those of you who provided the resources for that, all of us refused to be intimidated, refused to bow down and refused to be criminalised.

‘While we expect it from those quarters there are others, some of them former comrades, who have aligned themselves with this revisionism. The logic of their position is that our comrades were like sheep being led aimlessly along.

‘That is an insult and it needs challenged.

‘Bobby Sands was our O/C and he led us. Our comrades, Frank, Raymond, Patsy, Joe, Martin, Kevin, Kieran, Tom and Mickey, stepped forward to join him and they showed us leadership.

‘Their families said it best themselves after a recent meeting in Gulladuff in South Derry when they stated ‘Our loved ones made the supreme sacrifice on hunger strike for their comrades. They were not dupes. They were dedicated and committed republicans.’

‘Of those dedicated and committed republicans Kieran Doherty, Big Doc, was the person I knew both outside and inside of prison. I’ve said before that when you witnessed Doc in action you knew he didn’t need a title or rank to give leadership, it came naturally. He oozed confidence.

‘His stature and his determination made him stand out.

‘Doc was single minded in what he was about, there was no ambiguity. That same dedication and commitment was to be found in each and every one of the ten lads. No-one led them along. They all showed us leadership.

‘One of our lifelines in the Blocks was the ability to send out and receive communications. The visits were the means to do that. We only had one visit a month for half an hour. So a system was put in place to ensure that the visits were spread out in a way that resulted in a series of visits each day to each Block.

‘Somebody somewhere discovered that if a prisoner appealed their case then they were entitled to a 15 minute visit every day. So naturally men were encouraged to submit an appeal just to open up a potential line of communication. The system responded with a rule that stipulated that such visits were for legal purposes only. To make sure that this rule was enforced a screw would literally stand in the visiting box and if anything was said that was not strictly about the legal case then the visit was stopped and both the prisoner and the visitors were removed.

‘Visitors would come up every day and endure all of the aggression and hassle, going over the same standard conversation, waiting for the opportunity to pass a comm or a parcel of tobacco.

‘The prisoner had to endure two mirror searches and the accompanying physical ill-treatment, the severity of which depended on the particular screws on duty.

‘Big Doc was on appeal visits and he was one of the masters at being able to secure comms and tobacco.

‘Doc became a focus of attention for the screws, especially on the return journey to the Block. The search on arriving back on the wing was usually more aggressive and physical.

‘There was a particular SO who took a sadistic interest in Doc and he wasn’t happy that other screws were a bit hesitant about tackling Doc. He attempted to orchestrate a situation during a return search whereby a few screws tried to have a go at Doc. As soon as he went into the search cell, cell 26 as it was called, Doc knew what was up and he positioned himself in the corner inviting them to come at him face on. They declined the offer.

‘The next day after an appeal visit when Doc entered cell 26, there was a screw in each corner and three around the mirror that was on the ground. They forced him over the mirror and tried to make him squat over it. He resisted.

‘Remember this is a situation where there are up to 7 or 8 fully clothed and kitted out screws against one naked man.

‘Frustrated with the screws inability to bend Doc the SO stepped in and between them they rendered him semi-conscious until he went down. He then scurried out of the way before Doc could recover.

‘On the mural to Doc at Slemish Way there is a quote from one of his letters where he paraphrases Terence Mac Swineys’ quote “It is not those who can inflict the most but those who can endure the most who will conquer”. They inflicted brutal and degrading treatment like that on us on a daily basis. We endured it because we had a purpose, a unity of purpose. Any act of resistance has to have a purpose. Any struggle has to have a purpose, a clear objective.

‘The protests in the H-Blocks and Armagh were great levelers. They put all of the prisoners on protest on a level playing field. No-one had privilege or advantage over the other. We all endured the same deprivations. The only thing that tended to alter or change at times was the extent of the brutality that was visited upon you by the screws.

‘The decision to embark upon hunger strike was not one that was taken lightly. The human cost on each person and on their family was immeasurable. That alone was a big enough burden for anyone to carry.

‘But it also carried with it the justification of our struggle and the defence of the integrity of that struggle. The elections of Bobby Sands, Kieran Doherty, Paddy Agnew and Owen Carron sent shock waves through the political establishments in Ireland and in England. Internationally Britain’s role in Ireland began to be questioned as never before.

‘Recently I was in the Middle-East along with two former hunger strikers, Pat Sheehan and Raymond Mc Cartney. We were taken into South Lebanon and brought to the site of a former Israeli prison that was jointly run by them and Lebanese collaborators. It was infamous as a site of torture and brutality for the Palestinian and Lebanese men and women who were held there. Some of them died within its walls.

‘It is now a museum dedicated to the memory of those who were imprisoned in it. Our guide was a Palestinian fighter who had himself been imprisoned and tortured there.

‘When we were introduced to him and our backgrounds explained, he said two words “Bobby Sands”.

‘So the legacy of the hunger strike continues to inspire people and to instill in them ‘an meon saoirse’ – the spirit of freedom.

‘A lot has happened and changed since 1981. Each year we lose comrades from those days. People like Jimmy Duff, Cormac MacAirt, Christine Beattie and Sean McKenna.

‘The nature and expression of struggle and resistance have also changed. And, I believe, rightly so.

‘Our republican objectives still guide us.

‘Those objectives have not yet been achieved or realised.

‘The efforts of our opponents to defeat us will continue.

‘As we shape and redefine the nature of our strategies and tactics so will they.

‘Nothing has ever been given to us on a plate.

‘We’ve had to organise and struggle for every inch.

‘Irish unity won’t come about unless we make it happen.

‘That means working for it.

‘That work can accommodate us all. It’s true that there is no part too big or too small.

‘I’ve been asked at various times over the years if it was all worth it. I’ve always responded that everything that I’ve experienced and all that I’ve been a part of were necessary and worthy. Mindful that some people might think that’s an easy answer to give because I’m alive and well, I can only say that any other response would be a lie and a betrayal.

‘I committed myself to fulfilling the legacy of our comrades in whatever way that I could. Everyone has to find their way of fulfilling that legacy.

‘I mentioned the play ‘Young Guard of Erin’ earlier. While the play was on stage I looked around the hall and it was clear to see the emotional impact that the drama was having on the families present. By the end of the play the sense of pride that filled the hall was palpable.

‘We are rightly proud of our patriot dead. We should always be so. We are privileged to have had them in our lives or to have known them. At events like this tonight we remember them and celebrate their lives.

‘So tonight let’s celebrate their lives and enjoy the company and the craic.

‘Tomorrow let’s get on with fulfilling their legacy. That’s the best memorial we can create. Mar sin, bigí linn agus le chéile leanfaimid ar aghaidh agus beidh an bua againn, go raibh maith agaibh, sin é.’

Sourced from West Belfast Sinn Fein

Pádraic Wilson Hunger Strike Talk & Disco with Full Bar

NOTE: Text of Speech

H-Blocks former O/C to speak at Hunger Strike event in Whiterock
An Phoblacht, 13 August 2009

Padraic-WilsonLEADING Belfast republican Padraic Wilson is to speak at a Belfast Hunger Strike Commemoration night in the Whiterock Leisure Centre on Sunday, 16 August.

Padraic, from the Andersonstown area, has been involved in the republican struggle for almost 40 years.

The former Blanketman was in jail at the time of the 1981 Hunger Strikes and knew many of the Hunger Strikers personally.

Padraic’s republican involvement began in 1972 when he joined Fianna Éireann. In 1976, he was arrested and charged with possession of explosives and was remanded to Crumlin Road Jail.

He was sentenced to six years in 1977 and went straight on the Blanket, spending the period of the Hunger Strike in the H-Blocks.

Released in 1982, he became active again immediately and was Sinn Féin’s west Belfast organiser for a number of years in the 1980s.

OFFICER COMMANDING

Padraic was arrested again in 1989 but charges against him were dropped in 1990. While on bail he was again arrested in 1991 with Jim ‘Flash’ McVeigh and Tony O’Neill and sentenced to 24 years.

He was IRA Officer Commanding the H-Blocks from 1996 to 1999, during which a tunnel escape was narrowly averted and Republican prisoner Liam Averill escaped dressed as a woman.

Padraic was released to attend the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis and a number of briefings in the run-up to the 1998 Agreement.

hunger-strikeAfter being released in 1999 he became active again in Sinn Féin and currently holds the position of Director of International Affairs.

Doors open for the commemoration night in the Whiterock Leisure Centre at 7pm on Sunday 16 August and admission is £5.

Live music will be provided by Tuan folk, which will be followed by a disco.

There will be a full bar in place.

People are advised to come early to avoid disappointment.

 

Sourced from An Phoblacht

Pádraic Wilson: The hunger strikes of ’81 and what they mean today

The hunger strikes of ’81 and what they mean today
Andersonstown News
Thursday 14th of August 2009
by Francesca ryan

The 1981 hunger strike is to be remembered at an event being held at Whiterock Leisure Centre this Sunday.

Leading Belfast republican Pádraic Wilson will share his memories of his time on the blanket and the dark days of 1981.

Pádraic, Sinn Féin’s Director of International Affairs, spent three separate stints in prison and recalls vividly the effect both the hunger strike and the hunger strikers had on him.

Pádraic told the Andersonstown News that the talk will focus on his time in Long Kesh from 1976 to 1982.

“I was in Long Kesh during the blanket protest and the hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981,” he said.

“I knew most of the hungerstrikers, some from the outside and others I got to know while inside. I will be talking about the hunger strke in general and what it meant for me.”

Pádraic says it was Kieran Doherty who gave him the morale boost he needed to get through the bleakest of times in Long Kesh.

“Of all the hunger strikers, I knew Kieran Doherty the best,” he said.

“He lived a few streets away from me and was just a few years older than me.

“Kieran was someone everyone looked up to, literally, because of his height, but also because he was an inspiration.

“Big Doc just instilled confidence in everyone, he was practically fearless. Just standing beside him at Mass on a Sunday – the only time we were allowed out of our cells – was enough to boost my morale.

“Even the screws were afraid of him and would never take him on one-to-one like they would have done with the others. He was the one who kept my morale going.”

Pádraic is also ready to address the current debate surrounding the hunger strike.

“There is no way I could talk about that time without mentioning that there is some controversy at the minute regarding the hunger strike.

“For anyone to suggest that Margaret Thatcher and her government wanted to offer a deal that republicans rejected, well, they need their heads examined.

“I intend to talk about this in reference to the hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981.”

Pádraic will also touch on the path republicanism has taken in the years following the hunger strikes right through to today’s peace process.

“I’m going to speak about the relevance of the hunger strike in terms of where we are now.

“For me, it is the same struggle with the same objectives, the only thing that has changed is the way of achieving the objectives.”

Pádraic will be speaking at the commemoration night in Whiterock Leisure Centre this Sunday (August 16).

Admission is £5 and the doors open at 7pm.

Sourced from The Andersonstown News

“Rusty Nail”: Gerry Adams speaking with Kieran Doherty, 29 July 1981

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Gerry Adams and Kieran Doherty, 29 July 1981
Rusty Nail at Slugger O’Toole

Writing on his blog, Gerry Adams relates an anecdote from his 29 July 1981 visit with Owen Carron to the hunger strikers in Long Kesh. This anecdote is sourced from his autobiography, Before the Dawn. It is important to put the account of this conversation into context, in order to fully appreciate its meaning. Firstly, Kieran Doherty’s condition was dire; he was nearly blind, had considerable difficulty hearing, and was demonstrably ‘delirious’, hallucinating and unaware of his surroundings. At this stage, when he was conversing with Adams, he was in no position to be making any strategic decisions. He was hardly fit to process any information about the negotiations with the British, had he been fully informed, being conducted on his behalf by Adams. As told by Adams, Kieran Doherty was blind and confused, despite being described as ‘firm’ on the five demands; he lost track of who was in the room with him, greeting Bik McFarlane only to ask not much later where Bik was, and to ask after the boys repeatedly, even after his questions had already been answered. Yet it seems today Adams is holding up this conversation as some sort of defense against the charge that the hunger strikers were sacrificed for Sinn Fein’s political gain.

What is really significant about this piece is that it shows the hunger strikers were unaware that they had already broken Thatcher. From at least early July and possibly before, if some accounts are to be believed, she was offering Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness four of the five demands and by the time Gerry Adams was sitting with Kieran Doherty, the offer from the British that Adams had been negotiating was what the prisoners got when the hunger strike ended in October.

Although already having won the concession of letters and parcels, only 10 days before the 29 July meeting with the hunger strikers Adams was still stalling the British, seeking clarification over what could be in the parcels. (“Association during leisure hours was not enough and in addition they would need specific assurances as to what they would be allowed to receive in parcels.” Beresford, Ten Men Dead, pg 325.) The hunger strikers’ commitment was used by Adams as leverage in the negotiations with the British, although by this point the hunger strikers, according to Pat McGeown, whom Bik McFarlane was striving mightily to keep in line and silenced, were more committed to each other and those who had preceded them in death than they were tied down to the details of the five demands. “When Gerry was in I didn’t say anything to him,” [McGeown] says. “Bik had already said to me, ‘Don’t make your opinions known,’ to which I had given my commitment. I just accepted [the situation].” (O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, pg 83.)

To Brownie from Bik Sun 26.7.81

“…had a long yarn with Pat Beag [McGeown] this morning and impressed upon him the necessity of keeping firmly on the line. I explained that independent thought was sound, but once it began to stray from our well considered and accepted line that it became extremely dangerous. He accepted what I said alright. Also I stressed the need for all of us to have confidence in you lot.” (Comm quoted in Beresford, Ten Men Dead, pg 333.)

By August, after having had the visit from Adams and Carron, McGeown and Devine were discussing coming off the strike; neither wanted to be seen as saving himself but both recognised the futility of carrying on – except for one strategic gain: the election of Owen Carron. “I [McGeown] said to him [Devine], ‘Hold out for ten days. After the Fermanagh-South Tyrone by-election, I don’t see any political point in us continuing the hunger strike and I’ll be saying that quite openly.’ To say to him [Devine] to come off it before it [the by-election], politically I did think we needed to stay until the whole process had been completed with Owen Carron.” (O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, pg 84.) Devine died the day of the election; he was the last hunger striker to die.

patbeag

I nDíl Chuímhne

To the memory of PAT (Beág) McGeown

A Soldier, politican, community worker and bridge builder
who died October 1 1996 as a direct result of
being on the 1981 Hunger Strike in the H Blocks

“To live in the hearts of those left behind, is not to die”

– Plaque outside Sinn Fein headquarters on Falls Road


 

An Bean Uasal from Bik 28.7.81

“…Was up in hospital tonight. […] Doc was able to talk, but became delirious and told me he was ‘talking to Bik earlier on and had a yarn with Bobby’. He’s practically blind and has great difficulty in hearing. His spirit is strong and he is very determined.” (Comm quoted in Beresford, Ten Men Dead, pg 338.)

 


Gerry Adams, Leargas blog:

I thought of the last time I saw Kieran. In the prison hospital in the H Blocks of Long Kesh. By this time he was the TD for Cavan Monaghan. It was the 29 July 1981. Kieran died on August 2.

‘I’m not a criminal.’ He said
.
‘For too long our people have been broken. The Free Staters, the church, the SDLP. We won’t be broken. We’ll get our five demands. If I’m dead … well, the others will have them. I don’t want to die, but that’s up to the Brits. They think they can break us. Well they can’t.’ He grinned self-consciously: Tiocfaidh ar lá.’

We shook hands before I left, an old internee’s hand-shake, firm and strong.

‘Thanks for coming in, I’m glad we had that wee yarn. Tell everyone, all the lads, I was asking for them and … ‘ He continued to grip my hand.

‘Don’t worry, we’ll get our five demands. We’ll break Thatcher. Lean ar aghaidh.

Talking later to Kieran’s father Alfie, his eyes brimming with unshed tears, in the quiet cells in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, I felt a raw hatred for the injustice which created this crisis.

I am glad to say that I still feel the same today 28 years after Kieran’s death.

Gerry Adams, Before the Dawn, pages 308-310:

“Brendan [McFarlane] arranged for us to go and see Kieran Doherty. I told the lads that I wouldn’t tell Doc of their position.
‘He knows it anyway,’ someone said.
‘We saw him last night after Father Crilly’s visit.’
‘I know,’ said I.
Doc was propped up on one elbow; his eyes, unseeing, scanned the cell as he heard us entering.
‘Mise atá ann,’ (‘It’s me’) said Brendan McFarlane.
‘Ahh Bik, cad é mar atá tú?’ arsa Doc. (‘Ahh Bik, how are you?’ Doc said.)
‘Nílim romh dhona, agus tú féin?‘ (‘I’m not too bad, and yourself?’)
Tá mé go hiontach; tá daoine eile anseo? Cé…?‘ (‘I’m great; are there other people here? Who…?’)
Tá Gerry Adams, Owen Carron agus Seamus Ruddy anseo. Teastaíonn uatha caint leat.‘ (‘Gerry Adams, Owen Carron, and Seamus Ruddy are here. They want to speak with you.’)
Gerry A’, fáilte.‘ (‘Gerry A’, welcome.’) He greeted us all, his eyes following our voices. We crowded around the bed, the cell much too small for four visitors. I sat on the side of the bed. Doc, whom I hadn’t seen in years, looked massive in his gauntness, as his eyes, fierce in their quiet defiance, scanned my face.
I spoke to him quietly and slowly, somewhat awed by the man’s dignity and by the enormity of our mission.
He responded to my probing with paitence.
‘You know the score yourself,’ he said, ‘I’ve a week in me yet. How is Kevin [Lynch] holding out?’
‘You’ll both be dead soon. I can go out now, Doc and announce that it’s over.’
He paused momentarily and reflected, then: ‘We haven’t got our five demands and that’s the only way I’m coming off. Too much suffered for too long, too many good men dead. Thatcher can’t break us. Lean ar aghaidh. I’m not a criminal.’
I continued with my probing. Doc responded.
‘For too long our people have been broken. The Free Staters, the church, the SDLP. We won’t be broken. We’ll get our five demands. If I’m dead…well, the others will have them. I don’t want to die, but that’s up to the Brits. They think they can break us. Well they can’t.’ He grinned self-consciously. ‘Tiocfaidh ár lá.‘ (‘Our day will come.’)
‘How are you all keeping? I’m glad you came in. I can only see blurred shapes. I’m glad to be with friends. Cá bhfuil Bik? (Where is Bik?) Bik, stay staunch. How’s the boys doing?’
We talked quietly for a few minutes. Owen got another ribbing about the election. We got up to go. I told Doc to get the screw to give us a shout if he wanted anything.
We shook hands, an old internee’s handshake, firm and strong.
‘Thanks for coming in, I’m glad we had that wee yarn. Tell everyone, all the lads, I was asking for them and…’ He continued to grip my hand.
‘Don’t worry, we’ll get our five demands. We’ll break Thatcher. Lean ar aghaidh.’
Outside Doc’s cell, the screw led us in to speak to Kieran’s father, Alfie, and brother, Michael, who had just arrived to relieve Kieran’s mother.
We spoke for about five minutes. I felt an immense solidarity with the Doherty family, broken-hearted, like all the families, as they watched Kieran die. Yet because they understood their son, they were prepared to accept his wishes and were completely committed to the five demands for which he was fasting.
Talking to Alfie, his eyes brimming with unshed tears, in the quiet cells in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, I felt a raw hatred for the injustice that created this crisis. Alfie, concerned for us, had a quiet word with Bik McFarlane and left to sit with Kieran.”

Note: Kieran Doherty died 4 days later.

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

Jim Gibney on Brendan Duddy: Secret go-between shines a light on history makers

Secret go-between shines a light on history makers
By Jim Gibney, The Thursday Column (Irish News)
06/08/09

The names most publicly associated with the Irish peace process are Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, John Hume, Albert Reynolds, Bertie Ahern, Fr Alex Reid, David Trimble,

Ian Paisley, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.

The one name which does not readily come to mind is that of Derry man Brendan Duddy.

Yet Brendan Duddy, now 73 years old, is slowly emerging as another important name to add to that list from a period in time when the armed conflict here was at its bleakest.

For more than two hours last Saturday in St Mary’s College on Belfast’s Falls Road, gently nudged along by journalist and author Brian ‘Barney’ Rowan, Brendan Duddy shone a light into a world where history makers live – a world beyond the camera, the scribe and the media sound-bite.

Brendan Duddy was speaking at Belfast’s Féile an Phobail’s first of many debates. The event, ‘The Secret Peacemaker’ is an apt description of a man who kept his counsel about his role as a conduit between the British government and the leadership of the IRA and Sinn Fein for more than 20 years until he thought it appropriate to speak.

At first glance Brendan Duddy strikes you as a most unlikely person to perform the role of a go-between, which survived three British prime ministers – including Margaret Thatcher – and the various leadership changes within the IRA.

He is diminutive in stature, soft spoken and unassuming – not the sort of person to inhabit a world where spies from MI6 or MI5 knock on your door, metaphorically speaking, with a request that you contact the IRA leadership on behalf of their masters, the British government.

But on reflection Duddy is precisely the type of person to fulfil that role because he has the qualities required – discretion, dependability and trustworthiness.

Duddy, known to both sides as the ‘Mountain Climber’ (because he ran up and down mountains near his home to keep fit), knew and spoke with leading republicans such as Seamus Twomey, Ruairi O’Bradaigh, Dave O’Connell and Martin McGuinness over a 25-year period.

He did so after receiving occasional requests from a range of British intelligence operatives like Michael Oatley and his successors. These men he described as “servants” of the British government.

His first point of contact with the British crown forces was with a Catholic RUC man based in Derry, Frank Lagan. Duddy owned and ran a chip shop which he described as a “political salon”, frequented by John Hume, Bernadette McAliskey and Eamon McCann, leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

He described Lagan as a “networker” within the broad Catholic community.

Lagan’s first request was for Duddy to ask those organising the civil rights march, which became Bloody Sunday, not to march. He refused to do so.

The second request was to ask the IRA and Official IRA not to have guns on the march. This he did. Bloody Sunday was, he said, “premeditated murder”.

Lagan introduced him to Oatley in the early 1970s. Duddy came to view him as a “vehicle for change”. He told this to leading republicans and he told Oatley: “You have to talk to the IRA”.

He was involved in the background to the IRA’s ceasefire of 1974-75, which he described as “not having a chance because the time was not right”.

When Thatcher came into office Oatley told him: “Put on your long-johns, we are going into the ice-age.”

That ice-age thawed during the first and second hunger strikes of 1980-81 when he was involved in efforts through Oatley and another agent of the British government to secure an acceptable solution. At Saturday’s event he appealed for an end to the ongoing “damaging debate” about the hunger strikes.

British prime minister John Major reopened contact with him (a contact that survived British state violence and IRA attacks).

He accused the Tories of trying to destroy the early moves towards peace when they claimed that Martin McGuinness had sent a message asking for help to end the war.

He said Martin McGuinness was “psychologically incapable” of such a suggestion.

It was a fascinating discussion and in time the people of this country will rightly see Brendan Duddy as a ‘servant of peace’.

Sourced from the Irish News

Gerry Adams recalls Kieran Doherty

Note: See also Before the Dawn, pages 308-310.

Monday, August 3, 2009
Fair Play
Gerry Adams, Leargas blog

doherty_cupJoe McDonnell’s grandson Caolan presents the Joe McDonnell Cup to Captain Gary Lennon of Sarsfields

3 Lúnasa 2009

FAIR PLAY.

On Saturday afternoon this blog travelled to Saint Teresa’s Club in Belfast to watch the play offs in the Joe McDonnell – Kieran Doherty Football Tournament.

Joe and Kieran who died on hungerstrike in the H Blocks in 1981 were Saint Teresa’s men. The very fine playing facility on the Glen Road bears their names, Páirc Mhic Dhomhnaill Uí Dhocartaigh.

Each year the club organises a very competitive days sport for Under 16 players in their memory. Fair play to the organisers, the referees and most especially the players and mentors. Joe and Kieran would have enjoyed the day out. They were good Gaels.

Joe, a wee bit older and a wee bit smaller than Kieran was a good sportsman, resourceful in a skirmish and inclined to play on the referee’s blind side. But always for the devilment of it. He was not a cynical player. In football or anything else. Doc was a big guy. Six foot three inches tall. Maybe in another era he could have been county material. He won a minor medal with Saint Teresa’s and although the struggle interrupted his sporting life Kieran stayed fit, energetic and athletic.

I thought of Doc and Joe as I sat with my back to the Black Mountain. The city of Belfast stretched before us away off to the middle distance and the Craigantlet Hills. To our left the Cavehill looked down its nose at Belfast Lough and to our right lightly shrouded in rain in the far distance, the Mournes swept down to the sea. Impervious to all this, Saint Teresa’s and Naomh Pol Under 16s battled it out in the final of one competition and Eoin Roe’s and the Paddies (Sarsfields) in the other. Eoin Roe’s are a Tír Eoghan club and they play good football but the Paddies were better on the day. Saint Teresa’s were victorious as well. Seven clubs in all participated.

The Pearse’s turned up with their Under 16 hurlers but they couldn’t get a game. Communications, communications, communications!! But fair play to the stalwarts who keep this very fine club going. It was terrific to see such a fine squad of young hurlers ready to do battle for their team.

I got to do some of the presentations afterwards. Caolan McDonald, Joe’s grandson did the rest. And a fine job he did as well.

Between them all and all the other young athletes who turned up at the Feile an Phobal Carnival opening on Sunday morning, methinks the future of the gaelic games is secure in Aontroim. Our camógs, hurlers and footballers are the sleeping giants of the GAA. Our senior footballers have shown what is possible. Fair play to them. They did us and our county proud.

Joe and Kieran would be pleased about that as well.

I went to the Féile Carnival from the commemoration at Doc’s house and the vigil on Andytown Road on Sunday morning. At the commemoration Big Bobby regaled us with tales of derring-do and other bits of loose talk laced with gems of political clarity and words of great wisdom.

Then Mrs Doherty sang for us. A song about her son.

I thought of the last time I saw Kieran. In the prison hospital in the H Blocks of Long Kesh. By this time he was the TD for Cavan Monaghan. It was the 29 July 1981. Kieran died on August 2.

‘I’m not a criminal.’ He said
.
‘For too long our people have been broken. The Free Staters, the church, the SDLP. We won’t be broken. We’ll get our five demands. If I’m dead … well, the others will have them. I don’t want to die, but that’s up to the Brits. They think they can break us. Well they can’t.’ He grinned self-consciously: Tiocfaidh ar lá.’

We shook hands before I left, an old internee’s hand-shake, firm and strong.

‘Thanks for coming in, I’m glad we had that wee yarn. Tell everyone, all the lads, I was asking for them and … ‘ He continued to grip my hand.

‘Don’t worry, we’ll get our five demands. We’ll break That¬cher. Lean ar aghaidh.

Talking later to Kieran’s father Alfie, his eyes brimming with unshed tears, in the quiet cells in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, I felt a raw hatred for the injustice which created this crisis.

I am glad to say that I still feel the same today 28 years after Kieran’s death. And I am humbled that I knew him and Joe who died on July 8 1981, and the other hungerstrikers.

Fair play to them all. And to their families.

 

Sourced from Leargas blog

Recent Items

Contents

Use this link to access all contents

New to Archive

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.