July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Irish News: Sinn Fein leaders didn’t want protest to end says ex-minister

Sinn Fein leaders didn’t want protest to end says ex-minister
By Bimpe Archer

SINN Fein’s leadership didn’t want the Hunger Strike to end, such was the political advantage from the deaths, a former SDLP government minister has claimed.

The comment comes following claims by former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald about a deal proposed by the British after the death of the fourth hunger striker which the prisoners, he says, “were keen to accept”.

There was no comment yesterday from Sinn Fein, which has always denied that an offer was accepted by the prisoners.

However, veteran politicians who watched the events unfold have spoken of their dismay at the new revelations.

Former SDLP agriculture minister Brid Rodgers said there was no reason for anyone to die after Bobby Sands.

“The leaders in Sinn Fein didn’t want the hunger strikes to end,” she claimed.

“It’s dreadful. You have to think what did all those people die for after Bobby Sands?

“A lot of people in the present younger generation probably don’t realise what it was for a young life to be snuffed out for nothing. Those people died and they can’t say what they would have said or done.

“I don’t think it will have an effect on the younger generation because the hunger strikes are being put up there as part of the myth of Sinn Fein and the wonderful things they did.

“I don’t think after Bobby Sands died anyone else should have died. They had all proved they were willing to give up their lives for what they believed.

“One has to ask now, what did they die for? It makes me sad every time I think about it.”

Mrs Rodgers said that only the Sinn Fein leadership emerged with anything positive from the period.

“It elevated Sinn Fein into a new plain of support because of public sympathy and public admiration,” she said.

“They gave their lives and a lot of people are benefiting now.”

Her view was echoed by DUP peer Maurice Morrow, who described Dr FitzGerald’s contentions as “a startling revelation”.

“Garret FitzGerald has told us that a number of lives could have been saved. This is quite horrendous that the republican leadership on the outside demanded that those people stay on hunger strike,” Lord Morrow said.

“The republican leadership – Adams, McGuinness and co – have some explaining to do, not only to the world at large, but to the families of those who died on hunger strike.

“It seems that the lust driving the political and republican agenda at that particular time was so forthright and determined that the message sent about that was: ‘You will have to die’.

“They didn’t need to die. There was an offer there that would have saved lives.”

UUP peer Ken Maginnis said he had been aware at the time that Sinn Fein leadership had thwarted attempts to call off the hunger strikes.

“It’s totally in line with what I would have gathered from my good friend Denis Faul, who gave me an impression that there was a battle between himself and those on the outside,” he said.

“He was shunned by Sinn Fein because he had tried to work with the parents of the various hunger strikers to get them to call the hunger strikes off. Everything that Garret says rings a bell with me.

“I was friendly with Denis Faul as a teacher before we ever got into the Troubles in the late sixties and right up until his death we would have been good friends.”

But Lord Maginnis said he did not expect there to be repercussions for Sinn Fein at this remove.

“I think that by and large we’re past that,” he said.

“The leaders at that time have moved away from violence and have in many ways pointed the way to others within that tradition.

“I don’t think it will suddenly mean a boost for dissidents.

“There’s no depth of support for dissident republicans.”

Danny McBrearty, speaking on behalf of the Republican Network for Unity (RNU), joined calls for an independent inquiry into the events.

“Few events in Irish history were as inspirational, as emotional, and as politically consequential for republicans as was the Hunger Strike in 1981,” he said.

Mr McBrearty said the families of hunger strikers Patsy O’Hara and Michael Devine had demanded an “independent republican inquiry” and were supported by a “growing number of former blanketmen, including at least one former hunger striker, Gerard Hodgins”.

“The questions first raised by Richard O’Rawe and now corroborated are too important to too many to be ignored or buried or relegated to alternative one-sided meetings,” he said.

“The facts and history of the Hunger Strike go well beyond any party interests or politics.

“Indeed many of those who now call for a full and open debate were themselves IRA prisoners and Richard O’Rawe was part of their trusted leadership in the H-blocks.

“The truth belongs to all republicans.”

Sourced from The Irish News

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

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