July 1981

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Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Sinn Fein leaders must bow to plea for Hunger Strike deal inquiry

Sinn Fein leaders must bow to plea for Hunger Strike deal inquiry
Irish News, letters page
Patrick Saunders Belfast 14
30/10/09

FOR a long time I have followed the debate about the 1981 Hunger Strike and the events which many people are now questioning. At the time I was just a young boy so I don’t really remember a lot about those terrible days – except that I wasn‘t allowed out too often. Over the last few years there has been a steady increase in the number of republicans calling for an independent inquiry and I have to say

I totally agree with them.

The republicans who are calling for this inquiry are ex-Blanketmen, family members of those brave Hunger Strikers who died and a lot of other well-known republicans for whom I have a lot of respect and admiration.

The only people holding up and denying the opportunity of this inquiry are the leadership of Sinn Fein. Gerry Adams undoubtedly played a pivotal role in what went on in the H-blocks and would have known whether there was a deal or not.

He has said there was no deal and the claim that there was is just everyone on a Sinn Fein-bashing exercise.

I totally reject that view. People want the truth, that’s all.

If it comes out through an inquiry that there was no deal, then everyone will be able to put the whole issue to bed and finally try to get on with their lives.

This is a very emotional issue to many people and I’m being as sensitive as I can.

Too many people are calling for an inquiry now to just ignore them.

Sourced from the Irish News

Irish News letters page, 27 October 2009

An honest answer
Irish News letters page
GEAROID O TOHMRAIR Beal Feirste 12
27/10/09

I SEE that Richard O’Rawe is again peddling rubbish (October 22) about a deal on the Hunger Strike that the British government had apparently sent to Brendan Duddy and – according to Richard – was passed to Gerry Adams and rejected by the republican leadership on the outside who were running the strike.

As far as I and the majority of republicans are aware, it was the prisoners and the gaol leadership who were in control of the blanket protest and the Hunger Strike.

Bernard Fox (same edition) is a republican who disagrees with the current direction Sinn Fein has taken.

It would have been easy for him to have muddied the waters a bit or to have said nothing.

But Bernard is an honest and honourable man and I believe him because he has nothing to gain.

Sourced from the Irish News


Reliability
Irish News letters page
Patrick J Corr Pittsburgh PA, USA
27/10/09

Reading about the inability of Gerry Adams to deal with the offer to the 1981 hunger strikers that would have ended the protest at an earlier stage, I believe Mgr Dennis Faul’s lesson to me, as a student at St Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon, on the reliability of republican leaders, has been fully vindicated.

Sourced from the Irish News

Irish News letters page, 26 October 2009

We should not insult the hunger strikers’ intelligence
Irish News letters page
Manus McDaid, Derry City
26/10/09

Carrie Twomey, in her letter entitled ‘The men behind the wire grow all the more noble as time reveals the truth’ (September 29), attacks me personally, although I never mentioned Sinn Fein in my letter (September 16).

On the matter of the first Hunger Strike, we sadly cannot ask Brendan Hughes his reasons for being part of the ending of the first hunger strike, we can only surmise.

Ms Twomey says (as if she personally knows) it was Mr Hughes’s ‘humanity’. Given the state of the prisoners in both Long Kesh and Armagh, I wonder if Mr Hughes was tricked by the British. That is an equally plausible hypothesis.

Again Ms Twomey speaks in a ‘the facts’ manner when she addresses the second Hunger Strike.

“The second Hunger Strike continued for longer than it needed because of the inhumanity of those managing it on the outside”.

That is not fact – it is opinion to which you are entitled.

I disagree with your opinion and I’ll tell you why.

It is a fact that the hunger strikers had learnt a bitter lesson. ‘‘Do not take simply the word of the British”.

Therefore they wanted in writing the response of the British to their five demands. They wanted a British government official to come in person and deliver the written response to them.

This required no influence from the ‘outside’.

It required the British to respond as described above.

They did not do so.

This may not sit easily with Ms Twomey.

It is good that she recognises the integrity of the hunger strikers.

It is too bad though that she and others, perhaps unconsciously, insult the intelligence of these men and their families by fatuous concoctions of half-truths and conspiracy theories.

Sourced from the Irish News


Sinn Fein has forgotten its best friends
Irish News letters page
L Dempsey, Belfast 11
26/10/09

The leadership of Sinn Fein and the IRA always demanded extreme loyalty from its members and it is recognised that Sinn Fein owes its electoral strength primarily to the sacrifice of the hunger strikers.

However, the leadership have never felt compelled to return that loyalty and former prisoners have been abandoned. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the fact that Coiste na nIarchimi, ostensibly an umbrella organisation for ex-prisoner groups, is staffed by people whose loyalty is to Sinn Fein first rather than to prisoners’ interests.

Thus we have former employees now sitting on policing boards and partnerships and advocating support for an organisation that views republican ex-prisoners as criminals.

This is a conflict of interest and wholly incompatible with prisoners’ interests.

If prisoner issues are to be addressed, it is going to have to be by people willing to exclusively promote prisoners’ interests.

We are fed up hearing how important it was for the peace process for Gerry Adams to get a visa to the US – and all of those in the leadership of Sinn Fein, including ex-prisoners, can do likewise. Those not tied to Sinn Fein – but who sacrificed their blood and liberty at the bidding of these so-called republicans – cannot get a visa.

That’s not important to Sinn Fein.

Let’s consider an independent prisoners’ movement.

Sourced from the Irish News

Only an independent inquiry can reveal the truth of the Hunger Strike

Only an independent inquiry can reveal the truth of the Hunger Strike
Thomas Lynch, Irish News
24/10/09

Duleek 1916-1981 Monument Committee in Co Meath are an independent republican commemoration committee who erected a monument in memory of the 22 hunger strikers who died between 1917 and 1981.

We read with interest your coverage of the ‘Hunger Strike – Was There A Deal’ and took into account the claims and counter-claims regarding the era of 1981.

Sinn Fein Councillor Michael Henry McIvor in his letter (October 10) made a number of points:

– Dissidents and political foes join to attack Sinn Fein and accuse them of allowing six prisoners to die for political gains.

– Thatcher gave in to the Hunger Strikers and conceded the five demands turning her into putty.

– It is absurd for anyone to say Ruairi O Bradaigh (then Sinn Fein president in 1981) would sell out six hunger strikers for votes.

– Only an idiot would claim that the INLA allowed two of their members to die for more electoral support for Sinn Fein.

Add all this to calls by Gerry Adams for an independent international truth commission to be formed regarding the Troubles.

Mr McIvor and Mr Adams should have no problem in supporting an independent inquiry into the deaths of the hunger strikers.

And that is precisely what is being called for by the Devine and O’Hara families.

We, as an independent committee not affiliated to any political party, call on Councillor McIvor and Mr Adams to confirm that they will participate in an inquiry along with all those making claims and counter-claims about the events of 1981.

As republicans we owe it to the memory of those brave men and their families to put these rumours to bed once and for all.

Thomas Lynch
Duleek 1916-1981 Independent Monument Committee
Duleek, Co Meath

Sourced from the Irish News

“Rusty Nail”: Chain of Command

Thursday, October 22, 2009

1981 Hunger Strike: Chain of Command
“Rusty Nail” at Slugger O’Toole

Lots of ground to cover today, with a lot of detail. In today’s Irish News, former hunger striker Bernard Fox says the matter should be laid to rest out of respect for the families, while Richard O’Rawe and Tony O’Hara seek answers.

This post jumps off a quote referenced in one of today’s articles, and expands the background.

Richard O’Rawe’s article references a quote from Nor Meekly Serve My Time. This book, first published in 1994 and reissued in 2006 for the 25th anniversary of the hunger strike, was complied by Brian Campbell, and edited by Campbell, Laurence McKeown and Felim O’Hagan. It’s an oral history of the H-Block Struggle as told by the prisoners and as such is a valuable historical resource.  For those interested in the current hunger strike issue, it contains some nuggets which put the current and shifting Morrison narrative under further pressure. Where it is a real problem, in that context, is that these are the words of people like McFarlane and McKeown; their earlier record contradicts the line being claimed today, and supports the alternative narrative. The two can’t both be right – either they were lying then or they are lying now. What is worse, from the perspective of those defending the contemporary Morrison narrative, is that the book itself can be seen as evidence of collusion in the cover-up by what it has left out. In this regard, the book is a no-win for that position – but the historical record stands.

The business starts on page 198-199 (2006 ed.) with Bik McFarlane describing the background to the ICJP involvement around the 4th of July. The key quote from that section:

“Speculation began to mount in the media and rose to fever pitch when the ICJP was granted permission to visit the hunger strikers. Expectations among our people outside were high – surely this was a clear sign that the pressure had finally forced the British to open negotiations and implement a solution?”

On the next page (200) McFarlane explains the chain of command surrounding negotiations:

“It was Saturday 4 July when the delegation arrived at the prison hospital to speak with the hunger strikers. The Brits stipulated that I could not be present, so the first meeting took place while I remained in my cell. I was pretty annoyed at being excluded because we had already agreed amongst ourselves that negotiations about a settlement would not take place without me being there to represent the views of all the POWs. In fact, our original position, as established by Bobby Sands, that negotiations would only take place in the presence of three advisors (Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison and myself), had not been dispensed with. However, some of the hunger strikers felt that, since they weren’t actually negotiating a settlement, but only hearing what the ICJP had to say, then to possibly jeopardise the meeting by insisting on my presence would, in their opinion, have been foolhardy. But we had allowed a wedge to be driven in which would be difficult to remove. The hunger strikers did inform the delegation that, in the event of a settlement being negotiated or agreed upon, I would have to be consulted, and they urged the ICJP to seek a meeting with me as soon as possible. ”

Contrast this with his statement to Brian Rowan, 4 June, 2009, about meeting with the hunger strikers after they had met with Danny Morrison:

“We went through it step by step,” he said. “The hunger strikers themselves said: OK the Brits are prepared to do business — possibly, but what is detailed, or what has been outlined here isn’t enough to conclude the hunger strike.

“And they said to me, what do I think?

“And I said I concur with your analysis — fair enough — but you need to make your minds up,” he continued.”

What was McFarlane’s role, and how much power did the hunger strikers themselves actually have? Was he merely a ‘consultant’ or was he the one issuing orders? As O/C, he most certainly would have had to have been consulted. But what was the flow of information? How much information did the hunger strikers have about what was being done in their name? Clearly, it was McFarlane who was in charge, not the hunger strikers, and what we see in the tension between these two accounts is the shifting of the onus of responsibility by McFarlane from himself onto the hunger strikers.

CHAIN OF COMMAND

Given that the hunger strikers were never fully informed, and were – in McFarlane’s own words – unable to negotiate on their own behalf, the idea that they and they alone were calling the shots is a nonsense. That is how it should have gone: the O/C would inform the prisoners of the details of negotiations and consult with them, and would be speaking for the prisoners; those representing the Army on the outside would have as their duty to inform the O/C of all that was being said and to be doing as the prisoners wished. Any negotiations and offers from the British, such as what came via the Mountain Climber, would also have to be made known to the Army.

Ruairí Ó Brádaigh is explaining this when he says the Army Council was unaware of any offer coming from the British. Ó Brádaigh’s comments in the Irish News very clearly follow along traditional Army lines.

First and foremost, the Army Council could not order prisoners onto hunger strike. Once a prisoner or prisoners made the decision to go on hunger strike, the prisoners themselves were to be in control – it was they who were to make the decisions about any settlements. However, while the Army Council could not order a prisoner onto hunger strike, if it would help the prisoners they could order them off it (this is what Father Faul wanted Adams to do when he visited the hunger strikers at the end of July).

Standard structure meant that the O/C inside the prison was empowered to negotiate with the prison governor or screws. However, if negotiations were conducted at the level of the British government, that was to be handled by the Army Council on the outside. The A/C representative was to keep the prisoners informed of the negotiations, including any offers being made, so that the prisoners could decide what they were going to do. In this aspect the Army Council’s role would best be seen as a facilitator, not a dictator. They were to keep the prisoners fully informed of negotiations being conducted on their behalf, and to take instructions from the prisoners.

In addition to this, the IRA constitution had its own mandate the Council had to follow; no business could be conducted without a quorum of 4; any settlement or offer the British made, the full Council had to be made aware of, as well as the fact that the British were in direct talks with Army representatives.

What Ó Brádaigh is making very clear is that this was not the case. What was being done by Adams, McGuinness, Morrison and the others was not sanctioned by the Council; the Council did not know. Just like the prisoners, they were told nothing.

There was no quorum as mandated by the IRA constitution; what was being done was being done outside Army structures. The prisoners weren’t in control of their hunger strike, the flow of information was not happening as it should have done. Those representing the Army on the outside were not following the wishes of the prisoners as expressed by the O/C, but rather the other way around. The O/C was dictating to the prisoners what those on the outside were ordering him. Those on the outside were running rogue and not keeping their Army colleagues abreast of their negotiations with the British – nor of their plans to radically change political strategy, of which this hunger strike was a major part of implementing.

This back-to-front order is reinforced in a comm from McFarlane to Adams. He is speaking of the events of the 5th of July; Morrison had been in to see the hunger strikers in the morning and then met with McFarlane; the ICJP came in that evening and spent four hours with the hunger strikers before meeting with McFarlane after midnight:

“Meeting terminated about midnight and Bishop O’Mahoney and J. Connolly paid me a short visit just to let me know the crack. Since then I haven’t been to see anyone except Lorny and Mick Devine on the way back to the block this morning. Requests to see hunger strikers and O/Cs have not been answered at all…I’m instructing Lorny to tell hunger strikers (if they are called together) not to talk to anyone till they get their hands on me. OK?”

The same comm very explicitly describes how he discussed the ICJP offer with the hunger strikers – not the Mountain Climber one – and the line he instructed them to take.

On page 205, Laurence McKeown describes Danny Morrison’s visit to the hunger strikers:

“Danny told us the history of their contact with the ICJP and also mentioned other contacts with the British Foreign Office (none of the communication between the Republican Movement and the British government at this time has ever been admitted to by the latter). We outlined our position to him and told him we had heard nothing so far to make us believe there was resolution to the stailc in sight. The ICJP would, however, be returning that evening. We split up and Danny went to see Bik who hadn’t been allowed to be present with us during out meeting. I was happy with what had taken place. It seemed there was movement. Why else would the NIO agree to Danny’s visit with Bik and us? I felt we were in a strong position.”

The hunger strikers were told nothing, none of the details of the offer from the Mountain Climber – merely that contact had been made. The only indication of any sort of movement that the hunger strikers had was Morrison’s presence. They were told nothing.

This also shows the chain of command in action; Morrison only told the hunger strikers that there was contact; he told McFarlane the details of the offer.

McFarlane elaborates, on page 208:

“While they [the ICJP] were hopping back and forth between Stormont and the Kesh in supposed negotiations with Alison, the British government had secretly opened a link to the IRA and begun negotiations to attempt to resolve the issue. My first knowledge of this came when I had been summoned to the prison hospital that Sunday morning only to be confronted by Danny Morrison. I was completely flabbergasted at seeing him there; my mind was racing through all sorts of computations. It transpired that the Brits had agreed to allow him into the Kesh to consult with us and to explain the nature of the contact which had been established. There was definitely an air of optimism gripping me, but I was urged to be cautious, as it was possible that nothing would emerge to satisfy our demands.”

McFarlane, 4 June, 2009 interview with Rowan:

“Something was going down,” McFarlane said.

“And I said to Richard (O’Rawe) this is amazing, this is a huge opportunity and I feel there’s a potential here (in the Mountain Climber process) to end this.”

On page 210, McFarlane again:

“Back in the block, I waited for news that would end the nightmare, but the comms I received from the Army Council showed the Brits still hadn’t gone beyond the position we had agreed and had reaffirmed on Sunday in the hospital. Then on Wednesday we received the heartbreaking news that Joe had died early that morning. It was more than tragic because I had been holding out hope that this was the chance we had longed for.”

Richard O’Rawe, Blanketmen, page 184:

“Bik and I were shattered. The possibility that the Council might reject the proposals had never entered into our calculations. We were convinced that we had achieved a great victory and that the republican movement could present the deal as a momentous triumph; now it appeared that our analysis and optimism had been both flawed and premature.”

10pm comm from McFarlane to Adams:

“I don’t know if you’ve thought on this line, but I have been thinking that if we don’t pull this off and Joe dies then the RA are going to come under some bad stick from all quarters. Everyone is crying the place down that a settlement is there and those Commission chappies are convinced that they have breached Brit principles. Anyway we’ll sit tight and see what comes…”

THATCHER’S OFFERS

Thatcher continued her pursuit of Adams’ acceptance of her offer throughout July; between the 18th and 19th, during the ‘frank statement’ exchanges, she sent him a draft of a speech she was to give in Canada that would have announced the end of the hunger strike. From Adams’ biography Before the Dawn, page 303:

“During our contact in the course of the hunger strike, her government representatives approached us in advance of a world leaders’ conference in Canada at which she was due to speak on 21 July. “The Prime Minister,” they said, “would like to announce at the conference that the hunger strike has ended.” They outlined the support we had and the support we didn’t have, and then went on to tell us, “This is what the Prime Minister is prepared to say.” They fed us a draft of the speech that Thatcher was going to deliver in Toronto, and there was no doubt that they were prepared to take amendments to her text from us if it had been possible to come to some sort of resolution at that time.”

In an interview in Canada on the 21st, Thatcher was sending a very clear message to Adams when responding to a question about where things would go next:

“I just hope that those people on hunger strike will come off it. It is futile. It can do them no good at all. It is for them or for the people who are influencing them to go on hunger strike. It is for them to get off. It is they who are causing the deaths of these people.”

McFarlane’s 22 July comm to Adams discussing this is very stark (Ten Men Dead, 329-330):

“Comrade Mor, I got your comm today. Quite a revelation I must say. I lay on my bed for a couple of hours, trying to weigh up everything. Almost dashed out of my cell once or twice. I even toyed with the idea that their ‘very frank statement’ was a master-stroke linked to a super brink tactic. It was then that I wised up and started looking to the future (immediate and distant) and began moving to a positive line.

Firstly I’d like to say I believe you have done a terrific job in handling this situation and if we can take the opposition’s ‘frank statement’ as 100% (which it does appear to be) then in itself it is quite some feat, i.e., extraordinary such an admission from them. Then again I suppose it is something we have all known already (or at least suspected).

Anyway, to be going on, I fully agree with the two options you outlined. It is either a settlement or it isn’t. No room for half measures and meaningless cosmetic exercises. Better be straight about it and just come out and say sin e – no more!!

Now, to maintain position and forge ahead, it looks like a costly venture indeed. However, after careful consideration of the overall situation I believe it would be wrong to capitulate. We took a decision and committed ourselves to hunger strike action. Our losses have been heavy – that I realize only too well. Yet I feel the part we have played in forwarding the liberation struggle has been great. Terrific gains have been made and the Brits are losing by the day.  The sacrifice called for is the ultimate and men have made it heroically. Many others are, I believe, committed to hunger strike action to achieve a final settlement. I realize the stakes are very high – the Brits also know what capitulation means for them. Hence their entrenched position. Anyway, the way I see it is that we are fighting a war and by choice we have placed ourselves in the front line.

I still feel we should maintain this position and fight on in current fashion. It is we who are on top of the situation and we who are the stronger. Therefore we maintain. In the immediate this means that Doc and Kevin will forfeit their lives and as you say the others on hunger strike could well follow. I feel we must continue until we achieve a settlement, or until circumstances force us into a position where no choice would be left but to capitulate.

I don’t believe the latter would arise. I do feel we can break the Brits. But again, as you say, what is the price to be? Well, Cara, I think it’s a matter of setting our sights firmly on target and shooting straight ahead. It’s rough, brutal, ruthless and a lot of other things as well, but we are fighting a war and we must accept that front-line troops are more susceptible to casualities than anyone. We will just have to steel ourselves to bear the worst. I hope and pray we are right.”

At this point, Adams was rejecting the Thatcher offer because “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”. (Ten Men Dead, page 325) The offer from Thatcher contained 4 of the 5 demands and she was also promising to remove the prison governor, Stanley Hilditch, who was replaced when the hunger strike dwindled to an end in October (McFarlane met with the new prison governor, Willy Kerr, on 21th October).

ADAMS MEETS HUNGER STRIKERS

All of this is to preface Adams’ meeting with the hunger strikers on 29 July. We are meant to believe, according to the current Morrison narrative, that the hunger strikers were fully informed at all points about all details and were the ones who were calling the shots. Yet the evidence clearly contradicts this, both in terms of the information the hunger strikers were privy to, and what the chain of command in effect was. The hunger strikers were told next to nothing; they were certainly never given the full details of the Thatcher offers. Any information they were given about what Thatcher was offering was shaded in terms of what line the hunger strikers were to take. When the prison leadership was briefed on the early July Mountain Climber offer, they accepted it, and they were over-ruled by Adams and his committee. McFarlane was at great pains to keep everyone in line, and on the conveyor belt of self-sacrifice, beyond the point where they had broken the Brits and had won the demands they were striking for.

Laurence McKeown describes the meeting with Adams in Nor Meekly Serve My Time. Key quotes:

“One evening during lock-up the AG came to tell us that Gerry Adams, Owen Carron, and Seamus Ruddy would be coming to visit us in about one hour’s time. It was something out of the blue. There had been no talk about it nor had any of us requested such a meeting. I had been lying in bed but now I got up to pace the floor – an old habit of mine formed during the Blanket. I thought this must be a positive sign. If Gerry Adams and Owen Carron were coming, it must mean some approach had been made to them by the Brits.” (page 234)

“Those of us who did meet – Pat Beag, Big Tom, Paddy, Red Mick, Matt and myself – were in good form, curious about what was happening and speculating on what could be behind it all. The fact that Seamus Ruddy, an IRSP spokesperson, was also coming with Adams and Carron added to the speculation that a possible deal had been worked out with all involved. ” (234-235)

“Gerry said that, when asked, he readily agreed to visit us and give us an appraisal of the situation and how he saw our position in relation to the possibility of the Brits conceding our demands. It was a grim picture. There were no ifs or buts. Really he was spelling out for us what we in a sense knew but didn’t like to think through. The Brits had already allowed six men to die and they would likely allow more to die. Certainly there was no movement to indicate that they desired a speedy resolution to the protest.” (235)

Did Adams not tell the hunger strikers of the offer being made only a few days before? Didn’t the hunger strikers know about the ‘frank exchange’ that had taken place only a week before? Didn’t they know what had gone on with the Mountain Climber offer? McKeown writes as if they knew nothing of any of this going into the meeting, and what is worse, as he tells it, they were not told of any of it during the meeting with Adams.

McKeown goes on, describing Adams’ brief visit with Kieran Doherty:

“Gerry explained the reason for their visit just as he had done with us. Doc was told that what it would mean for him if he continued on hunger strike was that he would be dead within a few days. Doc said he was very much aware of that, but if our demands were not granted, then that is what would happen. He knew what he was doing and what he believed in. On their way out of his cell Doc’s parents met and spoke with Gerry, Bik and the others. They asked what the situation was and Gerry said he had just told all the stailceoiri, including Kieran, that there was no deal on the table from the Brits, no movement of any sort and if the stalic continued, Doc would most likely be dead within a few days. They just listened and nodded, more or less resigned to the fact that they would be watching their son die any day now.” (236)

Adams lied.


Appendix:

The July offer from Thatcher:

I. extend to all male prisoners in Northern Ireland the clothing regime at present available to female prisoners in Armagh Prison (i.e. subject to the prison governor’s approval);

II. make available to all prisoners in Northern Ireland the allowance of letters, parcels and visits at present available to conforming prisoners;

III. allow the restoration of forfeited remission at the discretion of the responsible disciplinary authority, as indicated in my statement of 30 June, which hitherto has meant the restoration of up to one-fifth of remission lost subject to a satisfactory period of good behaviour;

IV. ensure that a substantial part of the work will consist of domestic tasks inside and outside the wings necessary for servicing of the prison (such as cleaning and in the laundries and kitchens), constructive work, e.g. on building projects or making toys for charitable bodies, and study for Open University or other courses. The prison authorities will be responsible for supervision. The aim of the authorities will be that prisoners should do the kinds of work for which they are suited, but this will not always be possible and the authorities will retain responsibility for decisions about allocation.

3. Little advance is possible on association. It will be permitted within each wing, under supervision of the prison staff.

4. Protesting prisoners have been segregated from the rest. Other prisoners are not segregated by religious or any other affiliation. If there were no protest the only reason for segregating some prisoners from others would be the judgment of the prison authorities, not the prisoners, that this was the best way to avoid trouble between groups.


Regarding the IRA Army Council’s role
Excerpted from Anthony McIntyre’s interview with Richard O’Rawe (May 16, 2006)

Q: There are many memorable pages in your book. It is a moving account of how naked men for years defied a vicious and brutalising prison management working for the British government to brand the mark of the criminal on republicanism. But the real point of controversy is your assertion that the Army Council stopped a deal being reached that would have delivered to the prisoners the substance of the five demands. Army Council people of the time seem to dispute this. Ruairi O’Bradaigh, for example, is on record as saying that the council did no such thing although he does state that your claims must be explored further. It seems clear that he suspects you are right in what you say but wrong in whose door you lay the blame at. What have you to say to this?

A: At the time we had no reason to believe we were dealing with any body other than the Army Council of the IRA. What reason was there to think otherwise?

Q: And not a sub-committee specifically tasked with running the hunger strike?

A: Whether they called it a sub-committee or not, we were of the view that everything went to the Army Council. Nobody led us to believe any different. Did you think any different?

Q: At the time, no.

A: We all felt it was the Council. Brownie was representing the Council and he wrote the comms. Why would we think we were dealing with anything less than the Council when he was the man communicating with us?

Q: You might not wish to say it but for the purpose of the reader – and this has been publicly documented in copious quantities – Brownie is Gerry Adams, who was a member of the Army Council and the IRA adjutant general during the hunger strike.

A: I have nothing to add to that.

Q: But do you still hold to the view, despite the protests from O’Bradaigh, that the Council actually prevented a satisfactory outcome being reached?

A: No, I do not. Army Council was the general term I used to describe the decision makers on the outside handling the hunger strike. I was not privy to Army Council deliberations. But I believed they were the only people who had the authority to manage the hunger strike from the outside. So it seemed safe then to presume that when we received a comm from Brownie it was from the Army Council as a collective.

Q: But what has happened to lead you to change your mind and accept that the Council may have been by-passed on this matter by Gerry Adams?

A: I have since found out that people on the Army Council at the time have, after my book came out, rejected my thesis and refused to accept that the Council had directed the prisoners to refuse the offer.

Q: Bypassing the Council as a means to shafting it and ultimately getting his own way would seem to be a trait of Gerry Adams. Do you believe then that the bulk of the Council did not approve blocking an end to the hunger strike before Joe McDonnell died?

A: Absolutely. The sub committee managed and monitored the hunger strike. Given that comms were coming in two and three times a day it is simply not possible to believe that the Council could have been kept informed of all the developments. Could the Council even have met regularly during that turbulent period?

Q: Could they not be covering for their own role?

A: I have not spoken to any of the council of the day. But those that have claim that they appeared genuinely shocked that my book should implicate them. And they do allow for the possibility that the wool was pulled over their eyes by the sub-committee handling the strike.

Q: So what do you think did happen?

A: As I said in my book, Adams was at the top of the pyramid. He sent the comms in. He read the comms that came out. He talked to the Mountain Climber. As I said earlier, we know that he, and possibly the clique around him, decided to reject the second offer, at least, without telling Bik what was in it. Nobody knows the hunger strike like Adams knows it. And yet he is maintaining the silence of the mouse, the odd squeak from him when confronted.

Here’s what he said in relation to the Mountain Climber in the RTE Hunger strikes documentary,

‘There had been a contact which the British had activated. It became known as the Mountain Climber. Basically, I didn’t learn this until after the hunger strike ended.’

He didn’t learn what? About the contact and the offers, or the Mountain Climber euphemism? If he’s saying he didn’t know about the offers, then why did he show the offer to the Father Crilly and Hugh Logue in Andersonstown on 6 July 1981? And if he’s saying he didn’t know of the Mountain Climber euphemism, I’d refer your readers to Bik’s comm to Adams on pages 301-302, Ten Men Dead, where Bik tells Brownie, who is Adams, that Morrison had told the hunger strikers about the Mountain Climber: ‘Pennies has already informed them of “Mountain Climber” angle’ So he knew about the Mountain Climber euphemism, and he knew of the offers. As a defensive strategy, this lurking in the shadows, this proceeding through ambiguity, can only work for so long. At some point academics and investigative journalists are going to ask the searching questions and Gerry Adams is not going to be up to them.

Q: Are you now suggesting that Adams may have withheld crucial details from the Army Council?

A: I don’t know the procedural detail of the relationship between Adams and the Army Council. What I do know is that my account of events is absolutely spot on. You said yourself on RTE on Tuesday that there was independent verification of the conversation between myself and Bik McFarlane.

Q: Indeed. I think you realise there is a bit more than that. As you know I have enormous time for Bik. It goes back to the days before the blanket. But I can only state what I uncovered. I am not saying that it is conclusive. These things can always be contested. But it certainly shades the debate your way. If Morrison and Gibney continue to mislead people that there is no evidence supporting your claim from that wing on H3 I can always allow prominent journalists and academics to access what is there and arrive at whatever conclusions they feel appropriate. That should settle matters and cause a few red faces to boot. We know how devious and unscrupulous these people have been in their handling of this. They simply did not reckon on what would fall the way of the Blanket. Nor did I for that matter. A blunder on their part.

A: If the Army Council say they received no comm from us accepting the deal, and also say that they sent in no word telling us effectively to refuse the deal, then I think the only plausible explanation is that those who sent in the ‘instruction’ to reject the Mountain Climber’s offer were doing so without the knowledge or approval of the Army Council.

Q: When you say ‘those’ you presumably mean Adams and Liam Og who was also sending in comms coming to the prison leadership?

A: Yes.

Q: Liam Og has been identified by Denis O’Hearn, author of the biography of Bobby Sands, as Tom Hartley. It appears that Hartley was privy to every comm between the leadership and the prisoners.

A: That would be the case.

Q: How can we be sure that Adams rather than Liam Og was responsible for withholding information from the Army Council?

A: Because, while we might not know the procedural detail, Adams had a relationship with the Army Council that was vastly different from Liam Og. You point out that this is well recorded in public.

Q: If you absolve the Army Council of the day, as a collective, of responsibility for sabotaging a conclusion to the hunger strike that would have saved the lives of six men, who do you hold responsible?

A: Maggie Thatcher had the responsibility for bringing this all to an end.

Q: But given that she made an offer, which would have brought it to an end, and which was sabotaged, who then on the republican side, if not the Council, was responsible?

A: You are trying to tie me down.

Q: I should not have to. You should be telling us directly if as you say you believe in our right to know.

A: Let’s put it like this. The iron lady was not so steely at the end. She wanted a way out. The Army Council, I now believe, as a collective were kept in the dark about developments. The sub-committee ran the hunger strike. Draw your own conclusions from the facts.

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

Richard O’Rawe: There was an offer on the table – but the prisoners weren’t told

There was an offer on the table – but the prisoners weren’t told
THE HUNGER STRIKE Was there a deal?
By Richard O’Rawe, for the Irish News
22/10/09

Richard O’Rawe – former republican prisoner, PRO of the 1981 hunger strikers and author of Blanketmen – responds to Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams on claims a deal was available which would have saved the lives of six hunger strikers

There is now no room for doubting that the hunger strikers, by their sacrifice and courage, melted the iron will of Margaret Thatcher.

In doing so they tore asunder the British government’s policy of criminalisation. Not only that, but the hunger strikers forced the British to make a substantial offer, which was passed to Brendan Duddy (the Mountain Climber) on 5 July 1981.

Martin McGuinness said in his September 28 Irish News article that he took the offer from Duddy and passed it on to Gerry Adams in Belfast.

I believe that, had that offer not been rejected by those republican leaders on the outside who ran the Hunger Strike, it would have spelt victory to the Blanketmen, proved to be a massive propaganda coup for the republican struggle and, most importantly of all, saved the lives of six hunger strikers.

I also believe that while other accounts of the period have crumbled under the weight of damning contemporaneous evidence, my version of events has been vindicated: there was an offer; Bik McFarlane and I did accept it; a comm from Gerry Adams came in to the prison leadership which said that ‘more was needed’.

A similar message was sent to the British government.

Besides Martin McGuinness, the former hunger striker Laurence McKeown contributed an article to The Irish News special edition.

In it Laurence made no direct reference to this offer, preferring instead to write about a conversation he had had with a BBC producer in the 1990s.

That prompts the question: had Laurence and the hunger strikers been made fully aware of the details of the Mountain Climber offer?

I do not think they were and Laurence McKeown’s own book, Nor Meekly Serve My Time, demonstrates this.

For example: on July 29 1981, at the request of the families and Mgr Denis Faul, Gerry Adams, Fermanagh and South Tyrone election candidate Owen Carron, and INLA leader Seamus Ruddy visited the hunger strikers, ostensibly to give them their assessment of the situation.

Thirteen years later, in 1994, Laurence recorded the visit in his book. On page 236 he wrote of Gerry Adams having visited hunger striker Kieran Doherty:

“On their way out of his cell Doc’s parents met and spoke with Gerry, Bik and the others. They asked what the situation was and Gerry said he had just told all the stailceoirí, including Kieran, that there was no deal on the table from the Brits, no movement of any sort and if the stailc continued, Doc would most likely be dead within a few days. They just listened to this and nodded, more or less resigned to the fact that they would be watching their son die any day now.”

Kieran Doherty TD passed away four days after Adams’s visit, believing that there ‘was no deal on the table from the Brits, no movement of any sort’.

What Adams seemingly did not tell Kieran’s dignified parents, Alfie and Margaret, was that, actually, there was a deal on the table from the Brits, and it had been there from before Joe McDonnell died.

Moreover, he did not tell them that there had been movement.

Adams did not tell Mr and Mrs Doherty – or their noble son – about the Mountain Climber offer.

According to Laurence McKeown, Adams did not tell any of the hunger strikers about the Mountain Climber offer. Worse still, he told them the opposite of what he knew to be the facts of the situation.

I believe that Adams misrepresented the situation and Bik McFarlane did nothing to correct him. That is hardly surprising since before Adams even set foot in the prison McFarlane told Pat ‘Beag’ McGeown ‘Don’t make your opinions known,’ at the forthcoming meeting.

Subsequently Pat Beag said, ‘When Gerry was in I didn’t say anything to him.’

In the face of all the evidence Sinn Fein has sought to demonise anyone who criticises their version of the Hunger Strike by representing that any condemnation of them automatically means that the hunger strikers had been dupes.

The hunger strikers were never dupes. In reality, like Pat Beag, they were very astute and politically-aware individuals, people who would not be ‘easily deceived or cheated’ by anyone.

Yet, like any of us, they could only make decisions on the basis of the information they had.

If those they trusted withheld vital information from them, their judgements would obviously have been impaired.

Besides Gerry Adams not having told them of the Mountain Climber offer, when he visited them on July 29, Bik McFarlane never told them that he and I had accepted the Mountain Climber offer.

Furthermore, like McFarlane and the rest of the prison leadership, the hunger strikers were never shown a copy of the British government’s offer.

In fact, none of us prisoners in Long Kesh were told that the offer came in the form of a statement from the then secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Humphrey Atkins, which the British, as documents recently disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act made clear, would have been released if and when the Hunger Strike ended.

So, why was this offer not sent in to the hunger strikers so that they could properly evaluate the attitude of the British?

Who took the decision to withhold it from them?

And the biggest question of all – why?

Sourced from the Irish News

Bernard Fox: Claims only add to pain

Claims only add to pain says ex-hunger striker
THE HUNGER STRIKE Was there a deal?
By Allison Morris, Irish News
22/10/09

bernardfox

UPSET: Bernard Fox today PICTURE: Hugh Russell

Former republican hunger striker Bernard Fox says he is deeply distressed by allegations that a deal which could have ended the strike was vetoed in order to maximise electoral support for Sinn Fein.

The west Belfast man, who spent a total of 22 years in prison, was on hunger strike for 32 days when the protest was ended.

Speaking to The Irish News Mr Fox said: “I was a close friend of Joe McDonnell. I was on active service with him on the outside, and later imprisoned with him.

“Under those circumstances you get to know a person’s character very well.

“Joe loved life and had no desire to die but he was determined and pragmatic and was not for settling for anything other than the five demands – that I can say for sure.

“I wasn’t in the hospital at that time and I don’t know what the men were told or not told but I do know that there was no deal.

“Offers, yes – there were plenty of offers.

“Sure wasn’t Kieran Nugent given an offer of a convict’s uniform in 1976, an offer he declined?”

Having been interned twice the former IRA man was returned to the Maze prison as a convicted prisoner in 1977 and immediately joined the blanket protest, before volunteering for the Hunger Strike.

He spent 32 days on hunger strike before the protest, which claimed the lives of seven IRA and three INLA prisoners, came to an end.

“It took me 20 years before I could even speak openly about my experiences,” he said.

“It’s still emotional and raw for me even now. These claims just add to that pain.

“I can only imagine what it must be like for the families of the 10 lads.

“Bik [McFarlane] was chosen to act as our OC [officer commanding]. It’s a job no-one envied – the pressure must have been unbearable.

“Regardless of what I or anyone else may think about the political direction he has taken since, at the time we knew he wasn’t going to let us down.

“To suggest that he in some way colluded with the outside leadership to let his comrades die is sickening to me and does not hold up to scrutiny.

“After the first hunger strike we, [the prisoners] were very clear we wanted our demands in writing and delivered by a representative of the British government so there could be no reneging this time.

“Look, I would never criticise any former blanketman. We all suffered equally and the comradeship we had at that time was the only thing that saw us through.

“But try as I may I cannot understand where some people are coming from or why they would wait all these years to bring this out.

“Thatcher and the British government are responsible for the deaths of our comrades – that’s where the blame lies.”

In 1998 Fox was released from prison under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

He has since parted company with Sinn Fein in disagreement over its political direction.

“I have no personal or political agenda,” he said.

“My only concern is for the families and how all this must be hurting them.

Addressing calls for a public inquiry, he said: “I have no time for inquiries. What you need is not an inquiry but the truth and it would be naive to think the British will ever tell the truth.

“If there are unanswered questions my advice would be to seek clarification.

“That way the families who have called on all this to stop can be left in peace.”

Sourced from the Irish News

Tony O’Hara: The truth about the Hunger Strike

The truth about the Hunger Strike
Tony O’Hara, Derry
Irish News Letters
22/10/09

I read with amazement the attempt by Gerry Adams (October 12) to win back some ground in the controversy over the Hunger Strike offers.

Most of his piece was spent demonising everyone who dared offer an opinion against the Sinn Fein line.

But Mr Adams’s opinion of any of these people doesn’t mean that what they have said is wrong.

The evidence has been growing and – as other avenues are explored – more evidence will come to light.

Let’s deal with some of the facts of the controversy.

Richard O’Rawe claims that he and Bik McFarlane had a conversation about ‘the Mountain Climber’ offer received in a communication in which O’Rawe said in Gaelic, ‘‘There is enough there’’ (to end the Hunger Strike). Bik agreed. This has been verified by two other prisoners who heard the conversation.

Bik claims this never happened. As well as his other contradictory statements, Bik on UTV live on March 1 2005 denied that any offer of any sort was ever made by the British at any point.

In March 2005, in an interview with The Irish News, Bik stated: “There was no concrete proposals whatsoever in relation to a deal.”

At Gulladuff he said he took the offer to the prisoners – they turned it down.

Kevin Lynch and Mickey Devine never heard this offer.

We know the offer came via Brendan Duddy – ‘the Mountain Climber’.

Yet Gerry Adams has stated that he never heard of ‘the Mountain Climber’.

Who overruled the POW leadership to reject the British offer that contained almost four of the five demands?

Did Gerry or any other members of the republican leadership get any other offers from the British?

On the issue of Garret Fitzgerald and censorship – Gerry’s own members have been trying to silence people talking about this – with threats, demonising etc.

Gerry should put some manners on them.

It should also be clarified that there was no family statement at Gulladuff.

The following day Sinn Fein members took a SF-composed statement around to some family members for them to sign.

My mother and I never signed it. Neither did Michael Devine (who was also at Gulladuff) or Louise Devine.

The British government were ultimately responsible for the deaths of our relatives.

We all agree on that.

But could some of the lives have been saved?

My family and Mickey Devine’s family are receiving tremendous support from hundreds of ex-POWs, republicans and nationalists in our quest to uncover the truth.

We are not selective about where evidence comes from. Facts are facts – it is the truth we are after.

At Gulladuff, I suggested that we invite all concerned into a room together to thrash things out. Gerry didn’t reply.

That suggestion is still there, only now I ask for it in public with an agreed international humanitarian as chairperson. Only that will end it.

Richard O’Rawe has agreed to attend, former taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald has also said he would cooperate with an inquiry.

Will Gerry?

I invite the readers of The Irish News to make up their own minds by visiting http://www.longkesh.info

Sourced from the Irish News

Ruairí Ó Brádaigh: In the interests of historical accuracy

In the interests of historical accuracy
Ruairi O Bradaigh, President of Republican Sinn Fein, Dublin 1
20/10/09

Arising out of recent publicity in The Irish News on the 1981 hunger strikes I wish to clarify certain matters.

– Dr Garrett Fitzgerald places Gerry Adams as president of Sinn Fein in 1981.

I was president at that time.

– Sinn Fein’s task in 1980-81 was to campaign in support of the hunger strikers.

Sinn Fein knew nothing of conditions alleged to be on offer for settlement of the strike.

– I do not believe that the army council of the IRA was aware of such alleged conditions either.

In the interests of historical accuracy I wish to place this information on the public record.

Sourced from the Irish News

Hunger strikers ‘were not sacrificed for political gain’

Hunger strikers ‘were not sacrificed for political gain’
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh interview
By Allison Morris
17/10/09

STRATEGY: Ruairí Ó Brádaigh has dismissed suggestions by former republican prisoner Richard O’Rawe, inset, that some of the 1981 hunger strikers were allowed to die in the Maze Prison as part of a Sinn Fein strategy to gain electoral support

Throughout the1981 republican Hunger Strike, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh reigned as president of Sinn Fein. It is also believed he was a member of the IRA’s ruling army council throughout the same period.

Controversy surrounding the publication of Richard O’Rawe’s book Blanketmen, which claims the fast was allowed to continue for political gain, has provoked reaction from a vast spectrum of republicans.

While Ó Brádaigh has said he passionately supported using elections as a strategy to draw global attention to prison protest, he maintains it’s unthinkable that men were sacrificed for electoral success.

“When the first four men had died we had a situation in the 26 counties where Charlie Haughey was hesitating calling a general election,” he said.

“Men were dying and Haughey knew this would do him no favours.

“After the first four died it was thought there would be a space – people generally go about 60 days – so Haughey finally called the election “I pushed for a contest and I have to say there was a lot of opposition to that, especially from people north of the border who wouldn’t be that familiar with the ground in the south.

“But eventually we got agreement and it went ahead.

“People were very nervous but men were dying. We had to do something.

“Getting reaction from people I knew well and whose judgment I trusted. The feedback I was getting back was that there was great support there.

“In the end two were elected but I would say if we had more time we could have got a couple more elected.”

The election of republican candidates achieved its aim, namely drawing attention to the protest.

However, allegations against Sinn Fein are that a deal, that came close to granting the prisoners’ five demands was rejected in order to exploit gains being made at the polls.

Ó Brádaigh, while no friend of the present Sinn Fein leadership, says he would challenge this version of events, claiming British dirty tricks were responsible for prolonging the protest.

“The Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP) were doing their best, I’m sure of that judging by the talks they had with us,” he said.

“But the Brits were up to their tricks.

“They would always have something else going on – and that is the diversion – while the real thing is going on somewhere else.

“That is what I believe was going on there with the ICJP, they were the diversion.”

As Ó Brádaigh was banned from Britain and Northern Ireland at the time he was only able to cross the border covertly.

It has been suggested the northern leadership could have been acting autonomously without his knowledge and so rejected any deal without the knowledge of the full IRA army council.

“No, no, no I wouldn’t say that at all. With the situation as it existed at the time, no,” Ó Brádaigh said.

“Or even for the second by-election that has been much talked about, no that just couldn’t and wouldn’t have happened.”

Sourced from the Irish News

In the interests of historical accuracy
Ruairi O Bradaig, President of Republican Sinn Fein, Dublin 1
20/10/09

Arising out of recent publicity in The Irish News on the 1981 hunger strikes I wish to clarify certain matters.

– Dr Garrett Fitzgerald places Gerry Adams as president of Sinn Fein in 1981.

I was president at that time.

– Sinn Fein’s task in 1980-81 was to campaign in support of the hunger strikers.

Sinn Fein knew nothing of conditions alleged to be on offer for settlement of the strike.

– I do not believe that the army council of the IRA was aware of such alleged conditions either.

In the interests of historical accuracy I wish to place this information on the public record.

Sourced from the Irish News

Probe ’81 deal claim ex-INLA man says

Probe ’81 deal claim ex-INLA man says
By Allison Morris, Irish News
17/10/09

A FORMER Belfast councillor who represented the interests of INLA prisoners during the 1981 Hunger Strike has backed calls for an inquiry into controversial claims the protest was allowed to continue for political gain.

Former INLA inmate Sean Flynn said he thought enough evidence had come to light to warrant further investigation into the deaths of 10 republicans, including three INLA men.

During the republican prison protests Mr Flynn was spokes-man for the INLA prisoners.

He was one of two IRSP candidates elected to Belfast City Council in 1981 but served only half of his four-year term after going on the run to the Republic when he was implicated in paramilitary activity on the word of supergrass Harry Kirkpatrick.

Speaking from his north Belfast home the 61-year-old, who is no longer active in politics, said: “I’ve no agenda and I’m certainly not coming at this from a Sinn Fein bashing angle.

“I can only say what I know from my experiences at the time.”

Mr Flynn claimed he received a call on July 5 1981 from the NIO telling him it was imperative that he visited the jail that day.

By that time four prisoners had already died including INLA man Patsy O’Hara.

“The caller said he was from the NIO and that it had been arranged for me to gain entry to the jail,” he said.

“I did see Danny Morrison (the IRA prisoners’ spokes-man) that day and I don’t know if he saw me, he would have to answer that himself.

“They took me through the door the screws used and straight to the hospital.

“I spoke to Kevin Lynch. Micky Devine was at that point still being held in the blocks as he wouldn’t have been sick enough yet to be moved to the hospital.

“What I can say for absolute certainty is that the INLA and the IRSP were not made aware of the Mountain Climber negotiations or any proposed deal.

“I spoke to Kevin Lynch that day and he also didn’t know or he would have mentioned it.

“I have no idea if Danny Morrison told the IRA prisoners of an offer, I can only speak for our men and they didn’t know.

“Something was obviously going on or else why would the NIO have contacted me?”

Mr Flynn said the INLA prisoners had been denied the opportunity of making up their own minds on whether the Mountain Climber offer from the British government was worth accepting.

“There is also no way of knowing whether our prisoners would have been willing to accept an offer. I’ve been told that it was pretty close to the five demands,” he said.

Sean Flynn was to later give an oration at the funeral of Kevin Lynch in Dungiven, Co Derry, following his death on August 1 after 71 days on hunger strike. He was the seventh person to die.

“Look, I know that there is a lot of speculation and misinformation going about,” Mr Flynn said.

“What I will say is that Sinn Fein do need to answer some basic questions.

“Was there an offer and if so why were the IRSP not informed and given a chance to look it over?

“In that respect I would support recent calls for an inquiry,” he said.

Sourced from the Irish News

Adams rejects hunger strike ‘deal’ claims

Adams rejects hunger strike ‘deal’ claims
Published Date: 13 October 2009
The News Letter

SINN Fein leader Gerry Adams has rejected claims that several of the republican hunger strikers were allowed to die in 1981, despite there being an acceptable deal on the table from the Government.

Mr Adams spoke out after recent claims from former Irish premier Dr Garret FitzGerald that he remembered there being a deal on offer from the Thatcher Government that would have ended the hunger strike and saved the lives of some of those who later died.

The current claim and counter claim wrangle about the hunger strike and any possible deal started after a former senior republican prisoner in the Maze, Richard O’Rawe, wrote a book claiming there was an acceptable offer to the prisoners that was kept from them by the Sinn Fein leadership in order to make political capital out of the continuing deaths.

Writing in the Irish News, which carried the original claims from the former Irish premier, Mr Adams categorically rejected any accusation that the prisoners were kept in the dark about a possible deal.

He said it had been communicated to them verbally that there was an offer being made, but the prisoners wanted a Government official to come into the Maze and explain to them exactly what was in the deal.

The full article contains 215 words and appears in News Letter newspaper.

Last Updated: 13 October 2009 8:58 AM
Source: News Letter
Location: Belfast

An Phoblacht and The Irish News

An Phoblacht and The Irish News
Platform
By Staff Reporter
Irish News
12/10/09

The editor of The Irish News, Noel Doran, last night welcomed an apology from the Sinn Fein newspaper An Phoblacht over allegations about an opinion article by the party president, Gerry Adams.

In its latest edition, An Phoblacht claimed that Sinn Fein had asked for the right of reply to detailed coverage of the 1980/81 hunger strikes which was carried by The Irish News on September 28.

An Phoblacht, in a commentary beside its main editorial page, said: “When the response from Gerry Adams was harshly critical of The Irish News itself, the article was blocked.”

In a statement last night it said: “In this week’s An Phoblacht newspaper we published an article from Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams on the 1980/81 Hunger Strikes. We claimed that The Irish News had refused to publish it. This was untrue. An Phoblacht regret this and are happy to clarify the point.”

Mr Doran said: “The article from Mr Adams was requested by us in the first place and was not the result of an approach from Sinn Fein. We agreed in writing that we would publish it and we do so today.

“I am glad that An Phoblacht has withdrawn its serious allegations, and, although I was surprised that the paper did not check the background with us at any stage, I now regard the matter as resolved.”

Sourced from The Irish News

Adams’ Revised Article for the Irish News: There was no deal

There was no deal
Platform
By Gerry Adams Sinn Fein president, West Belfast MP, MLA
Irish News
12/10/09

Joe McDonnell

Joe McDonnell

Twenty-eight years ago, 10 Irish republicans died over a seven-month period on hunger strike, after women in Armagh prison and men in the H-Blocks (and several men ‘on-the-blanket’ in Crumlin Road Jail) had endured five years of British government sanctioned brutality.

The reason for their suffering was that in 1976 the British government reneged on a 1972 agreement over political/special category status for prisoners which had actually brought relative peace to the jails.

You would not know from reading Garret FitzGerald’s newly-found ‘memory’ of 1981 in the recent Irish News series that in his 1991 memoir he wrote: “My meetings with the relatives came to an end on 6 August when some of them attempted to ‘sit in’ in the government anteroom, where I had met them on such occasions, after a stormy discussion during which I had once again refused to take the kind of action some of them had been pressing on me.”

This came after a Garda riot squad attacked and hospitalised scores of prisoner supporters outside the British embassy in Dublin only days after the death of Joe McDonnell. It is clear from FitzGerald’s interview and from his previous writing that his main concern, before, during and after 1981, was that the British government might be talking to republicans and that this should stop.

With Thatcher he embarked on the most intense round of repression in the period after 1985. Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of that year the Irish government supported an intensification of British efforts to destroy border crossings and roads and remained mute over evidence of mounting collusion between British forces and unionist paramilitaries.

The same FitzGerald was portrayed as a great Liberal, yet every government which he led or on which he served, renewed the broadcasting censorship of Sinn Fein. This denial of information and closing down of dialogue subverted the rights of republicans. It also helped prolong the conflict.

The men who died on hunger strike from the IRA and INLA were not fools. They had fought the British and knew how bitter and cruel an enemy its forces could be in the city, in the countryside, in the centres of interrogation and in the courts.

The Hunger Strike did not arise out of a vacuum but as a consequence of frustration, a failure of their incredible sacrifices and the activism of supporters to break the deadlock.

Part of the problem was that the Irish establishment, including the Dublin government, the SDLP and sections of the Catholic hierarchy had bought into British strategy.

This was actively supported by sections of the Catholic establishment in the north including The Irish News.

The prisoners, our comrades, our brothers and sisters, resisted the British in jail every day, in solitary confinement, when being beaten during wings shifts, during internal searches and the forced scrubbings.

In December 1980 the republican leadership on the outside was in contact with the British who claimed they were interested in a settlement. But before a document outlining a new regime arrived in the jail the hunger strike was called off by Brendan Hughes to save the life of the late Sean McKenna. The British, or sections of them, interpreted this as weakness. The prisoners ended their fast before a formal ‘signing off’.

And the British then refused to implement the spirit of the document and reneged on the integrity of our exchanges.

Their intransigence triggered a second hunger strike in which there was overwhelming suspicion of British motives among the hunger strikers, the other political prisoners, and their families and supporters on the outside.

This was the prisoners’ mindset on July 5 1981, after four of their comrades had already died and when Danny Morrison visited the IRA and INLA hunger strikers to tell them that contact had been re-established and that the British were making an offer. While this verbal message fell well short of their demands they nevertheless wanted an accredited British official to come in and explain this position to them, which is entirely understandable given the British government’s record.

Six times before the death of Joe McDonnell, the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP), which was engaged in parallel discussions with the British, asked the British to send an official into the jail to explain what it was offering, and six times the British refused.

After the death of Joe McDonnell the ICJP condemned the British for failing to honour undertakings and for “clawing back” concessions.

Richard O’Rawe, who had never met the hunger strikers in the prison hospital, never met the governor, never met the ICJP or Danny Morrison during the hunger strike, and who never raised this issue before serialising his book in that well-known Irish republican propaganda organ, The Sunday Times, said, in a statement in 1981: “The British government’s hypocrisy and their refusal to act in a responsible manner are completely to blame for the death of Joe McDonnell.”

Republicans involved in the 1981 hunger strike met with the families a few months ago.

Their emotional distress and ongoing pain was palpable.

They were intimately involved at the time on an hour-by-hour basis and know exactly where their sons and brothers stood in relation to the struggle with the British government.

They know who was trying to do their best for them and who was trying to sell their sacrifices short.

More importantly, they know the mind of their loved ones.

That, for me, is what shone through at that meeting.

The families knew their brothers, husbands, fathers. They knew they weren’t dupes. They knew they weren’t stupid. They knew they were brave, beyond words and they were clear about what was happening.

All of the family members, who spoke, with the exception of Tony O’Hara, expressed deep anger and frustration at the efforts to denigrate and defile the memory of their loved ones. In a statement they said: “We are clear that it was the British government which refused to negotiate and refused to concede their [the prisoners’] just demands.”

Sourced from the Irish News

 

See previous version of article as published in An Phoblacht:  The Irish News and Garret FitzGerald’s ‘new memory’ about 1981 H-Blocks Hunger Strike deal

“Rusty Nail”: Update to Adams & The Irish News

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Update to Adams & The Irish News
Rusty Nail at Slugger O’Toole

This week’s issue of An Phoblacht, as noted below, contained an attack on the Irish News written by Gerry Adams, which was prefaced by a claim that the Irish News had refused Adams a right-of-reply. This comment has appeared on Gerry Adams’ blog this evening, from a Paul Doran (no relation to Noel Doran), who wrote to the Irish News to complain about their treatment of Adams after reading about it in An Phoblacht. He has reproduced the exchange between himself and Noel Doran, the editor of the Irish News. (It should be noted that all comments on Adams’ blog are pre-moderated, which means they are vetted before they are published.) It seems An Phoblacht was lying about the Irish News and Sinn Fein owes them a big public apology in addition to the private ones they are falling all over themselves issuing at present. Tomorrow’s edition of the Irish News will carry an apology along with Adams’ revised article about the 1981 Hunger Strike. (Full text of comment follows the jump.)

UPDATE: This just in from An Phoblacht:

Top Stories
Correction
In this weeks An Phoblacht newspaper we published an article from Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams on the 1980/81 Hunger Strikes.
We claimed that the Irish News had refused to publish it.
This was untrue.
An Phoblacht regret this and are happy to clarify the point.

See also An Phoblacht’s index page for their current issue (scroll to bottom)

From the comments section at Gerry Adams’ blog:

Paul Doran said…

      erry

  Based on your article in An Phoblacht this week I wrote a letter to them today.and received the following

  A chara.

  I am greatly annoyed that you have failed to publish the article by Gerry Adams which appeared in An Phoblacht this week. When you would publish comments from the likes of Gareth Fitzgerald.

  Is Mise
  Hi Paul,

  Thanks for your message. Everything which An
  Phoblacht said about the Irish News was untrue.
  We approached Gerry Adams over a seven-week
  period in advance of our hunger strike coverage,
  asking him for either an interview or an opinion
  article, but he was unavailable. After the
  coverage appeared, we approached him again to see
  if he could comment on the issues arising. At no
  stage did Sinn Fein seek a right of reply, as An
  Phoblacht claimed. The article which we had
  requested eventually arrived, and we immediately
  agreed to publish it. As it was much longer than
  expected, and would require a response from the
  paper, we told the party in writing that it would
  appear within a matter of days. The party then
  changed its mind, withdrew the original article
  from Mr Adams and said it would submit a revised version shortly.

  An Phoblacht made no attempt to check any of this
  with the Irish News, and instead proceeded with
  its false allegations against our paper. We have
  since received a series of private apologies from
  Sinn Fein representatives, and we are expecting
  an on-the-record statement from the party
  shortly. We have also, today, finally received
  the revised opinion article from Mr Adams, which
  we intend to publish tomorrow. We further expect
  that An Phoblacht will issue an apology to the Irish News in its next edition.

  Noel Doran,
  Editor,
  October 11, 2009 5:34 PM

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

Cllr McIvor: Sinn Fein ‘allowed’ no-one to die on hunger strike

Sinn Fein ‘allowed’ no-one to die on hunger strike
Councillor Michael Henry McIvor, Irish News
10/10/09

The dissidents and our political foes have come together to attack Sinn Fein with the cowardly claim that six prisoners were allowed to die in order to generate more political support.

But not one who makes this claim says that Thatcher gave in to the hunger strikers or says she sold out her ‘not an inch’ policy.

Not one. Why?

If Thatcher sold out, why not say so?

If the hunger strikers got their demands after four died or after ten – as history and the truth tell – those who tried to withhold the five demands were defeated.

There is no-one foolish enough to say that Thatcher won. Is there?

The prisoners got to wear their own clothes, the British crime uniform was banned, which is still the case today.

First to be won: 50 per cent remission and association on their own military wings were secured, more mail and better visits because no uniform had to be worn, another demand.

No prison work was still needed. Republicans had to know the H-Blocks inside out to set up all the stages for the great escape in 1983.

Then this demand came, Tory Thatcher gave in – the hunger strikers turned the Iron Lady into putty.

Ruairi O Bradaigh was Sinn Fein president in 1981 and it’s absurd for anyone to say that O Bradaigh or the leadership would sell out six hunger strikers for votes.

Also two of the last six hunger strikers – including the last one to die, Michael Devine – were INLA.

Only a complete idiot would claim that the INLA allowed two members to die for more electoral support for Sinn Fein.

Councillor Michael Henry McIvor
Loughshore Sinn Fein Cumann, Co Tyrone

Sourced from the Irish News

“Rusty Nail”: Adams and the Irish News

Friday, October 09, 2009

1981 Hunger Strike: Adams and the Irish News
Rusty Nail at Slugger O’Toole

UPDATE – This is the introduction to the Adams article as printed in this week’s An Phoblacht:

“Sinn Fein asked The Irish News for a full right of reply and the newspaper agreed.  When the response from Gerry Adams was harshly critical of the Irish News itself, the article was blocked.  An Phoblacht carries the article below.  We are waiting for the Irish News to do the same.”

Interesting that the Stormont Press Officer, who tweeted the same allegation, and the North Antrim MLA, who retweeted it, have both removed their tweets, and the An Phoblacht website no longer carries the Adams article.

It is understood The Irish News was quite keen to publish Adams’ piece, but Sinn Fein withdrew it.

The Irish News’ special investigation on the Hunger Strike has prompted Adams to break his silence on the issue. Unfortunately, he says nothing new, or informative. In fact he actually repeats verbatim points made previously by Danny Morrison, Sile Darragh, and Martin McGuinness – it must be on the hymn sheet passed around Connolly House. It’s understood the Irish News chased Adams for months prior to the publication of their special double issue, being very keen for a one-on-one interview (as they got with former Taoiseach Fitzgerald). Instead, they were eventually given an article from Martin McGuinness. Once the issue ran, it was rumoured that Adams wanted his spake in. Nothing has been published yet, but this piece, tweeted yesterday morning by SF’s Stormont Press Officer Niall Ó Donnghaile, has now appeared in An Phoblacht – and is mysteriously absent from their website (Previously linked live here; it’s currently showing up in Google searches). Ó Donnghaile tweets, “it’s worth noting that despite agreeing to take a right of reply from Gerry, once they got the article the Irish News refused to publish it”, but it is understood that Sinn Fein withdrew the article from the Irish News for revision and have not yet resubmitted it. Its on/off presence at the AP/RN website is puzzling.

UPDATE: Ó Donnghaile’s tweets, like Adams’ article, have now been removed from the web. The first tweet said: “reading an excellent article from Gerry Adams in this weeks AP/RN dealing with the Irish News’ recent ‘series’ on the 1981 Hunger Strikes11:25 AM Oct 8th from web”

Update, 10.09.09: North Antrim MLA Daithí McKay has removed his retweet of Ó Donnghaile’s tweet (see comment 3).

As to the content itself – basically, this is just a screed against the Irish News, playing to Republicans’ instinctual emotions – pure propaganda, no substance. It borders on the rant of a madman, taking a splatter approach Slugger readers following certain contributions in the comments section on this subject will recognise. This ‘splatter’ approach desperately throws whatever comes to mind in the hopes that something will stick, even if its only more confusion. It’s an approach that rarely contains any facts or addresses the issue head on. What is remarkable about this piece is the hodge-podge nature of it, how it is cobbled together, literally in some instances, from previous screeds of others. Nothing in it is persuasive or even addresses the core issue: why did Adams and his committee of people overseeing the hunger strike over-rule the prisoners themselves and refuse Thatcher’s offer?

The first paragraph gives a brief history of the lead-up to the hunger strike, then attacks the Irish News over its coverage (The Irish News did give a historical context to the Hunger Strike in its special issue, though one suspects that Adams’ first salvo is more over-arching than focusing on specific complaints about the content of the double issue).

The second paragraph has a go at Garret Fitzgerald, as the previous issue of AP/RN did, throwing in a quote from his 1991 memoirs for good measure. What is funny about this is the position, as if Fitzgerald’s Irish News article was radically different from what he had previously written. It wasn’t. The only thing new in his article was the revelation of a mole in the prison, and the agreement to participate in an inquiry should one take place. His 1991 memoirs are incredibly direct and clear as to what his position was, and his description of what happened in the crucial days of early July – written over a decade before O’Rawe wrote his memoir – starkly shows where O’Rawe was right, and was filling in the story from his own position inside the prison. What O’Rawe added to our knowledge of what happened was the prisoners’ acceptance of the deal. Each viewpoint adds more detail to the picture – most by what they say but some by what they do not. Adams just goes on a rant against Fitzgerald, using the “Everyone’s a bastard except for me” defence.

But he really ups the ranty-ness with his attack on the Irish News in the next section of his article. Playing fast and loose with facts – which the Irish News should be more than able of correcting – Adams again pulls the emotional strings, propping up the bravery of IRA (and, remarkably for him, INLA) volunteers against the Irish News ‘player’. “You must believe me,” he seems to be saying, “because I am standing on these volunteer’s wounds right now!”

Next, he moves onto the claim that the ending of the first hunger strike is why they didn’t accept Thatcher’s offer in early July. Only he doesn’t say, “During the first hunger strike, I was one of the people who were negotiating with the British,” nor does he say that he himself, and those who were working with him in those negotiations, were deeply distrustful of the British – and nor does he support Laurence McKeown’s theory of screw and civil servant rebellion being ‘the’ factor. He also doesn’t support the previous assertion that claims Morrison went into great detail when he visited the hunger strikers. This is key, as what he has written shows that Morrison was very general in his visit, which is what has been the understanding all along:

This was the prisoners’ mindset on 5 July, 1981, after four of their comrades had already died and when Danny Morrison visited the IRA and INLA Hunger Strikers to tell them that contact had been re-established and that the British were making an offer.
While this verbal message fell well short of their demands, they nevertheless wanted an accredited British official to come in and explain this position to them, which is entirely understandable given the British Government’s record.

So we have confirmation, such that it is, that the hunger strikers themselves were told nothing of substance in regards to Thatcher’s offer. They didn’t know.

Here also, in the next section, Adams sings from the Morrison hymn sheet, going into the song and dance about the ICJP waiting for the NIO to send someone in to explain the offer to the hunger strikers:

“Six times before the death of Joe McDonnell, the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP), which was engaged in parallel discussions with the British, asked the British to send an official into the jail to explain what it was offering, and six times the British refused.”

Previously:

Furthermore, if the NIO had really wanted to do a deal, even one based on the ICJP’s proposals, then all it had to do was send in the guarantor to the hunger strikers. Fr Crilly (ICJP) confirmed this on Thursday on BBC Radio Ulster. Six times the ICJP phoned Allison about the guarantor going in, but none ever appeared and Joe McDonnell died on July 8th, followed by five others. – Danny Morrison, March 5, 2005

However, the British would not verify to the hunger strikers their various ‘offers’. Six times they were asked by the ICJP to explain their position to the prisoners and six times they refused before Joe McDonnell died. – Danny Morrison, 2006

Jim Gibney also picked up that baton in 2006: “On the eve of Joe McDonnell’s death the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace six times asked the Northern Ireland Office to put to the hunger strikers what the NIO was claiming to be offering. Six times it refused. Joe McDonnell died and the ICJP left in disgust.”

And Martin McGuinness had it in last month’s Irish News: “Despite being a vehicle for the British government delivering a compromise and avoiding direct negotiations, even the ICJP’s expectations/demands that the British would send in someone to stand over what London was implying in messages was refused six times in the hours before Joe McDonnell died.”

But we know that is all totally irrelevant, a sleight of hand, a distraction. It is even more insulting coming from Gerry Adams, who according to his own autobiography was on the phone negotiating with the British at the time of Joe McDonnell’s death (See Timeline, 8 July). A reasonable person would think that is the sort of thing Adams should be talking about now, not more bollocks about how the ICJP were kept waiting, as if that leaving out the fact it was while the British conducted their secret negotiations with Adams explains why the it was somehow all the hunger strikers’ fault because they didn’t trust the British and the fact the ICJP were kept waiting six times is some sort of perfect example of why. This lame excuse for cover does not wash, Mr Adams.

Adams then again waxes Morrisonesque, in an impressive double steal:

Ex-prisoner Richard O’Rawe, who never left his cell, never met the Hunger Strikers in the prison hospital, never met the governor, never met the ICJP or Danny Morrison during the Hunger Strike, and who never raised this issue before serialising his book in that well-known Irish republican propaganda organ, The Sunday Times, said, in a statement in 1981:

“The British Government’s hypocrisy and their refusal to act in a responsible manner are completely to blame for the death of Joe McDonnell.”

This refrain of what O’Rawe never did, in comparison to all that Morrison did do, surfaces in a number of places, notably in Greg Harkin’s April 2008 piece: “Richard O’Rawe never met with the hunger strikers in the prison hospital, never met with the ICJP and nor was he dealing with the republican leadership outside the prison.” (Harkin’s piece also has the ‘six times’ refrain: “According to the ICJP, whilst Joe McDonnell was dying, the NIO promised the ICJP that it would send someone into the prison to discuss the offer and six times over this two-day critical period the NIO failed to do so.”)

It also appears in the Sile Darragh letter: “Mr O’Rawe didn’t speak to the hunger strikers, didn’t visit the prison hospital or meet the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace.”

And most recently, Martin McGuinness was joining in the chorus: “I would encourage people to read this book and the documents released in 2009 and compare it to the allegations of those who never visited the hunger strikers in the prison hospital, never dealt with the prison administration and the British government or liaised with the ICJP (which, on its terms, to be fair, was attempting to resolve the situation).”

The 1981 nugget first surfaced in An Phoblacht, 2006, with Danny Morrison producing “secret comms” purporting to show that O’Rawe believed there was no deal. These ‘secret comms’ were actually public press statements and in no way indicative of anything other than the propaganda war being waged at the time.

That President Adams is using them today in his first public statement addressing the issue of the Thatcher hunger strike deal is, frankly, pathetic. He should be better than that, his statement should be made up of more than regurgitated half-truths and bollocksology. This is a statement that, rather than showing the confidence of a man who can stand over the decisions he made at the time and is comfortable accounting for his leadership, is the emotional rantings of a madman, desperately cobbling together discredited statements in the hopes that something sticks. He is so desperate that he goes for the emotional jugular as his conclusion, and hides behind the skirts of the families of the hunger strikers who were so cravenly manipulated at Gulladuff.

Gulladuff was a masterclass in emotional censorship, politicians blatantly using families’ emotions to call for a cover-up of history. And this is President Adams’ conclusion – to once again use the families of the hunger strikers’ for his own gain. “The families blame the British,” is the logic, “Not me! And so should you….if my lies are good enough for them, they are good enough for the rest of you”.

It may buy him some time among the most faithful of his flock, but it won’t cut any ice with history and his place in it.

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

Gerry Adams: The Irish News and Garret FitzGerald’s ‘new memory’ about 1981 H-Blocks Hunger Strike deal

The Irish News and Garret FitzGerald’s ‘new memory’ about 1981 H-Blocks Hunger Strike deal
By Gerry Adams
An Phoblacht
8 October, 2009

Sinn Fein asked The Irish News for a full right of reply and the newspaper agreed.  When the response from Gerry Adams was harshly critical of the Irish News itself, the article was blocked.  An Phoblacht carries the article below.  We are waiting for the Irish News to do the same.

TWENTY-EIGHT years ago, ten Irish republicans died over a seven-month period on hunger strike, after women in Armagh Prison and men in the H-Blocks (and several men ‘on-the-blanket’ in Crumlin Road Jail) had endured five years of British Government-sanctioned brutality.

The reason for their suffering was that, in 1976, the British Government reneged on a 1972 agreement over political status (“special category status”) for prisoners which had actually brought relative peace to the jails.

You would not know that from reading this series in The Irish News.

Nor would you know from reading Garret FitzGerald’s newly-found ‘memory’ of 1981 that in his 1991 memoir he wrote:

“My meetings with the relatives came to an end on 6 August when some of them attempted to ‘sit in’ in the Government anteroom, where I had met them on such occasions, after a stormy discussion during which I had once again refused to take the kind of action some of them had been pressing on me.”

This came after a Garda riot squad attacked and hospitalised scores of prisoners’ supporters outside the British Embassy in Dublin only days after the death of Joe McDonnell.

It is clear from FitzGerald’s interview and from his previous writing that his main concern – before, during and after 1981 – was that the British Government might be talking to republicans and that this should stop.

With Margaret Thatcher he embarked on the most intense round of repression in the period after 1985. Following the Anglo-Irish Agreement of that year, the Irish Government supported an intensification of British efforts to destroy border crossings and roads and remained mute over evidence of mounting collusion between British forces and unionist paramilitaries.

The same FitzGerald was portrayed as a great liberal, yet every government which he led or in which he served renewed the state broadcasting censorship of Sinn Féin. This denial of information and closing down of dialogue subverted the rights of republicans. It also helped prolong the conflict.

The Irish News played an equally reprehensible role.

As far as I am concerned, this newspaper is ‘a player’ in these attacks on Sinn Féin. Oh, but had The Irish News given a series to the Hunger Strikers when they were alive! Instead, at the same time as The Irish News decided to publish death notices for British state forces, this paper refused to publish a death notice from the Sands family because it carried the words “In memory of our son and brother, IRA Volunteer Bobby Sands MP”.

The men who died on hunger strike from the IRA and INLA were not dupes. They had fought the British and knew how bitter and cruel an enemy its forces could be, in the city, in the countryside, in the centres of interrogation and in the courts.

But you would not know that from reading this series in The Irish News.

The prisoners – our comrades, our brothers and sisters – resisted the British in jail every day, in solitary confinement, when being beaten during wing shifts, during internal searches and the forced scrubbings.

The Hunger Strike did not arise out of a vacuum but as a consequence of frustration, a failure of their incredible sacrifices and the activism of supporters to break the deadlock, to put pressure on the British internationally and, through the Irish Establishment, including the Dublin Government, the SDLP and sections of the Catholic hierarchy – although you would not know that from reading this series in The Irish News.

In December 1980, the republican leadership on the outside was in contact with the British, who claimed they were interested in a settlement. But before a document outlining a promised, allegedly liberal regime arrived in the jail, the Hunger Strike was called off by Brendan Hughes to save the life of the late Seán McKenna. The British, or sections of them, interpreted this as weakness. The prisoners ended their fast before a formal ‘signing off’. And the British then refused to implement the spirit of the document and reneged on the integrity of our exchanges.

Their intransigence triggered a second hunger strike in which there was overwhelming suspicion of British motives among the Hunger Strikers, the other political prisoners, and their families and supporters on the outside.

This was the prisoners’ mindset on 5 July, 1981, after four of their comrades had already died and when Danny Morrison visited the IRA and INLA Hunger Strikers to tell them that contact had been re-established and that the British were making an offer.

While this verbal message fell well short of their demands, they nevertheless wanted an accredited British official to come in and explain this position to them, which is entirely understandable given the British Government’s record.

Six times before the death of Joe McDonnell, the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP), which was engaged in parallel discussions with the British, asked the British to send an official into the jail to explain what it was offering, and six times the British refused.

After the death of Joe McDonnell, the ICJP condemned the British for failing to honour undertakings and for “clawing back” concessions.

Ex-prisoner Richard O’Rawe, who never left his cell, never met the Hunger Strikers in the prison hospital, never met the governor, never met the ICJP or Da nny Morrison during the Hunger Strike, and who never raised this issue before serialising his book in that well-known Irish republican propaganda organ, The Sunday Times, said, in a statement in 1981:

“The British Government’s hypocrisy and their refusal to act in a responsible manner are completely to blame for the death of Joe McDonnell.”

But you would not know that from reading this series in The Irish News.

Republicans involved in the 1981 Hunger Strike met with the families a few months ago. Their emotional distress and ongoing pain was palpable. They were intimately involved at the time on an hour-by-hour basis and know exactly where their sons and brothers stood in relation to the struggle with the British Government.

They know who was trying to do their best for them and who was trying to sell their sacrifices short.

More importantly, they know the mind of their loved ones. That, for me, is what shone through at that meeting. The families knew their brothers, husbands, fathers. They knew they weren’t dupes. They knew they weren’t stupid. They knew they were brave, beyond words, and they were clear about what was happening.

All of the family members, who spoke, with the exception of Tony O’Hara, expressed deep anger and frustration at the efforts to denigrate and defile the memory of their loved ones. In a statement they said:

“We are clear that it was the British Government which refused to negotiate and refused to concede the prisoners’ just demands.”

But you would not know that from reading this series in The Irish News.

Sourced from An Phoblacht

Devine Children Have Questions for McKeown

A Chara,

Our father was the last of the Hunger Strikers to die and all we ask from republicans is the truth. Due to all the contradictions, new evidence and the ever-changing shifting Sinn Fein narrative we feel that only an independent republican Inquiry can heal this festering sore that has erupted over what occurred during the Hunger Strike.

We would therefore like to seek clarification from one of the contributors to the Hunger Strike feature in the Irish News last week.

Laurence McKeown in an interview on 10-03-2005, stated:

”Strangely, there was nothing new to me regarding what was on offer from the Brits back in 1981. Whether it was the ‘Mountain Climber’ or the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, we wanted definite confirmation, not vague promises of ‘regime change’.”

Since then Danny Morrison and Bik McFarlane stated that all the hunger strikers, including my father, were given the full details of
the Mountain Climber offer and it was they who rejected it.

Both Louise and I attended the Gasyard debate and listened to Brendan Duddy, the Mountain Climber, claim that the offer he wrote down and communicated to Martin McGuinness on the 5th July of 81 contained four of the demands. He also stated that he believed this was a genuine offer from the British.

We would like to ask Laurence how can he reconcile his public position of “vague promises of regime change” regarding that offer with that of Duddy’s claim of four of the demands being met in the offer he communicated to McGuinness. If both Laurence and Brendan are being truthful then it is only logical that Danny and Bik did not give the full details of the offer at all to my father therefore he couldn’t have rejected the offer.

Another contradictory claim, according to Jake Jackson,(Bik McFarlane’s confidant during that period), in an interview for “Biting at the Grave” (page 96), stated that gthe 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.”

We were hoping that Laurence would have shed more light on this important crucial aspect of the controversy in his Irish News contribution as the 1981 IRSP leadership are very clear that they were not aware of either the offer or its contents. Therefore we would make this appeal to Laurence to tell us publicly exactly what did happen in the prison hospital and what exactly was my Father told, if anything, that he felt he couldn’t share with his family or his movement.

We would also like to ask Laurence did he see a copy of the offer which Duddy gave to McGuinness who in turn gave it to Gerry Adams.

Micky & Louise Devine

Hunger striker’s children renew inquiry call

Hunger striker’s children renew inquiry call
Published Date: 06 October 2009
By Staff reporter, Derry Journal

The children of Derry hunger striker Micky Devine have renewed their call to find out the truth about the circumstances that led to their father’s death in Long Kesh in 1981.

Michael Og and Lousie Devine have called on leading Belfast republican, Laurence McKeown, to explain comments he made in a recent interview when he said there was “nothing new” on offer from the British during the negotiation surrounding the hunger strike in 1981.

The Devines are calling for an independent inquiry to be held into claims that a deal which could potentially have saved the lives of six of the hunger strikers was rejected by the IRA leadership, despite having been accepted by republican leaders within jail. The claim, which was made by a former blanketman, has been rejected by Sinn Féin and many leading republicans.

Michael Og Devine said: “Our father was the last of the Hunger Strikers to die and all we ask from republicans is the truth. Due to all the contradictions, new evidence and the ever-changing shifting Sinn Fein narrative we feel that only an independent republican Inquiry can heal this festering sore that has erupted over what occurred during the Hunger Strike,” he said.

Mr Devine also said he is confident his father was not aware of any deal coming into the prison through a secret contact known as the ‘Mountain Climer.’

“Both Louise and I attended the Gasyard debate and listened to Brendan Duddy claim that the offer he wrote down and communicated to Martin McGuinness on the 5th July ’81 contained four of the demands. He also stated that he believed this was a genuine offer from the British.

“We would make this appeal to Laurence to tell us publicly exactly what did happen in the prison hospital and what exactly was my father told, if anything, that he felt he couldn’t share with his family or his movement. We would also like to ask Laurence did he see a copy of the offer which Duddy gave to McGuinness who in turn gave it to Gerry Adams,” he said.

Sourced from the Derry Journal

Was there a deal? The IRA hunger strike debate continues

Was there a deal? The IRA hunger strike debate continues.
Mick Hall, Organized Rage

p9-pic1Ever since the former IRA volunteer and Blanket-man Richard O’Rawe, published his book, Blanket-men: An untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike, (2005) there has been an ongoing and increasingly bitter debate amongst Irish Republicans; over the truth of O’Rawe’s claim that the Thatcher government had offered a viable deal, which could have ended the hunger strike after the death of Patsy O’Hara, the fourth hunger striker to die. The importance of this matter cannot be overstated, for if proved true, O’Rawe’s claim removes the shibboleth which has since become established fact, i e the hunger strikers were in charge of their own destiny. As Bobby Sands and his fellow H/S were disciplined revolutionary soldiers, this is something which should never have held water.

What I find interesting about the way this debate has developed over the last three years or so, is those who were the most vocal in claiming Richard O’Rawe was an opportunist scoundrel, or worse; and claimed there was not a shred of the truth in his claims about Thatcher making a viable offer through back channels. (British Intel) Have now moved away from using this argument, and these days mainly concentrate their fire on those who have been vocal in their support for O’Rawe.

It seems to me the main reason for this change is the reality on the ground, there is a growing consensus within the north of Ireland that the SF leadership, despite all the odds in their favor, have lost the argument with O’Rawe; and today, all but the most blind or willful, accept the truth of what he wrote. This was demonstrated last week when the main nationalist daily newspaper in the North, The Irish News, published a series of articles under the header, ‘THE HUNGER STRIKE: Special Investigation’ which solidified Richard O’Rawes claims. (Although it is important to add, many still believe little good will come from poking these coals, as when doing so people will look at the matter from todays political perspective, not the reality on the ground in 1981)

Being Ireland, this is not only about an intellectual search for the historical truth, sadly there is a darker side, on publication of the book, the ‘smear and whispering brigade,’ were set to work undermining O’Rawe integrity. Richard, who lives in the heart of Republican Belfast, had himself witnessed what it is like when a comrade receives the black spot, friends and neighbors, some of whom having known the individual all their lives, cross the road when they see them coming, if they have children they are liable to get ragged at school, doors that were always open become firmly shut.

The award winning journalist and author Ed Moloney, who has had his own experience of the ‘black spot,’ wrote in the Irish News special investigation he had advised O’Rawe not to publish the book, as the backlash against him would make his life an absolute misery. As too did senior members of the PIRA, although I presume their words were couched in somewhat different terms to those of Moloney.

But publish O’Rawe did and in the process he withstood the attacks and smears and in his own way, he has equalled the determination of his ten dead comrades. Thus SF have moved away from attacking O’Rawe’s integrity and character and have instead targeted his supporters.

They have especially targeted ‘Rusty Nail,’ a blogger on the popular Irish web site Slugger O’Toole, who has posted as they have emerged into the public domain, meticulously researched links to this story. A shoot the messenger strategy may be fine for monarchs, para-military chieftains and oligarchs, but now that the PIRA has been all but stood down, it works less well when targeted at ordinary mortals, especially one who posts verifiable links to all they publish. O’Rawes critics have been especially noisy about Rusty Nail’s use of a pseudonym, never mind that most people within Republican circles know Rusty’s real name, or that the overwhelming majority of those who blog at Slugger use pseudonyms, as the legacy of the violent years still raises justifiable fears. So why bother to attack the messenger, could it be what lays behind these attacks on O’Rawe’s supporters, is the Shinners fear of losing supporters abroad, they realize on this issue they have lost the home ground, but they are determined to continue the fight, as they are worried about loosing US support.

The core of the argument from O’Rawes book is that Mrs Thatcher made the hunger strikers an offer which conceded four out of five of their core demands, this offer was acceptable to the prison OC, but rather than rubber stamping it, the leadership of the PIRA outside the jail, advised rejecting it as they felt there was wriggle room for some improvement. When this wriggle room failed to materialize and the deal fell through, a further six prisoners went on to fast to their deaths.

Dixie Elliott, a former Blanket Man, who during the the blanket protest and hunger strikes was imprisoned on the Maze prison wing H-3, along with Richard O’Rawe and the PIRA O/C, Brendan McFarlane and is supportive of O’Rawe, wrote on Slugger last week,

“Did six men die to ‘fast-forward the move towards electoralism.”

Dixie in a few words has got to the core of this kerfuffle, for if you strip away the baggage and political garbage, I find it amazing not a single Shinner has had the confidence to answer this question affirmatively. Instead they preferred to operate in the old way and set the attack dogs on O’Rawe, rather than try to engage with him in an open and honest manner.

We all owe a debt to Richard O’Rawe and those who have supported and encouraged him. This is a very complex tale but one thing that is not complex is the truth. As the saying goes, in war time, the truth is always the first casualty, but for the Provos, the war is over, and there is absolutely no valid reason why the truth should not be told. Not least because the truth of political struggle, arms future generations in the hope they will not repeat the mistakes of their forbears. Legends are for the Gods.

As to Dixie’s question, I would ask this, would it have been such a bad thing if six men had died to ‘fast-forward the move towards electoralism? The volunteers of the PIRA were political soldiers and the truth is, many of them have died for much less. Forget where we are, and without any doubt it is not the destination many Irish Republicans thought they would arrive at when the brought their ticket at the start of their journey. Although, I doubt even a Machiavellian prince like Gerry Adams or George Smiley himself, would have foreseen the Provos running Stormont along side the DUP. I find the implication made by some in the O’Rawe camp surreal, that back in the early 1980s, the Adams leadership crew made a Fustian pact with the devil in the form of British Intel, to place Martin Mcguinness and Gerry Kelly’s bottoms in a Stormont Ministers office.

The leadership of PIRA back in 1981, justifiably had a duty to consider all aspects of the struggle, the lack of an electoral base was clearly hampering their cause. Without expanding its core support base, north and south, the Provisional movements struggle was going no where fast. The support for the hunger strikers had proved there was a support base out there, if only the movement could find the means to harness it.

Volunteers within the Maze were continuing their own war by other means, and the Blanket protest and hunger strikes were part of that. I’m sure they would have been the first to acknowledge that their struggles were part of the wider theatre of struggle.

Future generations of Historians will have much to thank Richard O’Rawe for, as we all do.

To attack Richard when leading Shinners knew he was telling the truth, was not only wrong, but plain stupid, as far to many people, on opposing sides were in the loop to keep this door firmly shut.

Thanks to the hunger strikes and countless committed activists, the SF leadership have managed to build the party as an electoral force on what were problematical footings, to say the least. However by bad mouthing O’Rawe they took a wrong turn, not least because he was once one of their own, more than that he was one of the ‘300 plus spartans.’ That he was paid back for his years of loyalty in such a disgraceful way only highlights this mistake. If SF is not to go the way of the Workers Party and become a shooting star which shone a bright progressive light across the heaven, only to eventually crash to the ground due to the weight of lies and deceit. Then it must pension off the smear and lies brigade and play a prominent role with others in setting up an independent inquiry into this contentious matter.

Sourced from Organized Rage

“Rusty Nail”: Feint and Retreat

Friday, October 02, 2009

1981 Hunger Strike: Feint and Retreat
Rusty Nail at Slugger O’Toole

This afternoon we’ll be looking at Laurence McKeown’s Irish News piece, in a ‘fisky’ sort of way. Other articles are in the works to be looked at. It may be that some of the material will be revisited at a later date. 

To begin with today’s piece, former hunger striker Laurence McKeown wrote: “When O’Rawe first made the claim that the British had been prepared to reach a deal during the 1981 Hunger Strike but that it was rejected by the leadership of the republican movement, I believed the claim to be totally unfounded. I still believe that. In the intervening period it has been disproved by documentation from the period and by a broad spectrum of individuals involved at the time.”

What documentation is he referring to? Where has the claim been disproved by the documentation he is referring to?

Who makes up the broad spectrum of individuals?

Slugger has followed this issue very closely and is left baffled at this. The documentation in the public domain supports O’Rawe’s claim – it doesn’t in any manner disprove it. The ‘broad spectrum’ consensus – at least as broad as it can be made up of former prisoners (hunger strikers and blanketmen), their family members, members of the ICJP, the Mountain Climber link who delivered the offer and refusal (and verified the FOI documentation), and even the Taoiseach of the time, who, in the same issue as McKeown’s article, says, “O’Rawe’s account seems to me to be, within his framework of knowledge, honest and accurate.” – is not that the claim has been disproven, but that it is very much a valid claim that needs explained by those responsible.

And that’s just taking apart the first paragraphs of McKeown’s piece – he’s off to a bad start. Unless he will show us this documentation he refers to, and quote the broad spectrum of individuals to support his case?

We should be so lucky. Instead of expanding on his evidence of O’Rawe’s claims being disproven, he veers off into shooting the messenger. It’s all a political conspiracy, he says, dragging out the usual bogeymen out to get poor Sinn Fein. Why, those disaffected bogeymen are just like alcoholics – you can’t tell them anything – “So why bother?” he posits.

Like O’Rawe, who in his article explains that seeking the truth is “a sacred duty”, McKeown too feels dutybound, to the families of the hunger strikers and “the thousands of ordinary people who did so much for us”.

He paints another hypothetical – that the Brits, if we accept that they were offering concessions, then walked away with their tail between their legs instead of going to the Irish, the Church and the SDLP to make public their offer and force the hunger strikers down that way. First off, they didn’t walk away with their tail between their legs at the refusal of Adams over the early July offer. They came back to Adams in the last half of July attempting once again to come to agreement, and again, the Adams committee refused them. The Red Cross was also sent in to attempt to mediate; they were rebuffed and quickly sent packing. The Adams committee had Thatcher over a barrel in one regard – she could not be seen to be negotiating with the IRA. Were she to make public that she was actively attempting to end the hunger strike by directly negotiating with Gerry Adams, her government would have been in severe difficulties. It would have also impacted relations with the Irish government. So those defending the traditional Adams narrative of the hunger strike can use the question of “Why didn’t she go public” as a shield to hide behind as they know very well that was never on the cards. Had they gone to the media, as McKeown suggests, Thatcher would have been savaged. Was she willing to sacrifice herself and her government in order to end the hunger strike? McKeown can’t have it both ways. She wanted an end to the hunger strike, and did take risks to bring it about, but she wasn’t about to commit public political suicide in order to do so – and no one was under any illusions that she was. So there is a safety in suggesting she would as a defence tactic now.

Even to this day the NIO will not release all documents relating to the hunger strike because of the damage it could do to people still active in politics today. When the British are done with the Sinn Fein leadership and have no further need to protect them, then those secrets will be made public. Adams’ proxies can ask why they aren’t made public today safe in the knowledge that as long as he is useful to them, they will never be released.

McKeown argues that the idea that Thatcher was negotiating with the IRA would have set off the prison authorities too much, and that is his reason for why the O’Rawe claims aren’t true. He cites a discussion with an un-named BBC producer as evidence for this. This discussion has been previously cited by McKeown in R.K. Walker’s 2006 book on the hunger strike, although the context used then is in reference to the first hunger strike, not the second. On page 79, McKeown describes the ending of the first hunger strike:

Released from Long Kesh in 1992, he sheds further light on the feeling among Republicans that during the first hunger strike of 1980 the British authorities had no intention of making a genuine attempt to reach a compromise. He recalls:

“It was said by the British [to Cardinal Ó Fiach and others] that once the strike was ended, there would be concessions on at least the wearing of our own clothes, as opposed to prison uniform. Ó Fiach had appealed to the hunger strikers and to the British government to call off the strike. He thought he had an understanding that our own clothes would be acceptable. And this was the understanding of Republicans at the time. So our relatives brought our own clothes up to the prison to leave in for us to wear, thinking that that was what had been agreed. But instead we were told that we couldn’t wear them, and that we would have to wear “prison-issue civilian clothing”, which was not what had been agreed at all.
Many years later, during the making of a documentary on Ireland by the BBC, the BBC producer said off-screen that he’d been told by someone who’d been in official circles at the time that six NIO officials including the prison governor had threatened to resign if the prisoners had been given any concessions at all.” pg 79, The Hunger Strikes, R. K. Walker

Leaving aside the nonsense of the first paragraph, compare this with Monday’s article, where McKeown uses the same example in a different context:

“A BBC Timewatch programme produced in 1994, a full 11 years before Richard O’Rawe’s claim, possibly holds the answer.
I did an interview for the programme and the producers got access to many senior British government officials from the time.
In casual conversation with the producer I asked if the civil servants, particularly in the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), had felt a bit like ‘piggy-in-the-middle’, forced to hold to Thatcher’s uncompromising line while having to deal with adverse publicity from around the world.
The producer replied that everything they had discovered indicated that Thatcher at one point was going to make concessions but that when the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) got wind of it top civil servants, including the governor of the prison, Stanley Hilditch, threatened to resign.
As soon as he said it I realised it made absolute sense. Of course the civil servants in the NIO (unionists) would be more opposed to any concessions to republican prisoners than the British would.”

 

But it makes sense only to a certain point – because this ‘rebellion’ took place in the context of the first hunger strike, not the second, and Thatcher most certainly learned from this, as the FOI documentation shows. She made sure that the line would be held the second time around, not only by getting Atkins’ assurances, but by moving both Atkins and Hilditch out of their positions – to be replaced by Prior and Kerr – as the hunger strike was winding down and the concessions she had offered were ultimately implemented. She wasn’t looking a third hunger strike. As has been said by other British officials of the ending of the first hunger strike, with a little imagination from the prison authorities the second hunger strike could have been averted. They rebelled, and made it inevitable. Thatcher wasn’t going to give them a second chance.

McKeown writes –  

“So, the producer of the programme added, threatened with rebellion on their doorstep it appears the British government decided it best to weather the storm (of the Hunger Strike) rather than follow through with their ‘offer’.”

10 Downing Street, in the FOI documents, discussing the second July offer, answers both of these hypotheticals:

“The Prime Minister asked whether a detailed offer along the lines set out above were made and failed, he could hold the prison officers. Mr Atkins thought that this would be just about possible. The Prime Minister pointed out that once the offer of own clothes had been made publicly, it would have to be implemented whether or not the hunger strikers called off their strike. Mr Atkins agreed. After further discussion, the Prime Minister decided that the dangers in taking an initiative would be so great in Northern Ireland that she was not prepared to risk them. The official who went into the prison could repeat the Government’s public position but could go no further. The Secretary of State agreed.”

What is being discussed is how far to go without Adams indicating that the offer would be accepted. Thatcher asks would the prison officers comply with the offer’s terms; Atkins assures her they would. She reminds him of the clothes issue, making the point because of the previous problem. In the end she decides that going public with the full offer without the acceptance from Adams was too risky; she can go no further without it.

It was choreography she was seeking, and Adams was, at that date, unwilling to give it to her.

McKeown says the hunger strikers weren’t going to agree: “And given that four comrades had already died and the hunger strike of 1980 had ended with not the merest crumb of concession there was no way we were ending ours without a concrete, copper-fastened deal witnessed by guarantors who could stand over it.”

Yet, as we know, the first hunger strike ended with no chance of concessions; the potential guarantors of the second hunger – the ICJP and the Red Cross – were chased, on order from McFarlane. The hunger strikers themselves weren’t given a chance to agree to Thatcher’s proposals – they were told nothing of them. Those who were – O’Rawe and McFarlane – were over-ruled when they accepted them.

What is most interesting about McKeown’s effort here isn’t his use of hypothetical bollocks to bamboozle, but what he left out, the position he abandoned. One would imagine that he would have been in the perfect position to kick the ball into touch and yet he refuses point blank to go near it this time around.

When O’Rawe’s book was released, McKeown had written, in an attempt to rubbish the claims: “Strangely, there was nothing new to me regarding what was on offer from the Brits back in 1981. Whether it was the ‘Mountain Climber’ or the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, we wanted definite confirmation, not vague promises of ‘regime change’.” – 10 March, 2005, An Phoblacht

This comment is also referred to in an article for the Village magazine: “Laurence McKeown, whose family took him off the hunger strike, has denounced O’Rawe and accused him of glory-seeking. No concrete promises were on offer from the British, he insists.” H-Block hypocrisy, Village, Saturday, 12 March 2005

Today, 2009, we now know that much more than “vague promises” were on offer; we have the “concrete promises” confirmed and verified by the man who delivered them to Martin McGuinness.

McKeown’s retreat, along with Morrison’s and McFarlane’s absence and Adams’ continued silence, is noted.

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

Irish News rehashes bogus claim of ‘deal’ during Hunger Strike

October 1, 2009
Top Stories
Irish News rehashes bogus claim of ‘deal’ during Hunger Strike
An Phoblacht

p9-pic1In a ‘special investigation’ this week The Irish News has rehashed the claim made by Richard O’Rawe in 2005 that a deal was on offer from the British government to resolve the 1981 Hunger Strike and that this alleged deal was scuppered by the leadership of the Republican Movement.

Even though O’Rawe’s claim was comprehensively refuted by republican ex-prisoners, The Irish News has revived the allegation, partly to sell newspapers through stirring up controversy on an issue of such huge interest and deep emotion and partly to attempt to discredit Sinn Féin. To create a new ‘angle’ to the story The Irish News went to former Fine Gael Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald who claimed he ‘believed’ that there was such a deal and that the IRA blocked it. This from a politician who has been vehemently opposed to republicans throughout his career and whose main concern, as he still makes clear, was not the hunger strikers but the fact that the British government was talking to republicans.

McGuinness response

Writing in response in The Irish News on Monday, Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister and Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness said he found it “quite ironic that in their desire to get at Sinn Féin our opponents are attempting to portray Thatcher as someone anxious to resolve the Hunger Strike”. McGuinness continued:

“Nothing could be further from the truth. According to our critics, the hunger strikers, on whose behalf we were acting, should have accepted an ‘offer’ which came to the prisoners and us, via a phone-call from a British official in London, through the intermediary (since identified as Brendan Duddy – an honourable man), to myself, to a phone-call to Gerry Adams, and in a verbal message to Danny Morrison to the prisoners. Clearly, they have chosen to forget of what mettle the hunger strikers were made, of their experiences of British deceit in December 1980. Sinn Féin had political and ideological differences with the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP).

“We and the prisoners suspected that it would sell the prisoners short. Despite being a vehicle for the British government delivering a compromise and avoiding direct negotiations, even the ICJP’s expectations/demands that the British would send in someone to stand over what London was implying in messages was refused six times in the hours before Joe McDonnell died.

“This year the British government selectively released documents about this period under the Freedom of Information Act and our critics have seized upon their release, but not their content, as some sort of proof.

“That the republican leadership was in contact with the British was revealed long ago, not least in the 1987 book Ten Men Dead. I would encourage people to read this book and the documents released in 2009 and compare it to the allegations of those who never visited the hunger strikers in the prison hospital, never dealt with the prison administration and the British government or liaised with the ICJP (which, on its terms, to be fair, was attempting to resolve the situation).”

Former hunger striker

Also writing in the The Irish News Laurence McKeown, former hunger striker, described the deal claim as “totally unfounded” and disproved since it was first made. He said the claim has rumbled on “fuelled by an assortment of disaffected former members of the Republican Movement and political opponents of Sinn Féin”. He continued:

“Trying to ‘answer’ the claim is a bit like trying to convince an alcoholic that they’d be much better off not taking that next drink. There will never be an answer that will suffice, a response that will be adequate.

“So why bother? For the families of the six who died later that summer and for the thousands of ordinary people who did so much for us during that period.

“The Tory government of Maggie Thatcher is infamous for the trail of suffering, death, social upheaval, destruction of communities, and removal of civil and workers’ rights that it wreaked not just in Ireland but in Britain itself. But let’s just suppose for a moment that it wanted to end the Hunger Strike. Britain acts only in Britain’s interest so if it was decided that it was in their best interest to concede some or all of our demands it would not have been out of some humanitarian sentiment but because not to do so would be damaging to Britain’s long-term interests.

“So, this Tory cabinet of Maggie Thatcher, having decided that it was in Britain’s best interest to act to break the Hunger Strike, comes up with a list of concessions they are prepared to make, presents this to the leadership of the Republican Movement, who supposedly reject them and what do the Brits do? They walk away with their tails between their legs.

“Is this the same government that cold-bloodedly slaughtered the Argentinean sailors on the Belgrano? That smashed the powerful National Union of Mineworkers and left whole mining villages and communities desolate?

“If the British had thought it was in their interest to end the Hunger Strike then they would have done so regardless of what the Republican Movement did or did not do. They would simply have gone to the media – having first confided with and secured the support of the SDLP, the Catholic hierarchy and the Dublin government – and announced concessions they were prepared to make.

We on hunger strike would then have been faced with either calling it off or trying to continue with a now deeply divided support base, not to mention internal and family divisions. It’s not rocket science.

Never a deal

“What we know for definite is that during the Hunger Strike there were always offers from the British but never a deal. And given that four comrades had already died and the hunger strike of 1980 had ended with not the merest crumb of concession there was no way we were ending ours without a concrete, copper-fastened deal witnessed by guarantors who could stand over it. And anyone who was on it or involved with it, including Richard, knows that to be the case. Such was our suspicion and distrust of the British.

“In the peace and tranquillity of 2009 it’s easy to forget that. To de-contextualise events. To forget the power of the emotions then and the strength of convictions. It’s also easy to wish it could somehow have been different. What is unforgivable, though, is to attempt to make cheap political gain from those events and in the course of it to cause hurt.”

Sourced from An Phoblacht

The breathtaking hypocrisy of Garret FitzGerald

October 1, 2009
Editorial, An Phoblacht
The breathtaking hypocrisy of Garret FitzGerald

Former Fine Gael Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald has joined the chorus of those who are attempting to revive the spurious allegations of Richard O’Rawe, comprehensively refuted when they emerged in 2005, that republican leaders deliberately scuppered a ‘deal’ that could have saved the lives of six of the ten hunger strikers of 1981.

Such hypocrisy is breathtaking. What concern did FitzGerald ever show for the hunger strikers, the H-Block or Armagh prisoners or the nationalist people in the Six Counties? Like the rest of the political establishment in the 26 Counties he stood by while prisoners endured years of torture and as the crisis in the jails was growing towards its tragic climax. And then, rather than support the just demands of the prisoners, he dithered in the face of British intransigence.

FitzGerald’s New Ireland Forum of 1984 was conceived with the primary purpose of shoring up the SDLP which was facing a major challenge from Sinn Féin. The republican party was excluded and the policy of censorship and exclusion of republicans was reinforced under the Hillsborough Agreement of which FitzGerald and Thatcher were co-sponsors.

It is clear from FitzGerald’s interview in the Irish News this week and from his previous writings that his main concern before, during and after 1981 was that the British Government might be talking to republicans and that this should stop. With Thatcher, he embarked on one of the most intense rounds of repression in the period after 1985 when the Border was reinforced and collusion between British forces and unionist paramilitaries was stepped up.

The same FitzGerald was portrayed as a great liberal, yet every Government which he led, or in which he served, renewed broadcasting censorship of Sinn Féin. This denial of information and closing down of dialogue helped to prolong the conflict.

It is important that FitzGerald and co. are corrected and challenged, firstly for the sake of the memory of the hunger strikers and for their relatives. They need to be challenged secondly because their spurious allegations form part of an effort to discredit the republicans of 2009.

Such efforts will fail. They will never distract republicans from their task of achieving the just, peaceful and united Ireland for which the hunger strikers gave their lives.

Sourced from An Phoblacht

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SPRING 2013: 55 HOURS
A day-by-day account of the events of early July, 1981.


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