July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Irish News letters page: Act provides facts

Act provides facts
Irish News letters page
T Molloy, Belfast 11

Sean Flynn (The Irish News, October 17) says that he visited INLA hunger strikers on July 5 1981 and they were not aware that talks were going on in the background.

He says he saw Danny Morrison in the prison. Morrison says he did not see Flynn and he believes that Flynn has mixed up his dates.

This can be resolved very easily. Under the Freedom of Information Act Morrison applied for details of all visits to the hunger strikers on July 5 1981.

He received a facsimile of a document which proves that he visited all the hunger strikers (thus suggesting that he did tell the INLA men about talks).

Why doesn’t Sean Flynn do the same – apply under the Freedom of Information Act to prove that he visited the H-blocks on Sunday, July 5 1981?

Sourced from the Irish News

Irish News letters page: Only an inquiry can solve 1981 Hunger Strike issues

Only an inquiry can solve 1981 Hunger Strike issues
Irish News letters page
Gerard Foster, Andersonstown

Having read the two articles on the 1981 Hunger Strike issue (Irish News, October 22) of an offer made by the British, a number of things jumped out at me.

Firstly, how Richard O’Rawe stuck to asking questions and quoting named sources to make the points that he wanted to make of the ‘kitchen cabinet’ led by Gerry Adams. How he dealt with those who are trying to deride the debate using emotional points instead of answering the questions asked or trying to say that those who believe there is a version different from the Adams and Co line are calling the hunger strikers “dupes” or “fools”.

Secondly, in the article by Bernard Fox he was unable or unwilling to answer the points made by the Republicans who do not toe the Adams line. He was critical of the former Blanketmen who are asking questions about July 1981, as to “why they would wait all these years to bring this out”.

Yet he himself said in the same article “It took me 20 years before I could even speak openly about my experiences”.

Surely Bernard that answers your own point about the time span?

Bernard says he is emotional and raw even now for him and these claims just add to the pain, and then says he can only imagine what it must be like for the families of the 10 lads. Again he is using the Adams technique of tugging at people’s hearts by talking about the families and their pain instead of answering the questions. He seems to forget that at least two of the families are asking for an inquiry into the July 1981 offer.

Is their hurt and pain any less than the other families?

Thirdly, Bernard also states he has no time for inquiries and goes on to say “what is needed is the truth and it would be naive to think the British will ever tell the truth”.

We don’t need the British to tell the truth, what is needed is for the kitchen cabinet to answer the questions asked instead of running away from the issue and playing on people’s emotions, changing their version of the events in July 1981, contradicting each other and themselves. Why has Bernard avoided these things instead of telling us that “we [the prisoners] knew he [Bik] wasn’t going to let us down”?

Yet even Bik has changed his version a number of times of what actually happened in July 1981.

Not very reassuring is it?

Lastly, Bernard criticised claims the last six hunger strikers were allowed to die “in order to maximise electoral support for Sinn Fein”. I would ask Bernard who is making these claims? I know of nobody asking for the inquiry who is also claiming this.

An inquiry will look at what happened in July 1981 asking all those involved in the Mountain Climber offer what part they played and were the prisoners told everything. After it concludes with its findings then people will be asked why they acted the way they did and for what reasons. Adams and his kitchen cabinet cannot hide behind closed doors at private meetings hoping this will go away, it will not. Tony O’Hara in the letters page in the same issue of The Irish News asks questions of Gerry Adams that cannot be avoided much longer.

Sourced from the Irish News

Irish News letters page: The Facts of the Hunger Strike Have Already Been Established

The facts of the hunger strikes have already been established
Irish News letters page
Carrie Twomey

Brendan Hughes’s second anniversary is coming up in February. Manus McDaid (October 26) seems to think that because he is not long dead, no one can know his reasons for ending the first hunger strike – “we can only surmise”, he writes.

Actually, we can, and do know his reasons. They are documented in numerous books and interviews. As well, many former prisoners of the time know the truth.

It is not a matter of guessing, as Brendan was very forthright about the issue, even within the pages of The Irish News, where he wrote:

“As the IRA leader in charge of that hunger strike I had given Sean McKenna a guarantee that were he to lapse into a coma I would not permit him to die.

“When the awful moment arrived I kept my word to him.

“Having made that promise, to renege on it once Sean had reached a point where he was no longer capable of making a decision for himself, I would have been guilty of his murder.

“Twenty-five years on, I have no reason to change my mind that the decision I made to save the life of Sean McKenna was the proper one.

“Faced with similar circumstances I would do the same again.

“History may judge my actions differently but preventing Sean McKenna from becoming history rather than my own place in history was my prevailing concern.” (July 13 2006)

And yes, I also heard it from Brendan personally, having spoken with him about this on a number of occasions. It was a time that weighed heavily on his heart until his dying day. I do personally know how much he suffered.

The facts of the second hunger strike have also been established: in early July there was a substantial offer from Thatcher that contained four of the five demands, the prison leadership accepted that offer, they were over-ruled by their representatives on the outside and the hunger strike was prolonged a further four months, with six young men dying needlessly.

The British had their offer in writing ready to go into the prison and to the press – this is now a matter of historical record, thanks to FOI (Freedom of Information) release of documents.

“The statement has now been read and we await provo reactions (we would be willing to allow them a sight of the document just before it is given to the prisoners and released to the press)” – Extract from a Telegram from the Northern Ireland Office to the Cabinet Office.

This internal document is very clear about the sequence of events the British were going to follow.

All they were waiting for was the word of Gerry Adams, to tell them the prisoners would accept the offer.

The distrust was mutual; the British would not move without knowing the answer would be yes ahead of time. This choreography, as we have come to know so well from the machinations of the peace process, is typical of the British and their relationship with Sinn Fein.

The prisoners would not have been left without recourse had Adams given the British the indication they needed to seal the deal, if the offer was dubious. But they were never given the chance. They were told nothing.

According to Laurence McKeown’s own account, Adams went in to the hunger strikers and said nothing was on the table, there was no movement from the British. He said this to Kieran Doherty’s parents as their son lay dying in the next room.

Only a few days prior Thatcher was sending Adams drafts of a speech she was prepared to give announcing the ending of the hunger strike, yet we are to believe that Adams was holding out because it was “wanted in writing the response of the British to their five demands”.

If Thatcher sending a draft copy of her speech on the ending of the Hunger Strike, for the purpose of taking suggestions from Adams, does not qualify as bona fides indicating the commitment of the British to the offer they had made, what would?

It is ridiculous to hold on to the lie that the ending of the first hunger strike is the reason those managing the Hunger Strike on the outside would not accept Thatcher’s offers. The historical record shows that plainly to be complete nonsense. It will only become more evidentially nonsense as time goes on and more information is made available.

Sourced from the Irish News

Radio Free Eireann interviews Ruairí Ó Brádaigh

Partial Transcript of Radio Free Eireann
Saturday November 14, 2009 @ 1:16:20 in the show.

John McDonagh (John) of RFE interviews Ruairí Ó Brádaigh (ROB).

John: Yeah, we’ll be getting back I guess…I had two questions but I’m gonna have to limit it to the one. And just sitting listening to Ruairi going through his history which is really the history of the Republican Movement here in Ireland or just Irish history for the past sixty years. And he was talking about the talks that he had with the British.

But also there’s been a controversy now and its opening up old wounds particularly for the families of the 1981 hunger strikers. Now The Irish News has been running a series of articles who are involved with the negotiations and everything that was going on back in 1981 and Richard O’Rawe, who’s written a book about that time frame, and he was a top member of the IRA within the prison, is questioning why the hunger strike went on for so long and so many people had to die.

And Martin Galvin was kind enough to send me two of the questions that he wanted Ruairi to ask.

And I’m just gonna read them on behalf of Richard O’Rawe, it said:

Ruairi, in a recent Irish News special series on the hunger strike, Martin McGuinness confirmed that he received an offer from the British government on the fifth of July, 1981, which he said he passed on to Gerry Adams in Belfast. This is know as the Mountain Climber offer. As President of Sinn Fein at the time, did Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness or anyone else in the hunger strike committee make you aware of the existence of this offer?

ROB: No.

I was President of Sinn Fein. But Dr. Garret Fitzgerald has gone on the record saying Gerry Adams was President at the time. But, no, I was.

And I had no knowledge of any such offer; and nor had Sinn Fein in general….and not alone that….I believe that the Army Council of the IRA weren’t aware of this offer, either.

And I have gone on the record as saying that. And it has been published in The Irish News, the nationalist daily paper in Belfast, in The North, in that regard.

And I sent another letter to the effect that during the interview Richard O’Rawe’s name wasn’t mentioned by me, nor indeed by the interviewer.

So that’s where it is.

Is there another question that John has?

John: No. And I think Ruairi did follow-up on it asking whether the Army Council did know on that.

[John signs off goes on with show, thanking WBAI for its archives that allows listeners from all over the world to hear the show. Clips and pictures will be up on irishfreedom.net.]

Ends @ 1:20:00

Thomas ‘Dixie’ Elliott: “We got nothing”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009
“We got nothing”
by Thomas ‘Dixie’ Elliott

This is an unedited version of what was carried in the Irish News

I often look back to the time I spent on the blanket protest and feel privileged that I had the honour of spending some of those dark and more often than not, cold and brutal days sharing a cell in the company of Tom McElwee and Bobby Sands. These patriots, like the other brave hunger strikers, dreamt that they would live to bear witness to the unity of the Irish people within the political framework of a thirty-two county socialist republic, and it was for that reason alone that they had been imprisoned. Having spoken to Tom and Bobby and other hunger strikers, I know that they also looked forward to getting out of Long Kesh after completing their sentences and returning to their families. Tragically, it was not to be.

The darkest of those days were the periods of the two hunger strikes and I clearly remember the night of 18 December 1980, when the first hunger strike ended, after Brendan ‘The Dark’ Hughes called it off in order to save Seán McKenna’s life. I was in the leadership wing with Bobby, Bik McFarlane and Richard O’Rawe at that time. Bobby had been to the prison hospital and I looked out the window of my cell and saw him alight from the prison van with shoulders hunched and I knew immediately that something wasn’t right. This was confirmed when he walked down the wing and told us: ‘Ní fhuaireomar faic,’ [we got nothing]. In fact the only thing coming from the British, and it was handed to Gerry Adams by Father Meagher in Belfast, was a document that wasn’t worth the paper it was written on and which would never had ended the hunger strike even had The Dark chosen to let Seán die and continue with the fast.

In regards to clothing and work, the most important of our five demands, the document stated: ’As soon as possible all prisoners will be issued with civilian-type clothing for wear during the working day’. We Blanketmen realised instantly that civilian-type clothing was nothing more than a modernised prison uniform and that Bobby had been spot-on when he told us ‘Ní fhuaireomar faic,’ out of the 1980 hunger strike. That being the case, why do Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, and others persist with the claim that the Brits reneged on a deal during the first hunger strike when that is demonstrably untrue? Even more perplexing was the fact that former hunger striker, Bernard Fox, recently supported this claim in an interview with the Irish News.

While I have the greatest respect for Bernard as a former comrade and republican, he nonetheless said something in his interview with profound implications:

I wasn’t in the hospital at that time [when Danny Morrison met the hunger strikers on 5 July 1981] and I don’t know what the men were told or not told but I do know there was no deal.

He is right, of course; there was no deal between the prisoners and the Brits in early July; had there been a deal, Bernard would not have had to go on hunger strike. But what is astonishing is that he had been on hunger strike for thirty-two days, yet Bernard says that no one had informed him about the Mountain Climber offer which Danny Morrison allegedly relayed to the hunger strikers on 5 July 1981. It goes without saying then that Bernard never set eyes on the Secretary of State, Humphrey Atkins’s statement that incorporated the offer, and which was to be released upon the hunger strike ending. That begs the question: how can Bernard reconcile being deliberately kept in ignorance about the potentially life-saving Mountain Climber offer, and still lend his unqualified support for those who took a decision to keep that knowledge from him?

Bernard said he was deeply distressed by allegations that a deal which could have ended the hunger strike was vetoed in order to maximise electoral support for Sinn Féin. I too am deeply distressed, but the more I looked into these claims the more I see that there was a lot more being discussed at the time than a resolution to the hunger strike. In a comm to Gerry Adams, dated 26.7.’81, reproduced on page 334 of Ten Men Dead, Bik talks about ‘examining the possibility of contesting elections and actually making full use of seats gained i.e. participating in the Dáil’. He continues: ‘Such an idea presents problems within the Movement. How great would the opposition be and what would be the consequences of pursuing a course which did not enjoy a sizeable degree of support?’

Then on August 20th the same day that Micky Devine died, Owen Carron retained Bobby’s Fermanagh/South Tyrone seat. Just three days later on August 23rd, Sinn Féin announced that in future it would contest all Northern Ireland elections. The Hunger Strikes ended on October the 3rd and on October 6th Prior implemented exactly what was on offer from July 5th.

On October 31st at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis Danny Morrison gave his famous ballot box/armalite speech in which he addressed the issue of the party taking part in future elections.

This time-line can be viewed at http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/abstentionism/chron.htm

It shockingly appears that while men were dying and even when the Hunger Strike was still on-going that they were discussing and even pushing through electoralism.

Sourced from The Pensive Quill

Irish News letters: Judge the hunger strikers on their own brave deeds

Judge the hunger strikers on their own brave deeds
Irish News letters page
Manus McDaid, Derry

It is my hope that the recent extensive coverage by The Irish News of the Hunger Strike represents the paper’s contribution to the search for closure on this painful long-running argument about British intentions during the strike.

It is evident that there are those who have simply taken the word of the British on this matter although the British themselves are reticent to speak about it.

There are also some who forget or choose to forget the first Hunger Strike ended when the men on strike took the British at their word.

As I wrote before, these men were double-crossed.

I believe the men who went on the second Hunger Strike were well aware of that.

They were not going to make the same mistake and accept the word of a duplicitous British government. They wanted their demands agreed in writing and confirmed by a British official in person.

This, to my best knowledge, never happened.

I note Mr O’Rawe via one Mr Liam Clarke says the secretary of state “would release a statement” in the event of the Hunger Strike.

This is more British double-speak. Truly, if a British official told me the day of the week, I would immediately reach for my diary.

I believe the men who died on hunger strike knew of the knavery of their opponents who could find space between truth and untruth where they could play with words.

It is here that the fortitude and might of the men on hunger strike ought to be measured, not by a welter of ‘what if’ rhetoric type of questions, nor by those seeking political gain, nor by those trying to make a quick buck out of the sacrifices made in support of their comrades in Long Kesh and Armagh Jail.

Sourced from the Irish News


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

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