July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Irish News letters page: There was no hunger strike offer

There was no hunger strike offer
Irish News letters page
Manus McDaid, Derry

With reference to the letter entitled ‘The truth about the Hunger Strikers’ by Mr Tony O’Hara (October 22), one has to reiterate again the position taken by the hunger strikers the second time around.

They made five demands to be met by a response by the British government in writing and delivered to them by a British government representative in person.

Anything less than that was to be rejected.

I imagine the H-blocks were awash with rumours of concern, hope and fear for the well-being of the hunger strikers.

I believe that the terms ‘deals’ ‘agreements’ were freely used.

In that climate it would not be surprising if some failed to understand the difference between a verbal deal and a written agreement.

As I understand there may have been work in the hope that a written agreement might be thrashed out.

I understand that a deal was returned by Mrs Thatcher who described it as a ‘dangerous precedent’.

So no document bears witness to an offer by the British:
• ‘the mountain climber’ said he never saw a document
• Rurai O Bradaigh who was very close to the events of 1981 said the IRA leadership had no awareness of a deal [a document]
• the chaplains in the Kesh knew nothing of a document.

The hunger strike was brought to an end when clergy argued for that end on moral grounds – not on the existence of a documented offer to the strikers based on the latter’s conditions.

So Mr O’Hara on your ‘factual side’ you have Mr O’Rawe saying there was a deal and Mr Garrett Fitzgerald is pretty light in the absence of a written document.

It is important to separate ‘local talk’ and a distinctive ‘deal’ verbally agreed maybe.

The requirement of the hunger strikers was for written propositions by the British given to them.

One ought to be alert that any kind of public inquiry critically needing British involvement is a non-starter.

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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