Nov 6, 2010
Former IRA prison leader releases O’Rawe ‘comms’
by Barry McCaffrey
Nov 6 2010
Former IRA prison leader Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane yesterday produced secret ‘comms’ (communications) which he claimed prove that republicans did not reject a British government deal to end the 1981 Hunger Strike.
Earlier this week Richard O’Rawe, who was the IRA press officer in the H-Blocks during the Hunger Strike, published his second book Afterlives: The Hunger Strike and the Secret Offer that Changed Irish History.
In it he argues that prisoners had been willing to accept an offer to end the protest but this was rejected by the IRA leadership outside the Maze.
He claims that as a result six hunger strikers died needlessly.
Mr McFarlane said yesterday he would break five years of silence by producing secret IRA comms written by Mr O’Rawe during the Hunger Strike in which he accused the British government of trying to prolong it.
In them he writes: “It is vital also that everyone realises that the ICJP [Irish Commission for Peace and Justice] have been victims of British perfidity and that the ambiguity which accompanies all British government statements is deliberate, so that at a later stage they can abdicate their responsibility.”
In another part of the communications sent between republicans in and outside of the jail, Mr O’Rawe comments on a Northern Ireland Office decision to send officials into the prison to speak to hunger strikers.
“Understand this development for it is an extension of the cunningness that has marked the Brits’ role in this issue, he writes.
“The Brits know our stand in relation to their July 8 statement but they saw the possibility of gaining in the propaganda field, so they sent two NIO men in on their publicity mission to explain a totally rejected statement.”
In another section he refers to the British government’s refusal to allow Mr McFarlane to attend a meeting between the NIO and hunger strikers.
“Again the British are engaged in a propaganda exercise… The fact is that if the Brits were genuinely disposed to seeking a solution such a meeting would be of benefit and we would welcome it as long as the strikers are adequately represented in the person of Brendan McFarlane,” Mr O’Rawe writes.
Mr McFarlane said he rejected Mr O’Rawe’s claims that the IRA had allowed six of the 10 hunger strikers to die needlessly.
“I have deliberately resisted engaging in personal attacks on Richard for the last five years,” he said.
“But I feel it is not time, once and for all, to show beyond doubt that what he is saying is totally untrue.
“These comms are written in Richard’s own handwriting and show quite clearly that he believed that the British had no interest in a deal.
“The idea that a deal came from Thatcher and was rejected by the outside leadership for political expediency is a total fallacy.
“His claims of an alleged conversation with me in which I said we’d agreed to a deal is a complete myth.
“Richard’s own comms show that the Brits were never serious about a deal.”
Mr McFarlane said his former comrade’s claims had cause major distress to hunger strikers’ families.
“I hope these comms will prove once and for all who is telling the truth,” Mr McFarlane said.
Responding to his former cellmate’s criticism, Mr O’Rawe said Mr McFarlane should “tell the truth about the Hunger Strike rather than regurgitate this nonsense once more.”
“Of necessity, these press statements had to be unyielding and hard-hitting in tone because they were being read not just by the man and woman on the street but by the British government.
“If they had contained the least hint of weakness, that would have been seen as a crack in our resolve and resulted in a corresponding steeling of the British government’s attitude.
“What is it about this that Bik doesn’t understand?
“Perhaps he should ask his colleagues in the Sinn Fein leadership what is the difference between public statements and private reality.
“After all, for years they told us that the IRA would never, ever decommission, yet in private preparations were being made to do just that.”
Sourced from the Irish News