July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike


“Among the documents still being withheld by the British are the one whose contents were delivered verbally through an intermediary on July 5th and which I delivered verbally to the hunger strikers and Brendan McFarlane; and the one which the British rewrote hours before Joe McDonnell died on July 8th but which neither we nor the hunger strikers were given. They rewrote it, according to the newly released material, to alter its tone in response to a request, they say, by the Republican Movement. Crucially, if we accept this document then it indicates a Republican Movement anxious to settle, not prolong the hunger strike.

“The only reason the British could have for continuing to withhold this statement is simply to create and sustain confusion. These documents should be read alongside the timeline the Bobby Sands Trust has detailed.” – Danny Morrison, Documents Still Withheld April 7, 2009, Bobby Sands Trust

The documents referred to by Danny Morrison in 2009 have since been released. What follows is a chronological timeline of the events of 5-8 July 1981, using Danny Morrison’s timeline, documents from Margaret Thatcher’s archive, and quotes from cited books and sources.

5 July


CALL NO 2 – 0239-0500 5 JULY
Source: Record of various conversations which took place over the Mountain Climber channel – messages relayed between Brendan Duddy (“Soon”), the Adams group, and the British
Paragraph 13

13. He said that one of the major difficulties over the implementation of the agreement at the end of the last hunger strike had been the attitude of some of the prison officers. He said that the Provisionals believed that HMG had been sincere in trying to implement their side of the agreement.

Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes:
Send on 5 of July Clothes = after lunch Tomorrow and before the the afternoon visit as a man is given his clothes He clears out his own cell pending the resolution of the work issue which will be worked out [garbled] as soon as the clothes are and no later than 1 month. Visits = [garbled] on Tuesday. Hunger strikers + some others H.S. to end 4 hrs after clothes + work has been resolved.
Send on 5 of July
Clothes = after lunch tomorrow and before the the afternoon visit.
As a man is given his clothes he clears out his own cell.
Pending the resolution of the work issue which will be worked out [garbled] as soon as the clothes are and no later than 1 month.
Visits = [garbled] on Tuesday. Hunger strikers + some others
H.S. to end 4 hrs after clothes + work has been resolved.

CALL NO 3 – 1045-1125, 5 JULY
14. Soon rang to say that the Provisionals were rapidly regrouping and that he expected that they would meet between 1200 and 1500 that afternoon.
15. He then returned to the subject of the prison visit. He said that the number of Senior Provisionals with a full grasp of the situation including knowledge of the Soon Channel and the status to enable them to act authoritatively was very limited. He said that if the key to accepting any agreement was persuation [sic], education and knowledge, then that is not available outside the very upper echelons of the Provisional Movement. It is not even available as of right to the entire PSF leadership. He said that this poses a problem. In response to our request for Provisionals who would fit this description, Soon produced Morrison, Adams and McGuinness as the only three candidates.
16. Soon then proceeded to offer the Provisionals’ view of the ICJP. He said that determination still existed not to let the ICJP act as a mediator. As a consequence, there was a body of opinion within the Provisional Leadership, which was unaware of the Soon Channel, and, therefore, took a destructive view towards any current proposals since they believed these would involved the ICJP.


CALL NO 4 – 1400-1405, 5 JULY
22. Soon then indicated that McGuinness had just arrived. He said that time was of the essence and asked what the current HMG position was. We explained that it was important that we should possess the Provisionals’ view. Soon then undertook to seek clear views on their position, which would be relayed to us later after discussion in the light of Morrison’s visit.

Padraig O’MalleyBiting at the Grave, pg 96: “…Danny Morrison was allowed to go into the Maze/Long Kesh to see the hunger strikers on the morning of 5 July…to apprise them of what was going on, although he did not go into detail. Morrison says that he relayed information about the contact and impressed upon them the fact the ICJP could “make a mess of it, that they could be settling for less than what they had the potential for achieving.”

Garret Fitzgerald: All in a Life, 1991; pages 367 – 371: “They were then allowed by the British authorities to send Danny Morrison secretly into the prison for discussions with the hunger strikers and with the IRA leader there, Brendan McFarlane. This visit was later described by the IRA as a test of the authority of the British government representative in touch with them to bypass the NIO.”

Danny Morrison: (source: Daily Ireland; Bobby Sands trust timeline) After exchanges, Mountain Climber’s offer (concessions in relation to aspects of the five demands) goes further than ICJP’s understanding of government position. Sinn Fein’s Danny Morrison secretly visits hunger strikers. Separately, he meets prison OC Brendan McFarlane, explains what Mountain Climber is offering should hunger strike be terminated. McFarlane meets hunger strikers.

CALL NO 5 – 1600-1620, 5 JULY
25. Soon believed that he had now been able to persuade the Provisionals that HMG is not interested in any settlement unless the hunger strike is called off first. He was fairly confident that this would be acceptable. He said, however, that a major problem was that if panic sets in, this will be the first point to be abandoned. Therefore, it was essential that there should be backup systems.
26. When we queried what this meant, he said that he believed that if a further statement was to be produced, it would be very helpful if the Provisionals could see it before publication. He suggested that this could best be achieved by a handover at a meeting between the two ends of the Soon Channel. He said that given the Provisionals’ wariness of HMG’s position, even trivial setbacks could result in major disasters. He asked what contingencies were being considered about the implementation of clothing after the hunger strike is called off. We replied that although it would be useful to have some idea of what would be acceptable to the Provisionals, there was little point in considering this while their view on the nature of a settlement was unclear.

Danny Morrison: Morrison is allowed to phone out from the doctor’s surgery. Tells Adams that prisoners will not take anything on trust, and prisoners want offers confirmed and seek to improve them. While waiting for McFarlane to return Morrison is ordered out of the prison by a governor [John Pepper].

Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA, Deadly Divisions, page 179: “Shortly before Joe McDonnell’s death, Councillor Flynn received a telephone call from a man in the Northern Ireland Office, who told him to go to Long Kesh. “There are developments,” was all he said. Even though it was late at night, Flynn went, accompanied by Seamus Ruddy. The NIO official, who refused to give his name, met him, and revealed that there had been discussions between Sinn Fein and the government and that it looked like they might settle. Flynn was given permission to go into the jail and speak to Lynch and Devine, who corroborated the NIO man’s assertion but said that the five demands were not being met, so whatever the Provisionals did, the INLA hunger strikers would not budge. Flynn could not get the official to reveal what was being offered. Later, when he confronted the Provisionals, they denied that they were engaged in any secret talks with the NIO.”

Sources various: McFarlane returns to block; sends O’Rawe a run-down of the offer from the Mountain Climber. McFarlane, as told to Brian Rowan: “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.” O’Rawe and McFarlane agreed there was enough there to accept the offer: “We spoke in Irish so the screws could not understand,” Mr O’Rawe told the Irish News. “I said, ‘Ta go leor ann’ – There’s enough there. He said, ‘Aontaim leat, scriobhfaidh me chun taoibh amiugh agus cuirfidh me fhois orthu’ – I agree with you, I will write to the outside and let them know.” Conversation confirmed by prisoners on the wing.


Padraig O’MalleyBiting at the Grave, pg 92: On Sunday, 5 July, Bishop O’Mahony, Hugh Logue and Father Crilly went back to the Maze/Long Kesh to talk with McFarlane. They spent about four hours with him.

Danny Morrison: ICJP visits hunger strikers and offers themselves as mediators. Hunger strikers say they want NIO rep to talk directly to them. Request by hunger strikers to meet McFarlane with ICJP is refused by NIO. Mountain Climber is told that prisoners want any offer verified.

Padraig O’MalleyBiting at the Grave, pg 93: “That evening the commissioners met with the prisoners again for about two and a half hours. This time the conversation centred on the question of guarantees – although the hunger strikers had not indicated that they regarded what was being proposed as being fully acceptable. They would, they said, have to consult their colleagues. […] They wanted a senior official from the NIO to come into the prison and spell out to them what was on offer – they would have to hear it from the British themselves rather than take the Commission’s word for it. Nevertheless the focus on the question of guarantees led the commissioners to believe that what had been put on offer the day before had not been repudiated, even after overnight consideration.”
““On the last night,” says Logue, “they [the hunger strikers] were all saying that we had to square any settlement we had, even if it was acceptable to them, with Bik.” In short, what the prisoners appeared to be saying was that if the terms were acceptable to McFarlane, they were acceptable to them. McFarlane was down the corridor in his bed – he had been brought into the hospital wing that evening and provided with a bed there so he could stay over and be available for consultation with the commissioners if the need arose. O’Mahony and Logue went down to talk to him. “He listened to us for about two minutes,” says Logue, “and turned around and went back to sleep and Joe McDonnell was going to be dead within thirty-six hours and I never forgave him for that. He was not in the business of trying to get a solution.” Nevertheless, the commissioners left in a hopeful state. Before they left, Kieran Doherty spoke briefly in Gaelic to Oliver Crilly. Doherty, Crilly told Logue, had told him that if somebody came in and read the terms out to the hunger strikers, they would accept them.”

CALL NO 7 – 2300-2400, 5 JULY
34. Soon rang to say that there had been a series of alarming reports relayed by Morrison from the prison. He said that the situation was now so bad that the possibility of any settlement was seriously in doubt. There was a complete feeling of hostility among the prisoners towards the ICJP who had been in and out of the prison during the day. The role of the ICJP had created an alarmist view of the sincerity of the HMG and every type of neurosis imaginable was surfacing within the Provisionals Leadership. We asked what had caused this sudden deterioration in the position.
35. From an apparently enthusiastic position, Soon had been called into an angry and hostile meeting of the Provisionals almost verging on a complete breakdown. The Provisionals’ view of the situation is that the prisoners’ statement had been totally ignored by the ICJP. There had then been many incoherent abuses aimed at the Soon Channel, with the implication that the time spent in discussion on the Soon Channel had been a front by HMG to enable the ICJP to manoeuvre the prisoners into an impossible position.

Comm to Brownie from Bik (6.7.81 11pm – referring to events of the 5th): “….Anyway Pennies will have filled you in on main pointers. The Bean Uasal has a time table of meetings, OK. At them all the same line was pushed by the Commission. You should have the main points from Pennies. They have maintained to myself and hunger strikers that principle of five demands is contained within the stuff they are pushing and that Brits won’t come with anything else.”
“I spent yy [yesterday] outlining our position and pushing our Saturday document as the basis for a solution. I said parts of their offer were vague and much more clarification and confirmation was needed to establish exactly what the Brits were on about. I told them the only concrete aspect seemed to be clothes and no way was this good enough to satisfy us. I saw all the hunger strikers yesterday and briefed them on the situation. They seemed strong enough and can hold the line alright. They did so last night when Commission met them. There was nothing extra on offer – they just pushed their line and themselves as guarantors over any settlement. The hunger strikers pushed to have me present, but NIO refused this and Commission wouldn’t lean hard enough on NIO. The lads also asked for NIO representative to talk directly to them, but the Commission say this is not on at all as NIO won’t wear. During the session H. Logue suggested drafting a statement on behalf of the hunger strikers asking for Brits to come in and talk direct, but lads knocked him back. A couple of them went out and made a phone call to NIO on getting me access to meeting and on getting NIO rep. They didn’t really try for me, according to Lorny, because when asked they said they didn’t want to push too hard and had been put off by the Brit’s firm refusal. 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? By the way Joe was unable to attend last night’s session.”

CALL NO 7 – 2300-2400, 5 JULY
37. Soon had, therefore, been told that the Provisionals’ view was not available because they were extremely upset at the “Bully Boy” tactics of the ICJP.

39. At this point Soon indicated that a considerable number of Provisionals had arrived. We said that time was pressing and it was now imperative that we have a statement of the Provisionals’ position. Soon undertook to try and obtain this and rang off.

6 July

The prisoners’ acceptance of the offer is conveyed to the Mountain Climber; the details given on the 5th must form the basis of the draft proposal coming from the British in response to this news. The Adams Committee adds their own veto to the agreement, and sends word to the prisoners that, despite their acceptance, “more was needed”.


Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes:
6 July
The SS [“Shop Stewards”, code for Adams group] fully accept the position as stated by the Union membership [prisoners] and that is the only basis for a successful draft proposal by the Management [Thatcher]. It is essential that a copy of the draft by in the hands of the SS before it is made public to enable the SS to approve or to point out any difficulty before publication. If it is published without prior sight and agreement, the SS would have to disapprove it.
Monday Morning
July 6th.

CALL NO 8 – 0100-0117, 6 JULY
40. Soon rang back to say that he had managed to persuade the Provisionals to provide their view, which he then dictated. It is as follows.
41. “The Provisionals fully accept the position as state by the Prisoners, and that is the only basis for a successful draft proposal by HMG. When HMG produces such a draft proposal it is essential (last word underlined) that a copy by in the Provisionals’ hands before it is made public. This is to enable the Provisionals either to approve it or to point out any difficulties before publication. If it were published without prior sight and agreement they would have to disapprove it.”
42. Having delivered this, Soon said that the Provisionals were very worried about the time scale now involved. He said that the situation would be irreparably damaged if a hunger striker died and he urged HMG to act with the utmost haste.

44. While we appreciate that it has taken a long time to obtain the Provisionals’ view we are convinced that Soon has performed his task as well as possible. We would also point out that there is little difference between the final view and that which Soon predicted earlier in the weekend.
45. Soon stressed that time was running short. We believe that he will probably ring some time in the night of 6 July for, at least, a progress report. We will await further instructions.

HUNGER STRIKE: MESSAGE TO BE SENT THROUGH THE CHANNEL 6 July 1981 with Thatcher’s handwritten notes


Richard O’Rawe, Blanketmen, page 184: “On the afternoon of 6 July, a comm came in from the Army Council saying that it did not think the Mountain Climber’s proposals provided the basis for a resolution and that more was needed. The message said that the right to free association was vital to an overall settlement and that its exclusion from the proposals, along with ambiguity on the issue of what constituted prison work, made the deal unacceptable. The Council was hopeful, though, that the Mountain Climber could be pushed into making further concessions. As usual, the comm had come from Gerry Adams, who had taken on the unenviable role of transmitting the Army Council’s views to the prison leadership.”

Garret Fitzgerald: “On Monday, 6 July at 3:30pm, according to the account given to me shortly after these events, Gerry Adams phoned the commission seeking a meeting, revealing that the British government had made contact with him. An hour and a half later two members of the commission met Adams and Morrison, who told them that this contact was ‘London based’ and had been in touch with them ‘last time round’, i.e. during the 1980 hunger strike. Adams demanded that the commission phone the NIO to cancel their meeting.”

Danny Morrison: Gerry Adams confides in ICJP about secret contact and the difference in the offers. Commission is stunned by disclosure. It confronts Alison and demands that a guarantor goes into the jail and confirm what is on offer. Alison checks with his superiors and states that a guarantor will go in at 9am the following morning, Tuesday, 7 July. Hunger strikers are told to expect an official from the NIO.

6 July
Reply 11:30 PM July 6
The British Government is prepared to issue a statement only if there is an immediate end to the Hunger Strike.
1. Prison regime in Armagh would become general in NI prisons i.e. civilian clothing.
2. Visits as for conforming prisons.
3. Remission as stated on June 30th by Secretary of State, Humphrey Atkins.
4. On work – the prison administration must maintain the right to decide what work should be done. Within that rule, further kinds of work are added from time to time, i.e. Open University, Build a Church (O’Fiach’s idea), Toys for spastic children.
5. Little advance is possible on Association as laid out on June Statement of 30th.

If we receive a satisfactory reply by 9:00am Tuesday 07/07/81 we will provide full text of the full statement.
If the reply is negative or if there is any public reference to this exchange we will deny it took place. Silence will be taken as an unsatisfactory reply.
The full text will be available by 1:00am Tuesday 7th July

Garret Fitzgerald: “Late that night, however, the commission was phoned by Danny Morrison seeking a meeting, which they refused; but half an hour later he arrived at the hotel, saying that the Sinn Fein-IRA contacts with the British were continuing through the night and that he needed to see the actual commission proposals. This request was refused, although he was given the general gist of them.”

7 July

The Adams Committee has been given the draft proposal they sought; they showed it to the ICJP who note the inclusion of education – specifically Open University course – as described in the Mountain Climber’s notes.


3:30 AM Reply from Adams Group to British offer of 11:30 PM 6/7/81
Adams Reply early AM 7/7/81
To assist us in taking a ?(firm)? decision on your proposals, elaboration on Point C – Remission, Point D – Work, Point E – Association is necessary.
These are obviously the major points of contention which need to be resolved if the prison protests are to be permanently ended. The position outlined by you is not sufficient to achieve this.
When this present phase of exchanges was initiated, we were informed
1. That you sought agreement on a document which would have our endorsement.
2. That you sought agreement on a mutual public position.
3. That your interest centred on the prisoners’ statement of 4/07/81
In this statement, the prisoners outlined their definition of work as Quote “Self education would be the main prop??? We are prepared to maintain our cells, wings and blocks and to engage in any activities which we define as self-maintaining” Unquote.
On Association, the prisoners’ position is that ‘there would be freedom of movement within the wings” Supervision need not be restricted. There would be no inference with prison officers who maintain their supervisor’s role. We believe there should be wing visits. Unquote.

The prisoners then outline reasons fundamental to the harmony within the prions, for continued segregation of prisoners (as presently exists in protest blocks)

On Remission, the prisoners outline reasons for the restoration of full remission and argue that the ending of the protests should surely lead to this restoration.

The prisoners also state Quote “We would warmly welcome the introduction of the five demands for all prisoners”
If prison protests are to be ended, these points need to be resolved.
If it your intention, as outlined in the Atkins statement of 30th June 81 “To improve the prison regime”…. on these points (following the ending of the Hunger Strike) then we and the prisoners need an outline of the specific improvements envisaged by you.
We also require your attitude to the detailed proposals outlined by the prisoners.
Because of this unsatisfactory method of exchanges, we request acknowledgement on receipt of this communication from you and request approximate time of a reply. We also request access to prisoners.

Danny Morrison: Republican monitors await response from Mountain Climber.


Garret Fitzgerald: “On Tuesday afternoon, Gerry Adams rang to say that the British had now made an offer but that it was not enough. Three members of the commission then met Adams and Morrison, who produced their version of the offer that they said had been made to them. The commission saw this as almost a replica of their own proposals but with an additional provision about access to Open University courses.”

Reply from British to Adams Group message of 3:330AM
Mag cannot move
1. From the 30th June principle
2. Position of June went to the limits that we could do in our P?????
3. By suggesting that we do more, the SS [Adams Group] are inviting us to abandon our principles.
This we cannot do.
Their response amounts to a rejection.
We are appalled by this decision.
Our discussions with ??? have come to an end and they will have no further parts in our efforts to resolve the problem.
We are sorry if the problem has been ex????
Hopes raised false.
Because of any false impression given by C. Jenkins??? Uni???

We are also deeply disturbed as we were told in June by the SS abuse of knowledge?? of the channel. C Jenkins as pre??? =Krugs??? Has clearly been told of its existence and involved to activate it.
C Jenkins Union put it the Mr A last night that this was a possibility open to many??? in a room full of people.
This must be in question, the future of the channels.

“Your Secretary of State said that the message which the Prime Minister had approved the previous evening had been communicated to the PIRA.
Their response indicated that they did not regard it as satisfactory and that they wanted a good deal more.
That appeared to mark the end of the development, and we had made this clear to the PIRA during the afternoon.
This had produced a very rapid reaction which suggested that it was not the content of the message which they had objected to but only its tone.”

Danny Morrison: “Late afternoon: Statement from PRO, H-Blocks, Richard O’Rawe: “We are very depressed at the fact that our comrade, Joe McDonnell, is virtually on the brink of death, especially when the solution to the issue is there for the taking. The urgency of the situation dictates that the British act on our statement of July 4 now.””


First 07/07/ 7PM 81

We have always understood that a settlement can only be achieved by dialogue between both parties even through such unsatisfactory channels as now exist. We have had no false impressions or in any way been influenced by the commission.
If false impressions are given, they are contained in the very parameters set down by you when this dialogue was initiated. These were:
1. That you wished to ??? on a document which would end the Hunger Strike and that your document which would end the Hunger Strike and have our endorsement.
2. That you wished to agree on a mutual public position.
3. That your interest centred on the prisoners’ statement of 04/07/81.

We outlined our position in relation to these. You have not and in your dialogue with us you have to satisfy your own criteria for the dialogue.
The prisoners have principles. It is within the British Government’s power to concede the conditions required by the prisoners without loss of principle by any side.
Does your last communication mean that you are breaking with the original criteria you set or do you wish to continue?
Joe McDonnell is pledged to die unless he achieves the conditions required by the prisoners for a settlement.

2 Note 7:50 PM
We are fully aware of Joe McDonnell’s position and his commitment to the prison demands. We have stressed this on many occasions. We cannot and will not intervene in the Hunger Strikes unless satisfied are met to their collective satisfaction.
Joe’s life and the lives of his fellow Hunger Strikers can only be saved and the consequences altered by a common sense movement towards the conditions required by the prisoners.
That this is now being done at the last possible moment and through the worst possible channels is not our fault, nor our responsibility.
We are always prepared to facilitate a more practical and confidential means of conducting this dialogue.
In the absence of this, we can only re-phasing of D&E. We have outlined our position on these in our (as yet unanswered) communication of 3:30am 07/07/81.
We request acknowledgement of receipt of this communication.

Garrett Fitzgerald: “At 8:30pm, however, Morrison and a companion had come without warning to the hotel where the commission had its base. Their attitude was threatening. Morrison said their contact had been put in jeopardy as a result of the commission revealing its existence at its meeting with Allison; the officials present with Allison had not known of the contact. Despite this onslaught the commission refused to keep Morrison informed of their actions.”

LETTER FROM 10 DOWNING STREET TO THE NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE: “The question now for decision was whether we should respond on our side. He had concluded that we should communicate with the PIRA over night a draft statement enlarging upon the substance of the previous evening but in no way whatever departing from its substance.
If the PIRA accepted the draft statement and ordered the hunger strikers to end their protest the statement would be issued immediately.
If they did not, this statement would not be put out but instead an alternative statement reiterating the Government’s position as he had set it out in his statement of 30 June and responding to the discussions with the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace would be issued.
If there was any leak about the process of communication with the PIRA, his office would deny it.
NAME REDACTED said it was thought that the revised statement based upon the previous night’s message would be enough to get the PIRA to instruct the prisoners to call off the hunger strike. He then outlined the procedures that would be followed, if the PIRA said that they would call off the hunger strike.
The meeting then considered the revised draft statement which was to be communicated to the PIRA. A number of amendments were made, primarily with a view to removing any suggestion at all the Government was in a negotiation. A copy of the agreed version of the statement is attached.
The Prime Minister, summing up the discussion, said that the statement should now be communicated to the PIRA as your Secretary of State proposed. If it did not produce a response leading to the end of the hunger strike, Mr Atkins should issue at once a statement reaffirming the Government’s existing position as he had set out on 30 June.”

Danny Morrison: 10pm: Alison tells ICJP that no one would be going in that night but would at 7.30 the next morning and claims that the delay would be to the benefit of the prisoners. Republican monitors still waiting confirmation from Mountain Climber that an NIO representative will meet the hunger strikers. The call does not come.

10pm Comm to Brownie from Bik: “…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…”

8 July


Extract from a Telegram from the Northern Ireland Office to the Cabinet Office: 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).”

12:00 midnight
1:00 am
1:33 am
2:10 am

[British] The management will ensure that as substantial part of the work will consist of domestic tasks inside and outside the wings necessary for servicing the prisoners, such as cleaning and in the laundry and kitchen, construction work for example on building projects or making toys for charitable bodies and studying for Open University or other courses. The factory authority will be responsible for supervision.
The aim of the authority will be that prisoners should do the kind of work for which they are suited. But this will not always be possible and the authorities will retain responsibility for decisions.

“Little advance is possible on Association”
It (Association) will be permitted within each wing under supervision of factory staff.
(English language you can’t do any more than give freedom in a wing)

Request for Adams to go in
1. To ensure success
2. To achieve

[Adams Group] New proposals for private document to be given, to back up the public one. I.e. Private detailed nitty-gritty of Work, Association etc.etc.etc

[British] The management cannot contemplate the proposal for two documents set out in your last communication and now therefore the exchange on this channel to be ended.

Joe McDonnell died at seven minutes past 5:00am. We first heard of it on the 7:00am news.

Danny Morrison: 4.50am Joe McDonnell dies on the 61st day of his hunger strike.

Garrett Fitzgerald: “Just before 5:00am that night Joe McDonnell died. At 6:30 the governor, in the presence of an NIO official, read a statement to the prisoners that differed markedly from the one prepared by the commission, and, in their view, approved by Allison thirty-six hours earlier. Fifteen minutes later Adams rang the commission to say that at 5:30am the contact with London had been terminated without explanation.”

Gerry Adams, Before the Dawn, page 299: “Very early one morning I and another member of our committee were in mid-discussion with the British in a living room in a house in Andersonstown when, all of a sudden, they cut the conversation, which we thought was quite strange. Then, later, when we turned on the first news broadcast of the morning, we heard that Joe McDonnell was dead. Obviously they had cut the conversation when they got the word. They had misjudged the timing of their negotiations, and Joe had died much earlier than they had anticipated.”

John Blelloch: “[…] the problem as always was seeing whether we could find some fresh statement of the government’s position which respected all our, which abided by our principal objectives which we adhered to throughout the hunger strike but nevertheless constituted some sort of opportunity for the prisoners to come off it. As far as I remember the delay on that was actually getting final agreement to the text of what might be said, which was not easy, and in the event McDonnell died before that process could be completed and of course thereafter it collapsed.” – 1986 interview with author Padraig O’Malley

Garrett Fitzgerald: “When we heard the news of Joe McDonnell’s death and of the last-minute hardening of the British position, we were shattered. We had been quite unprepared for this volte-face, for we, of course, had known nothing whatever of the disastrous British approach to Adams and Morrison. Nor had we known of the IRA’s attempts – regardless of the threat this posed to the lives of the prisoners, and especially to that of Joe McDonnell – to raise the ante by seeking concessions beyond what the prisoners had said they could accept.”


Category: 1981, Timelines


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

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