July 1981

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Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

55 HOURS PART FOUR: WEDNESDAY 8 JULY 1981

55HOURS

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



Using the timeline created with documents from ‘Mountain Climber’ Brendan Duddy’s diary of ‘channel’ communications, official papers from the Thatcher Foundation Archive, excerpts from former Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald’s autobiography, David Beresford’s Ten Men Dead, Padraig O’Malley’s book Biting at the Grave, and INLA: Deadly Divisions by Jack Holland and Henry McDonald, Danny Morrison’s published timelines, as well as first person accounts and the books of Richard O’Rawe and Gerry Adams, the fifty-five hours of secret negotiations between British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Gerry Adams’ emerging IRA leadership group are examined day by day.

I accept in a situation like that there has to be secret talks, has to be secrecy of some sorts, but when you are talking about men’s lives that are just dwindling away, they were entitled to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  – Brendan Hughes 


PART FOUR: WEDNESDAY 8 JULY 1981


Early Morning

Death’s Brother, Sleep

Gerry Adams decided he needed some rest. He explains in Before the Dawn that he ‘started cat-napping during the day in order to be relatively fresh for negotiations at night’. Ten Men Dead details that Adams ‘had taken a break Tuesday evening’ and did not return to the safe house where the channel communications were conducted until ‘the early hours of the morning’.

A Time for Many Words and A Time for Sleep

According to Danny Morrison, at this point “Republican monitors [were] still waiting confirmation from Mountain Climber,” and he claims that “[t]he call does not come.” This is repeated in Ten Men Dead, where a member of the Adams Group in the safe house tells Adams upon his return from his cat-nap that nothing has come through. The impression is that the channel line had gone dead and the British were done with the communications.

Brendan Duddy’s notes, however, offer a radically different perspective. In his diary, he has a series of times listed:

time
  • 11:58
  • 11:59
  • 12:00 midnight
  • 1:00 am
  • 1:33 am
  • 2:10 am

These times are then followed in the diary by the details of the offer made by Thatcher that could have ended the hunger strike.

It is unlikely that those times are a record of attempts made by the Adams Group to contact Thatcher, given they were waiting for her response to their 8pm messages, and Adams was not available.

Could it be that the list is an accounting of the amount of times Duddy had attempted to contact the Adams Group with Thatcher’s offer before Adams returned from his nap?

The calls from the Mountain Climber did come, it seems, numerous times, while Joe McDonnell was breathing his last four hours. Adams was not there to receive them until after 2 in the morning.When he had finally been contacted, the British were still hopeful. The NIO telegraphed Thatcher:

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). It has been made clear (as the draft itself states) that it is not a basis for negotiation.

The choreography was in place. Everything the Adams Group had asked for was there, such as the rephrasing on Work and Association. They were even given their added demand of the veto of sight before the prisoners were to be given the agreed statement and it was released publicly.

All that was needed was for the Adams Group to say it was enough to end the strike, and the process of saving the men’s lives would begin.

Offer

The offer sent to the Adams Group on the eve of Joe McDonnell’s death was as follows:

[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)

8julythatcheroffer

Statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

  1. In the light of discussions which Mr Michael Alison has had recently with the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, during which a statement was issued on 4 July on behalf of the protesting prisoners in the Maze Prison, HMG have come to the following conclusions.
  2. When the hunger strike and the protest is brought to an end (and not before), the Government will:
    1. 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);
    2. make available to all prisoners in Northern Ireland the allowance of letters, parcels and visits at present available to conforming prisoners;
    3. 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;
    4. 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.
  5. This statement is not a negotiating position. But it is further evidence of the Government’s desire to maintain and where possible to improve a humanitarian regime in the prisons. The Government earnestly hopes that the hunger strikers and the other protesters will cease their protest.

It would be two hours until the Adams Group came back with any answer, and it was not the one anyone had hoped for.

Bad Faith

At 4am in the morning, the Adams Group send their first response to Thatcher’s latest offer through the channel. A request is made for Adams to go into the prison.

The purpose is listed as ‘1. To ensure success 2. To achieve’    the notation in the diary is brief and vague, but asking for Adams to go in at that point  knowing the British had repeatedly rejected him when he was previously suggested was a bold request. Was it really necessary for Adams personally to go in for the strike to end? Would that be something worth rejecting the offer over?

At 5am, the Adams Group sends a further new demand through the channel. In addition to the public document that Thatcher has drafted, they now want a private document to be drawn up as well. This private document, they demand, should be a ‘detailed nitty-gritty’ of work, association, and the rest of the prisoners’ demands.

They had already agreed that these details would be worked out after the hunger strike was called off. Now, at the exact moment while in the prison hospital Joe McDonnell’s sister Maura was shaking his still-warm body crying for him to not be dead, the Adams Group demanded even more upfront before they would consider ordering an end to the strike.

The Ante Raised

The British response to the new demands was not long in coming. The communication on the channel was over.

Adams imbues an air of mystery to the termination of the channel communication in Before the Dawn:

“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.”

Perhaps it was not so strange. Duddy’s diary contains the British reaction to the new demand   and the explanation for why the contact ended when it did. The response, which according to Adams came at 5:30am, is terse:

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.

At the last minute, acting in bad faith, the Adams Group demanded too much.

The Death of Joe McDonnell

Danny Morrison gives the time of Joe McDonnell’s death as 4:50am; that is when Father Murphy woke up Joe’s family, who were sleeping in the prison hospital, to tell them he had died, and his sister Maura, shouting and shaking him, desperately tried to bring him back.

Word confirming his death was slow in getting out, and somewhat confused. Duddy’s diary puts Joe’s death 17 minutes later, at 5:07, though it was not known he had died until the morning news broadcast; the Bobby Sands Trust as well as various other websites including the Sinn Fein bookshop, list his death at 5:11am; Padraig O’Malley writes that Joe died at 5:40am.

The Adams Group and the British, unaware he had died, were in discussions until 5:30am, and did not hear of his death immediately; it was a number of hours before they knew: “We first heard it on the 7:00am news,” Duddy records.

7amnews

Adams’ autobiography confirms they did not know Joe had died while they were conducting the channel discussions: “Then, later, when we turned on the first news broadcast of the morning, we heard that Joe McDonnell was dead.”

Without divulging that at the time Joe was dying he was inserting another new demand into the process of settlement, Adams lets his readers believe the reason the British had ended their communication was because they had been informed of Joe’s death. But the times noted in Duddy’s diary, combined with the Adams Group’s new demand and the British reaction, make this impossible.

It was not Joe’s death that caused the British to end the channel discussion; it was the new, bad faith demand for more detailed documentation; details that the British believed had already been agreed could be worked out once the men had come off their strike, in order to save their lives.

By 6:30am the NIO finally sent in an official to read a statement of the British position to the prisoners.

As promised, given the rejection by the Adams Group of Thatcher’s offer, the statement was absent of any indication of the strides made in either the ICJP or Adams Group discussions.

According to Garrett Fitzgerald, Adams contacted the ICJP fifteen minutes after the NIO went into the prison, and immediately blamed the British. He ‘rang the commission to say that at 5:30am the contact with London had been terminated without explanation’.

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.

The Fatal Wings of Time

“Don’t you worry about Joe McDonnell,” he said to Bik McFarlane in the canteen after Danny Morrison’s Sunday visit.

It was the first time Bik and Joe had ever met each other. Joe was ‘confined to a wheelchair’, his ‘head crouched low to one side’, and he ‘could barely hear’ what was said. He was in ‘an appalling condition’.

Yet he shook Bik’s hand despite immense pain.

“I might only last a few days but I’ll hang on as long as I can and buy all the time we need.”


Previously: Tuesday 7 July 1981


55 HOURS PART THREE: TUESDAY 7 JULY 1981

55HOURS

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


Sunday ● Monday ● Tuesday ● Wednesday

Using the timeline created with documents from ‘Mountain Climber’ Brendan Duddy’s diary of ‘channel’ communications, official papers from the Thatcher Foundation Archive, excerpts from former Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald’s autobiography, David Beresford’s Ten Men Dead, Padraig O’Malley’s book Biting at the Grave, and INLA: Deadly Divisions by Jack Holland and Henry McDonald, Danny Morrison’s published timelines, as well as first person accounts and the books of Richard O’Rawe and Gerry Adams, the fifty-five hours of secret negotiations between British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Gerry Adams’ emerging IRA leadership group are examined day by day.


PART THREE: TUESDAY 7 JULY 1981


Early Morning

Spanner in the Works

The Adams Group spent a considerable amount of the time the previous two days attempting to derail the ICJP effort. They had thrown a wobbler over the ICJP to the British, instructed the prisoners to freeze the ICJP out, and told the ICJP in no uncertain terms to back off after letting them know that they were in their own, more senior, talks with the British themselves.

The effect of telling the ICJP about their own secret talks was a spanner in the works, meant to slow things down. Certainly the ICJP reaction to the news meant their afternoon and evening were taken up with stunned confrontations and clarifications – valuable time wasted.

What More Was Needed

After getting the ‘general gist’ of the proposals the ICJP were given, the Adams Group prepared their response to Thatcher’s 11:30pm statement. Their reply, sent at 3:30am, backtracked on what they had previously indicated, and echoed the comm sent in to the prisoners Monday afternoon.

Previously, their position had been that ‘demands dealing with work and association could be subject to a series of discussions after the ending of the hunger strike’.

Now, however, the Adams Group were demanding that work and association must be dealt with immediately before they would make any decision on whether to accept the offer or not:

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.

On Work, the Adams Group wanted emphasis on ‘Self education’. For Association, “We believe there should be wing visits”. Full remission continued to be pushed for.

They wanted fuller detail put into the statement before agreeing to agree: “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”.

NIO Stalled

Asking at 3:30 in the morning for more detail, and pressing for clarification to happen before the sequence they had already agreed to, meant it would be impossible for anyone from the NIO to come in to speak with the prisoners at 9am, as the ICJP had thought they arranged.

By 11:40am, the ICJP, unaware that their agreement with the NIO was being thrown off course by the secret Adams-Thatcher talks, begged Alison to send the official in to the prisoners as promised. Alison, constrained by the channel discussions, could only stall for time, and promised the official would go in later in the afternoon.

Afternoon

The NIO was unable to conclude anything with the ICJP as the secret talks between Thatcher and the Adams Group were ongoing.

Gerry Adams and Danny Morrison also met again with members of the ICJP, according to Garrett 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.”

Were the Adams Group working towards achieving more than the ICJP, or were they working on delaying any settlement? Either way, as David Beresford in Ten Men Dead put it, “they desperately needed to get the commission out of the way”.

When to Hold and When to Fold

Humphrey Atkins continued to argue his position of standing firm with Thatcher, although like his earlier advice, Thatcher did not take it. Given what is evident in the record of channel communication, she believed if a settlement were to be achieved, and the hunger strike brought to an end, the opportunity lay with the Adams Group talks; standing firm in private with them would achieve nothing. As Adams described her in his autobiography Before the Dawn,  “she was no stranger to expediency”.

She was no fool, either. In a letter containing a proposed draft statement which echoed his 30 June stance, Atkins observed the early morning rejection of the Adams Group:  “Following the sending of the message which you approved last night, we have received, as you will know, an unsatisfactory response. That particular channel of activity is therefore now no longer active.”

Thatcher’s response to the Adams Group’s rejection simultaneously gave the Adams Group what they wanted – the demise of the ICJP initative – while at the same time appeared to close the channel.

Receiving a Rocket

The Mountain Climber channel with the Adams Group was temporarily closed in response to the 3:30am reply demanding more. Beresford writes that the British were

“’deeply disturbed’ by the abuse of confidence by which Alison had become involved. The message said that the line of contact was unknown to ‘the most senior of their people’ and if the confidentiality was abused the secret initiative must be put at risk.”

Adams and Morrison’s revelations to the ICJP had indeed been a spanner thrown into the works on a number of levels. Not only that, their response to the British offer was seen as a rejection and the British were appalled.

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 CJ 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 Union
We are also deeply disturbed as we were told in June by the SS abuse of knowledge of the channel. C Jenkins as pre(vious??)=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.

In keeping with the workplace code, where the Adams Group were the Shop Stewards, the prisoners the Union Membership and so on, the ICJP was aptly named as a competitor to Adams Group’s Shop Stewards, seeking to represent the prisoners. Their code name was the ‘C Jenkins Union’.

The British did not appreciate that the ICJP had been told of the existence of the secret talks and were less than pleased that the ICJP had then confronted Alison about them ‘in a room full of people’. The ICJP initiative was now dead in the water.

An Apology and the Ending of the ICJP

While the British were appalled by the rejection of their offer, the Adams Group does appear to have achieved their primary objective of sidelining the ICJP, and, remarkably, received an apology from the British. Both Adams and Morrison’s tantrums over the involvement of the ICJP and the breach of the confidentiality of their talks with Thatcher were effective.

Even better for the Adams Group, they now had a scapegoat to blame for the breakdown of any possible deal that would have delivered a settlement, and for explaining the prolonging of the hunger strike. The secrecy of their talks with Thatcher gave cover to both the British and the Adams Group, for reasons beneficial to each own’s agendas of self interest.

Late Afternoon

Left Hanging

By 4pm the ICJP were still waiting for the NIO official to come to speak to the prisoners. They were told  ‘the official would be going in, but the document was still being drafted.’ Padraig O’Malley writes that  “David Wyatt, a senior NIO official who had sat in on most of the discussions, rang to explain the delay: a lot of redrafting was going on and it had to be cleared with London”. At 6pm the ICJP contacted Alison again with concern; the Dublin government was also putting pressure on London to send someone in, to no avail.

Despair in the Dark

Danny Morrison, in his contemporary timeline, places this comm from Richard O’Rawe as a statement delivered late in the afternoon on Tuesday:

“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.”

The prisoners would have been expecting the NIO to send an official in regarding the ICJP initiative that morning. They had been told by Adams that “more was needed” from the channel talks. They most likely did not know that it was those channel talks causing the delay; they definitely did not know that Thatcher was working on a draft that would have been acceptable to them.

Blanketman Thomas ‘Locky’ Loughlin describes the prisoners’ experience of the afternoon in the book, Nor Meekly Serve My Time:

[A]s it became clear [the ICJP] were making progress, we were led to believe by everyone except those most closely involved that a settlement was imminent. Even the Deputy Secretary of State Michael Alison indicated that the hunger strike was about to be resolved and that he would be sending in a message to wrap the whole thing up. This was the feedback most of us were getting at the time.

He continues,

“So morale was sky-high in the knowledge that it would soon be over and that no one else would die … it really appeared to us that it was over. … We felt like that because it seemed a settlement was really on the cards. The ICJP had been talking to the Brits for quite a while and to our knowledge were getting a very positive response. … [W]e knew that a messenger from the NIO was due in at any time with the necessary documents that would offer a solution.”

Evening

False Impression

By 7pm the Adams Group sent the first of two responses to Thatcher. She had extended an apology for ‘any false impression’ given by the ICJP’s initiative and taken the ICJP off the scene in response to the Adams Group’s complaints, and the breach of the confidentiality of the secret talks. The Adams Group, however, pressed on. It wasn’t the fault of the ICJP after all – it was the fault of the British:  “If false impressions are given, they are contained in the very parameters set down by you”. The threat of closing off the channel discussions completely had upset them.

Shameless

However, the Adams Group was no stranger to the art of brinkmanship, either. They held the impending death of Joe McDonnell over the end of their message, questioning the commitment of the British:

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.

Less than an hour later, a second, follow-up message was sent through the channel to Thatcher.

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.

The Adams Group were content to use Joe McDonnell’s commitment and the facade of the prisoners being in control as leverage – although the prisoners knew little to nothing of what was being done in their name, if they had any idea at all.

Tone Not Content

The Adams Group’s 3:30am rejection had been based on Remission, Work and Association; they were holding out for full remission, an emphasis on self-education, and wing visits. After hiding behind the condition and commitment of Joe McDonnell and the prisoners, they ended their evening communication settling for a ‘re-phrasing of D [Work] & E [Association]’.

Anger

The second communication asking for the rephrasing of Thatcher’s offer had been sent at 7:50pm. Immediately after sending off that message, according to Garrett Fitzgerald, at 8:30pm Danny Morrison and another person arrived without notice at the ICJP’s hotel, and ‘their attitude was threatening’.

Despite being told that as a result of their complaints the ICJP was now out of the picture, the Adams Group were angry and blamed the ICJP for endangering their secret talks:

“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.”

Morrison also demanded that the ICJP keep him informed of what they were doing, but the ICJP refused to cooperate. They viewed his visit as an ‘onslaught’.

Enough to Call Off the Strike

While Morrison was threatening the ICJP, the British were debating the draft settlement they were preparing to send. Earlier, Humphrey Atkins had sent a draft statement that retained a firm line. This was not the position Thatcher decided on going with, however; she continued to revise the offer sent down the channel at 11:30pm the previous evening.

If the Adams Group accepted the offer and ordered the hunger strikers to end the protest, ‘the statement would be issued immediately’. Otherwise, the British would revert back to their position of June 30th and their discussions with the ICJP. And if the Adams Group leaked anything about their secret talks again, the British would deny everything.

The British believed that their revised statement ‘would be enough to get the PIRA to instruct the prisoners to call off the hunger strike’ and had prepared the procedures that would follow once they did. Thatcher personally approved it all, the statement and the sequence, and directed the offer to be sent to the Adams Group.

Late Evening


Out of the Loop

The ICJP had no idea the extent of which they’d been sidelined, and continued to press Alison to send an official in to the prisoners. At 9pm Alison told the ICJP that someone would be going in shortly. Both Morrison’s timeline, which is based upon Ten Men Dead, and Garret Fitzgerald agree that by 10pm, Alison contacted the ICJP to tell them no one would be coming in that night after all, but that between 7 and 8 in the morning, an official would go in, and ‘this delay would be to the prisoners’ benefit’. Tellingly, when Alison was asked by the ICJP why no one had gone in yet, ‘Alison replied, “Frankly, I was not a sufficient plenipotentiary.”’.

Thatcher’s authority obviously superseded the NIO’s and her secret talks with Adams rendered the NIO-ICJP initiative pointless.

Bad Stick

That evening at 10pm, Bik McFarlane sends a comm out to Gerry 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…”


Continued in Part Four: Wednesday 8 July 1981   ●  Previously: Monday 6 July 1981


55 HOURS PART TWO: MONDAY 6 JULY 1981

55HOURS

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



Using the timeline created with documents from ‘Mountain Climber’ Brendan Duddy’s diary of ‘channel’ communications, official papers from the Thatcher Foundation Archive, excerpts from former Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald’s autobiography, David Beresford’s Ten Men Dead, Padraig O’Malley’s book Biting at the Grave, and INLA: Deadly Divisions by Jack Holland and Henry McDonald, Danny Morrison’s published timelines, as well as first person accounts and the books of Richard O’Rawe and Gerry Adams, the fifty-five hours of secret negotiations between British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Gerry Adams’ emerging IRA leadership group are examined day by day.


PART TWO: MONDAY 6 JULY 1981


0100607

Early Morning

Tantrum to Tacks

At 1am Monday morning, an hour after the tantrum the Adams Group had thrown to weaken the position of the ICJP with the British, the channel resumed track. The British had been waiting on the result of Morrison’s visit to the hunger strikers to be briefed on the resulting position – would their initial offer be the basis for crafting a settlement?

FULLYWhat the Adams Group communicated through the channel shows that Morrison’s visit was completely unnecessary in regards to being able to give the British their true position. They added nothing new to what they had earlier conveyed to the British while Morrison was in the prison.

As suggested during communications earlier in the afternoon, the Adams Group wanted a veto over the prisoners: “it is essential that a copy of the draft be in the hands of the SS [Shop Stewards, code for the Adams Group] before it is made public to enable the SS to approve or point out any difficulty before publication. If it is published without prior sight and agreement, the SS would have to disapprove it.”

In other words, if the British go behind the Adams Group’s back, either via the ICJP or some other means of communicating with the prisoners, the Adams Group would veto any such agreement. Kept in the dark and denied the ability to agree to any offer, the prisoners clearly were not in control of their protest.

The British were not blind to the stalling tactics being employed by the Adams Group. The brief summary of the channel communications provided at 9am that morning is pointed: “While we appreciate that it has taken a long time to obtain the Provisionals’ view,” the summary starts out noting. It quickly concludes, “We would also point out that there is little difference between the final view and that which Soon predicted earlier in the weekend.”

In terms of finding an agreed form of words that would bring an end to the hunger strike, Morrison’s visit to the prison was utterly pointless and, given the status of Joe McDonnell’s conditition, a waste of valuable time.

For the Adams Group, however, his visit was not time wasted. It achieved their objective of stopping the ICJP from getting the hunger strikers to agree to any offer from the British and ending the protest.

By derailing the ICJP initiative and insisting on a veto to any final agreement with the British, the Adams Group was ensuring they alone had total control over the prison protest – to use to their own ends – and would not be surprised or usurped by the prisoners again.

Monday Afternoon

More Was Needed

Bik McFarlane says in Nor Meekly Serve My Time:

“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 reaffirmed on Sunday in the hospital.”

Richard O’Rawe, in Blanketmen writes:

“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.”

This is a complete change from what the Adams Group had told the British late on Saturday night. Only a few hours ago their stated position was that the ‘demands dealing with work and association could be subject to a series of discussions after the ending of the hunger strike’.

Stunning the ICJP

Adams and Morrison spent the afternoon informing the ICJP of their secret talks with the British, and demanding that the ICJP cancel their upcoming meeting with the NIO.

The fallout from this was predictable enough – the ICJP was ‘stunned by disclosure’, and ‘confronts [Michael] Alison [NIO contact]’. According to Garrett Fitzgerald, the ICJP were ‘furious at this development’.

When they confronted Alison about the secret talks, however, he was so obviously astonished that the ICJP were convinced ‘that he didn’t know the second line of contact’ was opened and was ‘as much in the dark’ as the ICJP had been.

Jake Jackson’s comments to author Padraig O’Malley in Biting at the Grave on who exactly did know about the secret talks between the Adams Group and Thatcher are illuminating. Jackson was a prisoner in McFarlane and O’Rawe’s circle:

[T]he only people [Jackson] 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, [Jackson] says, it would have been on “a need to know basis”: the closer a hunger striker got to dying the more likely he was to know. Mickey 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.

The rest of the ICJP’s afternoon and evening were spent pushing Alison on their proposal to end the strike, and they secured an agreement that the NIO ‘would see the prisoners with the governor by mid-morning the following day, Tuesday’.

A Third Party Trusted by the Top

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Humphrey Atkins, kept Thatcher updated on developments. While detailing the status of the ICJP talks with Michael Alison, in a minute report sent on Monday afternoon before a 7pm briefing, he notes:

In parallel with these discussions we have been approached by a third party who is trusted by the top Provisional leadership. Again, no negotiations have been taking place but it is obviously only sensible that if the Provisional leadership wish to communicate something to us indirectly about this critical problem, we should not refuse to listen. They have set out the kind of approach which they would find acceptable as a way of bringing both the strike and the protest to an end – and their views are important because so far they seem to be largely in control of the strikers.

Their position is that they support the statement issued on behalf of the prisoners on Saturday, and would seem to be as follows:

  • (a) They are no longer pressing for differential treatment for “their” prisoners.

  • (b) HMG should make a public statement indicating that, after the hunger strike and protest has ended,

    • (i) all prisoners would be allowed to wear their own clothes all the time (but they accept that the authorities should control the type of clothing allowed sufficiently to avoid, eg all PIRA prisoners wearing a uniform);

    • (ii) all prisoners should have visits, parcels and letters on a scale similar to that now available to conforming prisoners;

    • (iii) discussions would be held with the prisoners about the precise nature and extent of

      • (a) the work they should undertake, and
      • (b) the degree of association they would be allowed.
  • (c) The statement would also have to be more precise (and it is suggested, but not insisted upon, more generous) about the arrangements for restoring lost remission.

  • (d) That statement would have to be shown to, and be acceptable to, the Provisional leaders before it was published.

This position is in keeping with Brendan Duddy’s assessment of the Adams Group position articulated through the channel throughout Sunday. Was Atkins reporting the detail of the channel communications, or was someone else from, or close to, the Adams Group talking to someone from the NIO?

The detail in his minute report is remarkably similar to the Adams Group position described in the channel records.

However, according to statements he made to author Padraig O’Malley published in 1990, Atkins appears to be yet another person who at the time was completely in the dark about the secret talks.

“I had no personal knowledge,” he said, in a statement to be echoed by Gerry Adams a over a decade later when he would be queried about the Thatcher offers,  “I’ve never heard of the Mountain Climber as such. You’ve just mentioned the name, it’s the first time I’ve ever heard it.”

Atkins does make clear to O’Malley that ‘any contact with HMG’ would not have been under his control   –  so it is unlikely he would have been privy to the full details of the secret talks. This makes his knowledge of the detail of the Adams Group position more intriguing, and may also account for his recommending ‘standing firm’ as the preferred course of action in the minute report.

As it was, Thatcher was already pursuing an alternative suggestion of his, which was to use a combination of the ICJP and direct, “channel” negotiations with the PIRA as represented by the Adams’ Group.

Who Exactly Was Leading Who?

Atkins’ observation that the views of the Provisional leadership  –  the Adams Group – were “important” because “they seem to be largely in control of the strikers” shows an awareness by the British that the prisoners themselves were not in control of their protest.

This perception accounts for why he considers  “simultaneously showing the terms to the Provisionals” as a course of action  –  to his thinking, the objective would be  “to try to swing their leadership behind the strikers”. In other words, at this point it was the outside leadership – the Adams Group – keeping the hunger strike from ending, not the prisoners themselves.

Longer Term Interests

Other key observations by Atkins in this report are worth noting. As he outlines the various courses of action open to the British as a response to ongoing developments, he demonstrates a nuanced understanding of the emerging leadership from the Adams Group and the pitfalls the outcome of the hunger strike holds.

This understanding is important for the British because they have already identified that the Adams Group wants to lead the Republican Movement away from armed struggle and into politics, and it is in their interests, obviously, to support or at least not get in the way of that change.

He notes that if  “the hunger strikers give up their fast in spite of the instructions of the Provisional leaders” it would “be a severe blow” to the Adams Group  –  again underlining the balance of control of the protest; he reiterates this later, saying that if the hunger strike collapses, it can  “leave the Provisional leadership humiliated ”.

He is also aware that the Adams Group “regard the ICJP as an intrusion’ and would “be looking for a way of claiming a “victory””.

The Provisionals need to the settle the prisons problem on terms they can represent as acceptable to them if they are to go on – as we know some of them wish to do – to consider an end of the current terrorist campaign. A leadership which has “lost” on the prisons is in no position to do this.

While Atkins’ recommendation to Thatcher is to stand firm, he is keenly aware that such a stance would be counterproductive to their own longer-term self interests. If they took the course of standing firm, it would only end up “discouraging the Provisionals from switching from terrorist to political activity at the very moment when we know that they have begun to find political action attractive ”.

Monday Evening

Thatcher’s Draft Offer

The British end of the channel, meanwhile, was working on the draft statement. Thatcher’s input, handwritten on the British copy, informed the statement that went down the channel as a reply to the Adams Group at 11:30 that night.

THATCHERHW

It was a clear and unambiguous statement, and Brendan Duddy’s notes closely follow the annotated version available from the Thatcher Foundation archives:

1130REP

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.

Hedged Bets

The Adams Group wanted to be sure they weren’t going to be undermined by the ICJP.

Morrison, according to Fitzgerald, phoned requesting a meeting with the ICJP. Despite their refusal, the Adams Group’s determination to keep abreast of the ICJP’s diplomacy meant he arrived at their hotel anyway. The Adams Group’s own “contacts with the British were continuing through the night”, Morrison is reported to have told them, and “he needed to see the actual commission proposals”. The ICJP gave him a run-down of their discussions with Alison, which included the ‘general gist’ of the proposals between them and the NIO. They also inform Morrison ‘that a guarantor will go in at 9am the following morning, Tuesday, 7 July’.

The morning deadline – given in the British offer and confirmed by Morrison’s double checking the ICJP’s arrangement with the NIO – sets the agenda for the next hours to come.


To Be Continued in Part Three: Tuesday 7 July 1981  ●  Previously: Sunday 5 July 1981


55 HOURS PART ONE: SUNDAY 5 JULY 1981

55HOURS

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



Using the timeline created with documents from ‘Mountain Climber’ Brendan Duddy’s diary of ‘channel’ communications, official papers from the Thatcher Foundation Archive, excerpts from former Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald’s autobiography, David Beresford’s Ten Men Dead, Padraig O’Malley’s book Biting at the Grave, and INLA: Deadly Divisions by Jack Holland and Henry McDonald, Danny Morrison’s published timelines, as well as first person accounts and the books of Richard O’Rawe and Gerry Adams, the fifty-five hours of secret negotiations between British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Gerry Adams’ emerging IRA leadership group are examined day by day.

In the run up to this period of communication, the IRA prisoners on protest issued a statement that made clear it would be acceptable to apply the demands they were seeking to all prisoners – in other words, the issue of special category status would be set aside or fudged. This broke the logjam; the impending death of hunger striker Joe McDonnell added urgency to communications seeking an end to the protest.


PART ONE: SUNDAY 5 JULY 1981


Early Morning

Parameters set

The first documentation of “the channel” communication shows reaction to IRA prisoners’ 4 July statement is immediate, as the timing of Brendan Duddy’s conversation with the British starts between 10 and 11pm late on the 4th, resumes at 2:39 in the morning and continues until 5 AM. Duddy was the channel’s middle-man facilitating the conversation between the Adams Group and Thatcher’s representatives; he is alternatively referred to as “Soon” and the “Mountain Climber.”

The Adams Group consists primarily of Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison, and Martin McGuinness, and also includes Jim Gibney, Tom Hartley, and Ted Howell.

This early morning conversation sets parameters for channel communication.

First, it is clear the Adams Group is worried about the ICJP: “a great deal of confusion has arisen in Provisional circles from the impression given by the ICJP that there is every indication of movement by HMG”. Not only are the Adams Group concerned about the ICJP being facilitated in ending the hunger strike by the British, they were caught on the hop by the release of the statement from the prisoners that broke the logjam keeping a solution from being found. It ‘had been issued independently by the prisoners in the Maze and the timing came as a surprise to Senior Provisionals outside’.

The British were informed that ‘a meeting of the Senior Provisionals had taken place on 26 June’ – presumably the Adams Group – ‘at which what they considered realistic conditions for the ending of the hunger had been discussed’, and their position was laid out:

“Immediately following the ending of the Hunger Strike, concessions would be required on own clothes, parcels and visit. This, [Duddy] said, would provide the Provisionals with a face saving way out. The remaining demands dealing with work and association could be subject to a series of discussions after the ending of the hunger strike. [Duddy] stressed that the Provisionals’ position was, in his opinion, represented by the Prisoners’ Statement. Thus, if the arrangements detailed in this statement were acceptable to HMG and immediate concessions could be made on clothing, parcels and visit, he was optimistic.”

This is extremely important. The opening position of the Adams Group led the British to believe that if concessions on clothes, parcels and visits would immediately follow the ending of the Hunger Strike, the remaining demands could be worked out in the aftermath. The British offer in response met those conditions in good faith. Later, we will see the hunger strikers holding out for the ‘Five Demands’, completely unaware that their statement of the 4th had resulted in an offer that met the bulk of their demands – and that it was being repeatedly rejected in bad faith by the Adams Group on their behalf.

Another important position communicated by the Adams Group to the British is that the ending of the first hunger strike was not an issue for them – they believed that the British were sincere. This effectively ends the lie about the British reneging on any offer made; a fiction that has been used since 2005 to justify the Adams Group rejection of Thatcher’s offers.

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.The British starting position – their offer to end the hunger strike – is substantial and has immediate implementation plans.

By mid-morning on the 5th of July, it is clearly established that the Adams Group are keeping everyone else in the Provisional Movement leadership at all levels in the dark about the communication with the British. This was not an Army Council sanctioned initiative and in fact contradicts the Green Book on a number of points.

It is also clear that the Adams Group are intent on attempting to neutralize the ICJP.

Sunday Afternoon

Morrison’s Visit to the Prison

The afternoon of the 5th is taken up with arrangements to send Danny Morrison into the prison to sound out the prisoners and report back with a further position for the British to work with. The British are clear that they cannot come up with a draft statement without knowing what the Adams Group’s resulting position is first.

The purpose of Morrison’s visit, therefore, was meant to give the parameters of the offer to the prisoners in order to see if they would accept it. If the Adams Group then indicated that a settlement was indeed possible, the British would draft their statement.

Morrison’s actual objective for the prison visit was not to find out what the prisoners wanted, but to make sure that the prisoners did not agree to anything the ICJP did. The ICJP were working on ending the strike, with similar proposals from the British that the hunger strikers would have accepted. They had the support of the Irish government and would have been able to stand as guarantors over any finalised deal agreed to.

Morrison did not tell the hunger strikers the details of the offer coming through the channel. He only briefed them that they were in the channel talks and warned them that the ICJP “could be settling for less than what they had the potential for achieving.”

The Adams Group also saw Morrison’s visit as a means of assessing the value of the channel. In the words of Garrett Fitzgerald, “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.”

Morrison met with Bik McFarlane separately from the hunger strikers, and did inform him of the details of the channel offer; McFarlane would have needed to know the details of the offer the Adams Group were working on in order to combat anything the ICJP were proposing. Morrison makes sure Bik knows the line to push on the hunger strikers not to accept anything from the ICJP.

Channel Discussions Ongoing

While Morrison is at the prison, the channel discussions continued. The Adams Group is fully aware that the hunger strike would have to be called off first before any settlement was implemented, and had indicated this sequence of events would be acceptable.

The Adams Group then added a caveat that before anything was set in motion, the Adams Group wanted to see the final British statement. The British wanted to know whether there was any potential to end the hunger strike based upon the offer that they believed went into the prison with Morrison; once the Adams Group gave their assessment of the prisoners’ position and if a settlement were truly on the cards, they would consider the request. (As it turns out, they were prepared to show the Adams Group the final statement before giving it to the prisoners, and prior to publication.)

Morrison’s prison visit comes to an end after he phones Gerry Adams and tells him that the “prisoners will not take anything on trust, and prisoners want offers confirmed and seek to improve them”. Presumably Adams’ response kept Morrison waiting for Bik McFarlane to return from instructing the hunger strikers to shun the ICJP. While waiting to regroup with McFarlane, he is ordered out of the prison.

Hunger Strikers and INLA Kept in the Dark – Despite NIO Attempt to Clarify

Someone at the NIO, no doubt made aware of Morrison’s visit to the prison, contacted IRSP Councillor Flynn – whose party represented the INLA hunger strikers – and instructed him to go to the prison as “there are developments”. Flynn and Seamus Ruddy met the NIO official who enabled Flynn to visit the INLA hunger strikers Kevin Lynch and Mickey Devine in the prison, after telling him that “there had been discussions between Sinn Fein and the government and that it looked like they might settle”. From what Lynch and Devine told Flynn, it was clear they were not given the details of what was on offer from the channel by Morrison.

When Flynn confronted the Provisionals about the offer it was denied that they were involved in any secret talks. This may be because of who Flynn spoke to, as the knowledge of the talks was restricted to the Adams Group. It may also be, given the description in Holland & McDonald’s book, if it was someone in the Adams Group Flynn spoke to, the answer was Jesuitical – a denial they were “engaged in any secret talks with the NIO”. That much was true; they were in talks with Thatcher directly.

Offer Accepted by Prisoners

McFarlane returns to his cell, and informs the PRO, Richard O’Rawe, of the offer from the channel. It is a fairly comprehensive offer. He later described it as “a huge opportunity” and believed “there [was] a potential here to end this.” O’Rawe and McFarlane agreed the offer was acceptable; McFarlane indicated that he would send a comm letting the leadership know. Crucially, this conversation has been confirmed by other prisoners on the wing who overheard it.

The Army Council – Or Adams Alone?

A further crucial point is that at the time, the prisoners – McFarlane, O’Rawe, and the general IRA population, believed that their comms were going to the IRA Army Council – that replies from the Adams Group were directives from the Army Council. The prisoners were under the impression that the channel talks were conducted with the full knowledge of the full council and according to the Green Book. It may be that McFarlane understood the restricted nature of the channel talks and the directives coming in from the Adams Group but it is certain the rest of the prisoners, including the hunger strikers, did not know this, and viewed comms and directives from Gerry Adams as having the imprimatur of the Army Council.

The Evening of Sunday the 5th of July

Blocking the ICJP

After the departure of Danny Morrison from the prison – where the hunger strikers and Bik McFarlane had been instructed to freeze out the Irish Commission on Justice and Peace – ICJP representatives Bishop O’Mahony, Father Crilly, and Hugh Logue visited the hunger strikers. The hunger strikers followed Morrison’s instructions, and their discussion with the ICJP revolved around mediators and guarantees, and emphasised that McFarlane, and what they believed was the Army Council, the Adams Group, would have to be consulted before they agreed to anything. They insisted that they had to hear any offer from the British themselves – but the main point was that even if anything was acceptable to them, they would have to “square any settlement” with McFarlane.

Far from the hunger strikers and prisoners being in control of their destiny, and the IRA structure following their wishes, the prisoners were subjugated to the control of the Adams Group – who were using the authority of the Army Council without sanction to impose their will.

The difference between the hunger strikers’ position and that of McFarlane and the Adams Group is starkly described in Padraig O’Malley’s book, Biting at the Grave:

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.

The contrast between the two men’s responses shows the desperate gulf: Doherty seems to have realised the worth of the ICJP initiative. McFarlane, as a good soldier following the instructions given via Morrison’s visit, in his behaviour towards the ICJP demonstrated that he was intent on cutting them out from “the business of trying to get a solution”.  The hunger strikers themselves – if only they were told the terms of what was on offer – would accept one.

Midnight Morrison Report Causes Alarm

The channel discussions resumed upon Morrison’s return from his visit to the prison, and the report he delivered was “alarming”: “the situation was now so bad the possibility of any settlement was seriously in doubt”.

The Adams Group informed the British that the prisoners were completely hostile to the ICJP. Duddy was met with anger and abuse – most likely a show designed to get the British to stop their concurrent discussions with the ICJP. Morrison must have sensed the hunger strikers were close to accepting what the ICJP were proposing, and this panicked the Adams Group. Their strategy was to tell the British that they were too upset by the “Bully Boy” tactics of the ICJP to give them their response. The British had been waiting on the response from Morrison’s visit to the prison in order to complete their draft statement. This temper tantrum by the Adams Group was nothing but a tactic to keep the British and the hunger strikers from ending their protest on the ICJP’s initiative.


To Be Continued in Part Two: Monday 6 July 1981


CHANNEL TIMELINE

“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

EARLY AM

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.

AFTERNOON

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.

EVENING

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”.

EARLY AM

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.

COMMENT ON SOON CHANNEL COMMUNICATI0NS, 0900 6 JULY
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

AFTERNOON

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.

THE CHANNEL: “MOUNTAIN CLIMBER”/”SOON” BRENDAN DUDDY’S DIARY NOTES: REPLY FROM THE BRITISH, 6 July 1981
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.

EARLY AM

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.

AFTERNOON

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
BRITISH REPLY TO 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.””

EVENING

7PM ADAMS REPLY
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.

750PM ADAMS REPLY
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

EARLY AM

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).”

8 JULY EARLY
11:58
11:59
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)

8 JULY LAST
4:00am
Request for Adams to go in
1. To ensure success
2. To achieve

5:00am
[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.”

 

Documentary: The Hunger Strikes

[embedplusvideo height=”253″ width=”400″ standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/NQO9QrbpW-Q?fs=1″ /]

Press.TV Documentaries

Broadcast Date: 2012-11-03

In the early 1980s, several Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners went on hunger strikes demanding to be treated as political prisoners. This program explores the reasons behind those events.

CONTRIBUTORS:
Danny Morrison
Pat Sheehan MLA
Bik McFarlane
Gerry Adams
Raymond McCartney MLA
Richard O’Rawe

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Ahmed Alizadeh
ASSISTANT PRODUCER
Shadi Alizadeh
RESEARCHER
Rebeca Narváez Román
PRODUCER AND DIRECTOR
Ed Augustin

Thatcher’s Offers

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



DOWNLOAD PDF:OFFER 81 JUL 6


The Smoking Gun

THE CHANNEL: “MOUNTAIN CLIMBER”/”SOON” BRENDAN DUDDY’S DIARY NOTES: REPLY FROM THE BRITISH, 6 July 1981

Reply 11:30 PM July 6
The British Gov. is preparing to issue a statement only if there is an immediate end to the hunger strike.
(A) Prison reg. in Armagh would become general in NI prison ie civian clothing
B Visits as for conforming prisons
C Re. as stated on June 30 by Sec of State




DOWNLOAD PDF: STATEMENT IMPORTANT

LETTER DATED 8 JULY 1981 FROM 10 DOWNING STREET TO THE NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE

The Prime Minister met your Secretary of State at 0015 this morning to discuss the latest developments in the efforts to bring the hunger strike in the Maze to an end. Philip Woodfield was also present.

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.

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.

STATEMENT BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND

1.In light of the recent discussions which Mr Michael Alison has had recently with the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, during which a statement was issued on 4 July on behalf of the protesting prisoners in the Maze Prison, HMG have come to the following conclusions.

2. When the hunger strike and the protest is brought to an end (and not before), the Government will:

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.

5. This statement is not a negotiating position. But it is further evidence of the Government’s desire to maintain and where possible to improve a humanitarian regime in the prisons. The Government earnestly hopes that the hunger strikers and the other protesters will cease their protest.


EXTRACT FROM A TELEGRAM FROM THE NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE TO THE CABINET OFFICE

PLEASE PASS FOLLOWING TO MR WOODFIELD
MIPT contains the text of a statement which SOSNI [Editorial addition: Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Humphrey Atkins: STATEMENT ABOVE] proposes to authorise should be released to the hunger-strikers/prisoners and publicly. The statement contains, except on clothing, nothing of substance which has not been said publicly, and the point on clothing was made privately to the provos on 5 July. The purpose of the statement is simply to give precise clarification to formulae which already exist. It also takes count of advice given to us over the last 12 hours on the kind of language which (while not a variance with any of our previous public statements) might make the statement acceptable to the provos.

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). It has been made clear (as the draft itself states) that it is not a basis for negotiation.


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.”



UPDATED: National Archives 30 Year Papers – July, 1981

Note: This was originally published on Slugger O’Toole in 2011, when many of the documents now released individually via the Thatcher Foundation in 2013, were first released by the National Archives as part of the 30 year papers for 1981. New, additional comments have been added at the end of the post and are noted with an asterik***


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National Archives 30 Year Papers – July, 1981
Rusty Nail
Slugger O’Toole
Fri 30 December 2011

The 30 year papers for 1981 are being released, and they include many documents covering the hunger strike. Here are some quick notes about file PREM/19/506, which covers the period of the early July offer.

Specifically, this is a quick sketch of pages 13-26 of the PDF, a telegram that comprehensively details the conversations the Mountain Climber/Brendan Duddy (referred to as “SOON”) had with the British Government, in which he was relaying messages from the Provisional IRA. This is the British Government’s notes of their negotiations with the Adams Committee.

The first thing it confirms is that Duddy’s notes were extremely accurate. The telegram detailing “Call No 8 – 0100-0117 6 July” reflects his recently released papers, where in paragraph 41 he relayed that “The Provisionals fully accept the position as stated by the Prisoners” – this sentence was underlined by a reader of the telegram for emphasis.

In Call No 7, 2300-2400, 5 July, paragraph 35, he describes the Provisionals as being extremely unhappy with what they called the “bully boy” tactics of the ICJP: “From an apparently enthusiastic position, SOON (Duddy) 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”. The call goes onto describe what really seems as an attempt to muddy waters over the ICJP’s participation – in effect, to get the British to pressure the ICJP to back off – though it was delivered in a confused and ham-fisted way. It would also seem that the fact the hunger strikers were listening to the ICJP and that the prisoners had accepted the offer was rattling those doing the negotiating.

Another interesting thing is that the Provos wanted Adams and/or McGuinness to go in with Morrison to see the hunger strikers. When it was made clear that Adams and McGuinness were unacceptable, Ted Howell was then proposed. (paragraph 33, Call No 6, 1750-1817, 5 July)

The most interesting thing about this is the confirmation that the full Army Council was completely in the dark about the Mountain Climber negotiations and offer.

The first call, 2200-2312, 4 July, sets the scene in that regard:

Paragraph 4:

“…the timing of the release of the [prisoners’] statement had caught the Provisionals unaware. The senior members, and SOON claimed there were eight, were widely dispersed. Only Adams and O’Brady were readily available. They were regrouping and SOON’s Provisional contact had instructed him to stand by.”

Paragraph 6: “… secondly he stated that a meeting of the senior Provisionals had taken place on 28 June at which they considered realistic conditions for the ending of the hunger strike had been discussed.” (This was before the contact with the Mountain Climber/SOON was revived)

In Call No 2, 0230-0500, 5 July, paragraph 10: “SOON began by restating the Provisionals’ disorganised position. He pointed out that to take a decision of this magnitude required the presence of all 8 members. They would be unwilling to take any decision without a full complement.”

Was that a genuine position or a delaying tactic?

It is later that morning, during Call No 3, 1045-1125, 5 July, the fact that the full Army Council were unaware of what was being done is made clear:

Paragraph 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 this poses a problem. In response to our request for suggestions of Provisionals who would fit this description, SOON produced Morrison, Adams and McGuinness as the only three candidates.”

Paragraph 16:

“SOON (Duddy) then proceeded to offer the Provisionals’ view of the ICJP. He said that determination still existed not to let the ICJP act as 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 they would involve the ICJP.”

One other aspect of this important document is amazing. It describes the ending of the first hunger strike:

Call No 2, 0230-0550 5 July, Paragraph 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. The breakdown had occurred because some of the prisoners had been harassed by some of the prison officers. He, therefore, requested that in HMG’s proposals should be included an instruction to the Governor of the prison to encourage flexibility in the implementation of any agreement.” (emphasis mine)

Owen Bowcott, writing in today’s Guardian, has Danny Morrison’s reaction to the papers:

[Morrison] told the Guardian the documents vindicated the IRA’s decisions at the time. “I find these documents very refreshing,” he said. “At least they have published what was happening. These conversations were recorded by Michael Oatley [the MI6 officer] or his secretary. We never got the final [British] position [before hunger striker] Joe O’Donnell died.” [***SEE BELOW FOR FURTHER COMMENT, ADDED 2013]

Recall ‘it was not the content of the message which they had objected to but only its tone’:

“[…] 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 John Blelloch interview with author Padraig O’Malley

As Gerry Adams described in 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.”


*** FURTHER COMMENT ADDED, SPRING 2013:

The release via the Thatcher Foundation of itemised archival documents contains material that starkly contradicts Morrison’s 2011 claim that “We never got the final [British] position [before hunger striker] Joe O’Donnell died.”

In 2009, journalist Liam Clarke gained access to documents via a Freedom of Information request. Part of what was released to Clarke was an “EXTRACT FROM A LETTER DATED 8 JULY 1981 FROM 10 DOWNING STREET TO THE NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE”, which also included an EXTRACT FROM A TELEGRAM sent from the NIO to the Cabinet. The significance of these extracts are fully understood with the release of the full documents, which now only has names redacted.




DOWNLOAD PDF: STATEMENT IMPORTANT


Comparing the 2009 release with the 2011 document, it is obvious this paragraph had been previously redacted:

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. [emphasis added]

One can only speculate why that paragraph was censored in the 2009 FOI release. Was it too damning?

The statement referred to is included in this document and was released in 2009. It gives clothes; letters, parcels, and visits; restoration of remission; work and education, and allows for room on association and segregation. In other words, the hunger strikers had won their demands.

We know from the 2009 release of the extract of this telegram that, contrary to what Danny Morrison told Owen Bowcott in 2011, Adams did know “the final [British] position [before hunger striker] Joe O’Donnell died.”

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).

Why did Adams say no?


Abbreviated Timeline:

5th July

  • Morrison goes into prison, tells McFarlane of offer from Thatcher, which McFarlane and O’Rawe agree is enough to accept
  • Morrison does not tell hunger strikers details of the offer; he only tells them that they were in talks with the British and that the ICJP could mess things up (warns the hunger strikers off accepting anything the ICJP offers)

6 July

  • (afternoon) Adams comm tells McFarlane and O’Rawe that “more was needed” – offer rejected.
  • (late evening) Morrison tells ICJP that the Adams group contacts with the British were continuing through the night.
  • 11:30pm – “The British Gov. is preparing to issue a statement only if there is an immediate end to the hunger strike.
    (A) Prison reg. in Armagh would become general in NI prison ie civian clothing
    B Visits as for conforming prisons ” – Brendan Duddy notes

7 July

  • “On Tuesday afternoon, Gerry Adams rang [the ICJP] to say that the British had now made an offer but that it was not enough.” – Garret Fitzgerald 
  • “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.”
  • 4pm: NIO tells ICJP that an official will be going in but that the document was still being drafted.” – Danny Morrison 
  • “At one point, David Wyatt, a senior NIO official who had sat in on most of the discussions, rang to explain the delay: a lot of redrafting was going on and it had to be cleared with London.” – Padraig O’Malley: Biting at the Grave, pg 97 
  • British send draft statement to Adams group enlarging on previous offer; if accepted by Adams, statement issued immediately
  • British believed this revised statement “would be enough to get the PIRA to instruct the prisoners to call off the hunger strike”
  • 10pm

    “…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…” – Comm to Brownie (Adams) from Bik (McFarlane)

  • Confirmation via telegram from NIO that the statement had been read to Adams group, and that they were awaiting the reply

8 July 

  • “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.” – Gerry Adams, Before the Dawn, page 299

 


Click for Full timeline

See also: Prolonging the Hunger Strike: The Derailing of the ICJP


Margaret Thatcher was told ‘some’ IRA leaders wanted violence to stop in 1981

Margaret Thatcher was told ‘some’ IRA leaders wanted violence to stop in 1981
Thatcher papers raise questions about why it took until 1994 for IRA to declare its first major ceasefire
Gerry Moriarty
Irish Times
Sat, Apr 27, 2013

Official secret memos contained in the Thatcher Foundation papers on the 1981 hunger strikes point to a conviction in senior British government circles up to and including the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher that “some” in the IRA wanted its campaign to stop.

The chief reference is in the minute that the then Northern secretary Humphrey Atkins sent to Mrs Thatcher on July 6th when an intermediary, businessman Brendan Duddy from Derry, was exchanging messages between “Provisional” leaders and the British government.

According to the papers, this resulted in an offer from the British government to settle the hunger strikes at a stage in which just four people had died.

The status of this offer has led to a long-running dispute within republicanism.

Richard O’Rawe, an IRA prisoner during the strikes, has claimed that the prisoners’ leadership accepted a deal at that time to end the strike but that this was overruled by the IRA army council.

This has been consistently denied by senior Sinn Féin figures such as Gerry Adams and the then Sinn Féin publicity chief Danny Morrison.

Mr Atkins in a minute to Mrs Thatcher said there were “some” in the IRA leadership who wished “to consider an end of the current terrorist campaign”.The papers also disclose that the British government held this view for some time.

There is also a memo from the then British cabinet secretary Sir Robert Armstrong to another senior official, the “gist” of which was conveyed to Mrs Thatcher, which also adverts to an IRA desire to end its campaign.

It was written on April 13th 1981 just four days after hunger striker Bobby Sands was elected as MP for Fermanagh-South Tyrone. He died on May 5th.

“There is reason to believe that the PIRA have been thinking seriously about an end to the campaign of violence, but feel they need a success, an avenue to pursue their aims politically, and something more on the prison regime,” Sir Robert wrote.

“The Fermanagh by-election has given them the success, and a political opening, which there is reason to think they hope to follow up in the local government elections,” he added.

While the hunger strikes created the conditions for Sinn Fein to expand politically it wasn’t until 13 years later that the IRA called its first ceasefire in August 1994.

This new information is likely to lead to speculation about how the British government had this belief and whether it was gained through MI5, MI6, agents, informers or some other form of communication or contact. It also raises question about why the IRA did not end its violent campaign earlier.

The British government from these official papers carried the conviction that there were influential IRA leaders who were considering a ceasefire. This was at a time when republicans such as Daithi O Conaill and Ruairi O Bradaigh, viewed as being predominantly militarist, appeared to be in the ascendant within the broad movement although they were under pressure from Northern republicans led by Mr Adams, Mr Morrison and the Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

It wasn’t until two years later that the Northern leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness fully took over the provisional republican movement. This month’s Sinn Fein ardfheis marked Mr Adams 30th year as Sinn Fein president.

These papers also reinforce the point that while the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was insisting there could be no dealings with Provisional republicans during the hunger strikes that she was in fact allowing official contact to take place through a mediator – and was prepared up to a point to allow a settlement.

 

SOURCED FROM THE IRISH TIMES

 


 

APRIL 13 1981

There is reason to believe that the PIRA have been thinking seriously about an end to the campaign of violence, but feel they need a success, an avenue to pursue their aims politically, and something more on the prison regime.
The Fermanagh by-election has given them the success, and a political opening, which there is reason to think they hope to follow up in the local government elections

 

DOWNLOAD PDF: APRIL POLITICAL REPORT

 

British believed elements of IRA wanted peace in 1981

British believed elements of IRA wanted peace in 1981
Papers disclose Thatcher was told of unnamed “Provisionals” prepared to consider stopping “terrorist campaign”
Gerry Moriarty
Irish Times
Sat, Apr 27, 2013

Northern secretary Humphrey Atkins sent a secret official minute to British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1981 saying elements of the provisional leadership were prepared to “consider an end of the current terrorist campaign”.

The British government as far back as 1981 believed there were elements in the leadership of the provisional republican movement who were prepared to countenance an end to the IRA campaign of violence.

Papers released this week by the Thatcher Foundation relating to the hunger strikes in which 10 republicans died disclose a “secret” official minute in July 1981 that the then northern secretary, Humphrey Atkins, sent to the British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

It referred to “Provisionals” who were prepared to “consider an end of the current terrorist campaign”.

The papers indicate that 13 years before the first 1994 IRA ceasefire there was an opportunity to end the violence.

The information about the IRA emerges from the minute Mr Atkins sent to Mrs Thatcher on July 6th, when efforts were being made to resolve the hunger strikes. This was two days before the death of the fifth hunger striker, Joe McDonnell.

Mr Atkins, in his 1981 minute, told Mrs Thatcher: “The Provisionals need to settle the prisons problem on terms they can represent as acceptable to them if they are to go on – as we know some of them wish to do – to consider an end of the current terrorist campaign. A leadership which has ‘lost’ on the prisons is in no position to do this.”

The typed phrase “an end of the current terrorist campaign” in the minute is underlined in ink in longhand.

 

SOURCED FROM: IRISH TIMES

See also: Margaret Thatcher was told ‘some’ IRA leaders wanted violence to stop in 1981
 


 

RELEVANT QUOTES FROM DOCUMENT:

(iv) The Provisionals need to settle the prisons problem on terms they can represent as acceptable to them if they are going to go on – as we know some of them wish to do – to consider an end of the current terrorist campaign. A leadership which has “lost” on the prisons is no position to do this.

IN PRESENTING DISADVANTAGES TO HIS RECOMMENDATION OF STAYING FIRM ON THE HUNGER STRIKE, ALISON NOTES THAT IT WOULD UNDERMINE A LARGER OBJECTIVE:

(v) We should be discouraging the Provisionals from switching from terrorist to political activity at the very moment when we know that they have begun to find political action attractive.

 

 

DOWNLOAD PDF: ATKINS MINUTES 81 JUL 6


ATKINS POSITION SUMMED UP AS DETAILED IN PREVIOUS MINUTES:

“In particular, he said if the hunger strike were to end on terms that were not acceptable to the Provisionals, an end to the current terrorist campaign would be unlikely.”

FROM THE MAIN POINTS RAISED IN DISCUSSION HELD 7:30PM 6 JULY 1981

(a) There was some evidence that some Provisionals favoured a ceasefire. There were practical difficulties for the PIRA in maintaining a terrorist campaign. The Provisionals had gained considerable success through political, rather than terrorist, activity, following the death of Sands. However, the Provisionals would never call a ceasefire from a position of weakness.

 

 

DOWNLOAD PDF: ALISON DEBRIEF 81 JUL 6

 

Adams rejected chance of early end to hunger strike

Adams rejected chance of early end to hunger strike
Claims that the Sinn Fein president could have stopped the 1981 fast in July are vindicated by newly-released papers, says Carrie Twomey
Belfast Telegraph
Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The controversial claim that Gerry Adams and his committee controlling the 1981 hunger strike from outside the Maze prison refused a substantial offer from then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – an offer accepted by the prisoners – has been proven true.

The allegation is substantiated in the notes of Derry businessman Brendan Duddy. Duddy, the ‘Mountain Climber’, was the messenger between the British Government and IRA during the hunger strike.

Duddy previously confirmed he delivered an offer from Thatcher’s Government to Martin McGuinness. Along with Danny Morrison and Jim Gibney, McGuinness was a member of Adams’s clandestine hunger strike committee.

The content of that offer was the same as was revealed in FOI documents obtained by the Belfast Telegraph’s political editor, Liam Clarke. These documents show most of the five demands prisoners were hunger striking for would be met.

In his books Blanketmen and Afterlives, Richard O’Rawe, PRO of the IRA prisoners during the hunger strikes, wrote of the acceptance of that offer by himself and Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane (in charge of the hunger strike inside the prison).

This claim was vehemently denied by Morrison and Sinn Fein. O’Rawe faced vilification, threats and intimidation for revealing this information, as it meant six of the 10 hunger strikers need not have died had the offer been accepted.

Duddy’s notes of talks between Thatcher and Adams over the weekend of July 4-5, 1981 conclusively prove O’Rawe’s account was true.

After a conciliatory statement from the prisoners, Thatcher sent Duddy details of an offer with the potential to end the hunger strike.

Danny Morrison went into the prison to convey this offer to McFarlane, who discussed it with O’Rawe. McFarlane then sent word out that they would accept it.

Written in code on the morning of July 6, Duddy’s notes reflect this significant movement.

Adams and his committee were the ‘Shop Stewards’, the prisoners were the ‘Union Membership’ and the Government was ‘Management’.

The message Adams wanted conveyed to Thatcher was: “The S.S. fully accept the posal [sic] – as stated by the Union MemBship [sic]”. In other words, the prisoners had endorsed the proposal.

The rest of the message added conditions to the acceptance that gave the Adams committee, not the prisoners, a veto over the deal.

Crucially, the message added, if the British published the offer without Adams having prior sight, and agreeing to it, he would publicly ‘disapprove’ it.

In spite of the prisoners’ acceptance of the offer negotiations continued over the next two days, with Joe McDonnell close death.

The demands the prisoners were seeking via hunger strike had effectively been granted. Before implementing the agreed proposal, the British were waiting for word from Adams that the prisoners would end their hunger strike. Once that word was given, the proposal would be read to the prisoners by the NIO and released to the Press.

It was not to be. On July 7, the Adams’ committee sought to alter the ‘tone’ of the agreement, not the content. The substance had already been met. Adams and his team were concerned with presentation.

Negotiations continued throughout the night. At 4.50am on July 8, while Adams was in mid-discussion with the British, Joe McDonnell became the fifth hunger striker to die. Five more were to die before the hunger strike’s end in October 1981.

All the proposals made by Margaret Thatcher in early July were implemented immediately after the hunger strike ended.

Sourced from the Belfast Telegraph

Provo bosses let hunger-strikers die – they know who they are and so do I

Provo bosses let hunger-strikers die – they know who they are and so do I
Suzanne Breen
Sunday World

An ex-Provo prisoner who watched his comrades die on hunger-strike has blasted the IRA leadership for their “needless deaths”.

Richard O’Rawe says key IRA leaders should “hang their heads in shame” for rejecting a secret British offer which could have saved six hunger-strikers’ lives in the notorious H-Blocks.

The West Belfast republican, who was the prisoners’ public relations officer, claims “six men with hearts like lions were let die horrific deaths for nothing other than getting Sinn Féin votes”.

Four hunger-strikers were already dead when British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, capitulated and made her dramatic offer in July 1981 effectively granting most of the prisoners’ demands.

O’Rawe, who bravely lifted the lid in 2001 on the secret British proposal to end the hunger-strike, was speaking after his account was proven true by documents just lodged in an Irish university.

He’s now urging republicans all over Ireland to urgently revise their understanding of what happened during the H-Block death fast that made headlines across the world.

“The evidence is there for all to see. It’s the biggest cover-up in the history of Irish republicanism,” he told the Sunday World.

The hunger-strike was run on the outside by a clandestine committee set up by the Army Council. Its members included the North’s best known Provos who were also in Sinn Féin.

“These men should have the guts to finally come clean and tell how they let six republicans, whose boots they weren’t fit to lace, needlessly die horrific deaths in a H-block hell-hole.

“Let them explain how they rejected an offer which meant Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Tom McElwee, Kieran Doherty and Mickey Devine would all have lived.”

O’Rawe spoke of the threats and intimidation he and his family had suffered since he exposed the leadership’s lies. “‘Richard O’Rawe H-Block traitor’ was written on the wall opposite my home. Well, it’s now as clear as daylight who betrayed the hunger-strikers.”

Papers donated to the National University of Ireland in Galway by Derry businessman, Brendan Duddy, show how the IRA prison leadership accepted a substantial British offer to end the death fast.

Known as the ‘Mountain Climber’, Duddy was the messenger between the British and the IRA. His notes show – as O’Rawe claimed in his best-selling book Blanketmen – that the British made an offer on 5 July 1981 effectively granting the prisoners’ five demands except free association.

Joe McDonnell, the fifth hunger-striker, was hovering on the brink of death so urgent action was required. Duddy relayed the offer to Martin McGuinness who told Gerry Adams. Danny Morrison was then despatched to the H-Blocks to brief Bik McFarlane, the IRA commander in the jail.

When he returned to his cell, McFarlane told O’Rawe the good news. “We were both delighted. A few hours free movement every day wasn’t worth one more life,” says O’Rawe.

“The British were compromising on prison uniforms, work, visits, letters and segregation. Bik wrote to Gerry Adams, accepting the offer.”

However, the Army Council committee then sent word into the jail that the offer wasn’t enough. On 7 July, the IRA told the British that while the substance of the proposal was acceptable, the “tone” needed changing.

Joe McDonnell died the next day. “This fine republican died because an Army Council clique didn’t like the ‘tone’ of a document,” says O’Rawe. “Five other great men, the bravest of the brave, followed him. The hunger-strikers were Spartacuses.

“They gave everything they had to the republican movement. They believed to their death in a 32 county socialist republic. This Army Council committee between them didn’t have even an ounce of one hunger-striker’s courage. They were a bunch of immoral, unscrupulous b*****ds.”

It was later revealed that the Army Council committee never briefed the entire Army Council itself on the details of the offer.

The hunger-strike had become “a cynical PR exercise to gain votes”, O’Rawe claims. It had to continue at least until Owen Carron won the Fermanagh and South Tyrone Westminister by-election in August, holding Bobby Sands’ seat.

The official Provo line has always been that a callous, uncompromising British government let 10 men die. “That lie’s now exposed,” says O’Rawe. “The hunger-strikers broke Margaret Thatcher. She blinked first. She gave in but the men weren’t told

The ex-IRA man says he faced a campaign of vilification since he began exposing the truth about the hunger-strike: “I was told I could be shot. My children were harassed. ‘Your da’s a liar,’ people shouted at them.

“I was ostracised. Guys I’d operated with in the IRA, some of my best friends, snubbed me as the leadership spread their lies.”

O’Rawe (57) lives just across the road from Milltown Cemetery on the Falls where three hunger-strikers are buried.

He often visits the graves of Bobby Sands, Joe McDonnell, and Kieran Doherty: “It’s heart-breaking but I don’t need to go there to remember them because they never leave my mind.” On the 30th anniversary of the 10 deaths, he still breaks down in tears thinking of his comrades.

________________
This article appeared in the December 11, 2011 edition of the Sunday World.
Sourced from Nuzhound

Mountain Climber Notes + Timeline

Mountain Climber’s Notes + Timeline

KEY:
DM = Danny Morrison
GF Garret Fitzgerald
Other sources are noted in text.

July 4th: Prisoner’s statement about extending reforms through the prison opens direct contacts

DM: British government representative (codenamed ‘Mountain Climber’) secretly contacts republican leadership by ‘back channel’. Insists on strict confidentiality.

GF: “Following the conciliatory statement by the prisoners, direct contact had been made with the IRA by an agent of the British government, through an intermediary. Disastrously, his proposals, while close to what the prisoners and Allison, through the commission, were near to agreeing, went further in one respect. Not unnaturally the IRA preferred this somewhat wider offer, and above all the opportunity to be directly involved in discussions with the British government.”

Send on 5 of July
TRANSCRIPTION:
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.


The Morning of July 5th: Morrison tells hunger strikers of Mountain Climber contact, but no details, as they were to see the ICJP later and their knowledge could jeopardise the Adams Committee negotiations. He tells Bik McFarlane of the offer, who discusses with with Richard O’Rawe. They agree to accept it.

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.”

GF: “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.”

DM: 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.

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.


The Morning of July 6th: 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”.

KEY:
S.S. = Shop Steward – code for the Adams Committee which included Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison, Tom Hartley, Jim Gibney and Martin McGuinness
Union Membership or The Workers = the prisoners, as represented by Bik McFarlane (OC) and Richard O’Rawe (PRO)
The Management = The British Government (Thatcher)

The Smoking Gun
TRANSCRIPTION:
The S.S. fully accept the posal — as stated by the Union MemBship
And that is the only Basis for a successful draft proposal by the Management.
It is essential that a copy of the draft be in the S.S. hands Before it is made public.
To enable the S.S. to apr – up
or to point out any difficulty before publication
If it is pub. without prior sight and agreement the S.S. would have to disapprove it.
Monday Morning
July 6th.
————————————–

Richard O’RaweBlanketmen, 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.”

GF: “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.”

GF: “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.”

————————————–
TRANSCRIPTION:

Reply 11:30 PM July 6

The British Gov. is preparing to issue a statement only if there is an immediate end to the hunger strike.
(A) Prison reg. in Armagh would become general in NI prison ie civian clothing
B Visits as for conforming prisons
C Re. as stated on June 30 by Sec of State


July 7th: 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.

Details noted

TRANSCRIPTION:
5 demands

clothes work
assoc. visits
letters re – XX
————————————–
Clothes at 12
Visits on Tues.
[Note: Tues, July 7, re Document 1]
Parcels Next Monday
Work over 1 month
Full remission
————————————–

clothes = letters = visits
Immediately
New Gov. Plus to be decider
Cunningham as Gov
Plus
Work = Each wing to decide a rota with prison staff
A good order
Association realistic with good prison discipline within each wing xxxx
————————————–
No Will
Strike goes on
[Note: Written in pen over ‘No Will Strike Goes On’]
Prison work will vary between cell and block maintenance, in the futherest of educational subjects, ie open university, toy making for charities and building projects: ove
[Note: this is clarified on the back of the page/Document 4]

————————————–
Sincere = YES
————————————–
If they work and conform
5/6 working
2 not working
H
Freedom of M
on the Each Wing P.O. would maint. the unrestricted control of supervision

TRANSCRIPTION:
Freedom of Movement would be permitted within each wing. Prison officer would maintain the total control of supervision during these periods:

Prison work will vary between Cell and Block maintenance, educational, cultural subjects ie Open University, toy making for charities. Building projects, ie New Church. Prison officers would maintain

GF: “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.”

FOI Document 1: “Extract from a letter dated 8 July 1981 from 10 Downing Street to the Northern Ireland Office”

“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.”

DM: “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.””

FOI Document 1: “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.”

DM: 4pm: NIO tells ICJP that an official will be going in but that the document was still being drafted.

Padraig O’MalleyBiting at the Grave, pg 97: “At one point, David Wyatt, a senior NIO official who had sat in on most of the discussions, rang to explain the delay: a lot of redrafting was going on and it had to be cleared with London.”

FOI Document 1: “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.”

GF: “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.”

DM: 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.

GF: “At ten o’clock that night Allison phoned to say that the official would not now be going to the prison until the following morning – adding, however, that this delay would be to the prisoners’ benefit.”

Padraig O’MalleyBiting at the Grave, pg 97: “Asked by Logue why no representative had been sent into the prison that morning, Logue says that Alison replied, “Frankly, I was not a sufficient plenipotentiary.””

FOI Document 2: “Extract from a Telegram from the Northern Ireland Office to the Cabinet Office”

PLEASE PASS FOLLOWING TO MR WOODFIELD
MIPT contains the text of a statement which SOSNI proposes to authorise should be released to the hunger-strikers/prisoners and publicly. The statement contains, except on clothing, nothing of substance which has not been said publicly, and the point on clothing was made privately to the provos on 5 July. The purpose of the statement is simply to give precise clarification to formulae which already exist. It also takes count of advice given to us over the last 12 hours on the kind of language which (while not a variance with any of our previous public statements) might make the statement acceptable to the provos.
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). It has been made clear (as the draft itself states) that it is not a basis for negotiation.”

FOI Document 1: “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.”

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…”


The 8th of July: The death of Joe McDonnell 

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

GF: “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 AdamsBefore 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.”

DM: 9am: An NIO official visits each hunger striker in his cell and reads out a statement which says that nothing has changed since Humphrey Atkins’ policy statement of 29 June, thus suggesting that there was no new document being drafted as claimed by the NIO at 4pm on 7 July.

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

GF: “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.”

 


Sources: Danny Morrison, Garret Fitzgerald, John Blelloch, British Government documents, Ten Men DeadBefore the DawnBiting at the GraveINLA Deadly DivisionsBlanketmenIrish NewsBelfast Telegraph, eyewitness accounts.

Expanded Timeline: 29 June – 12 July 1981

 

“Rusty Nail”: The Smoking Gun

See also: Mountain Climber Notes + Timeline

23 November, 2011

The Smoking Gun
“Rusty Nail” at Slugger O’Toole

Four documents – 2 double sided pages  – have been made available from NUI Galway’s Brendan Duddy archives that are relevant to the Mountain Climber/Thatcher offer of early July, 1981. They are Brendan Duddy’s notes of the messages he was ferrying between the Adams Committee and the British Government. The first two pages are dated the 5th and 6th of July; the last two pages are undated but relate to the ongoing negotiation; they detail the offer being discussed. The notes are supported byBritish Government documents obtained by journalist Liam Clarke under a Freedom of Information request. Interested readers can compare the information in all these documents against an expanded timeline of events that has been previously documented.

On the 4th of July, the prisoners released a statement that freed the British to make an offer, by suggesting that any prison reforms be extended to all prisoners. This resulted in the Mountain Climber, Brendan Duddy, contacting the Adams Committee. The British were making an offer that meant the prisoners would get their own clothes “after lunch tomorrow and before the afternoon visit”.

According to Duddy’s notes, this offer included:

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.

DOCUMENT 1:

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.

The morning of the 5th of July, Danny Morrison first visited the hunger strikers, telling them nothing of the Mountain Climber offer – only that there was contact, and that the ICJP must be resisted as they could “make a mess of it, that they could be settling for less than what they had the potential for achieving.” (Biting at the Grave, pg 96.)

The sequence is described by Morrison: “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.”

After Morrison privately relayed the British offer to Bik McFarlane, McFarlane discussed it with Richard O’Rawe. Both agreed there was enough there to accept. Bik McFarlane speaking to Brian Rowan 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.”

O’Rawe told the Irish News, “I said, ‘Ta go leor ann’ – There’s enough there. He (McFarlane) 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.”

DOCUMENT 2:
Key:
S.S. = Shop Steward – code for the Adams Committee which included Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison, Tom Hartley, Jim Gibney and Martin McGuinness
Union Membership or The Workers = the prisoners, as represented by Bik McFarlane (OC) and Richard O’Rawe (PRO)
The Management = The British Government (Thatcher)

“The Mountain Climber messages were being sent in a crudely coded form, apparently because the Foreign Office was concerned that the phone line they were using into the north might be tapped by the local security forces: the negotiations were being couched in the form of exchanges over an industrial dispute, prisoners being referred to as ‘the workers’, the external leadership of the IRA as ‘the shop stewards’ and the British Government as ‘management’.”
– Ten Men Dead, pg 325

“The coded terminology used in the communications between the Army Council and the British reflected the class system. The British were called ‘the management’ and the Army Council were the ‘shop stewards’ and the prisoners were ‘the workers’. I didn’t know about this terminology until years later, but when I did, I couldn’t help but remember something my father used to say: “The workers always get shafted.””
– Blanketmen, pg 174; for Army Council see: Afterlives, pgs 78-82

The Smoking Gun

 

The S.S. fully accept the posal — as stated by the Union MemBship
And that is the only Basis for a successful draft proposal by the Management.
It is essential that a copy of the draft be in the S.S. hands Before it is made public.
To enable the S.S. to apr – up
or to point out any difficulty before publication
If it is pub. without prior sight and agreement the S.S. would have to disapprove it.
Monday Morning
July 6th.
————————————–
————————————–
Reply 11:30 PM July 6

The British Gov. is preparing to issue a statement only if there is an immediate end to the hunger strike.
(A) Prison reg. in Armagh would become general in NI prison ie civian clothing
B Visits as for conforming prisons
C Re. as stated on June 30 by Sec of State

“As the situation moved beyond our control, it became evident that the real power in the republican movement was asserting its authority. This time, the ‘shop stewards’, not the ‘management’ had consigned the prison leadership to the role of the ‘workers’ in the general scheme of things, and the ‘shop stewards’ and the ‘management’ were going to work things out – no matter what the ‘workers’ thought.”
– Blanketmen, pg 186.

This is the smoking gun; the proof that the prison leadership – McFarlane and O’Rawe – were told of Thatcher’s offer, they agreed to accept it, and sent word out of that acceptance. The proof their acceptance was over-ruled by those handling the negotiations on the outside, the Adams Committee, who claimed more was needed.

The notes show the prisoners got their clothes; they would have had them immediately. Their visits would have begun on the 7th of July, before Joe McDonnell died. Work was agreed to, and education recognised as work. Free association was rendered a moot point by obtaining segregation. Letters and parcels would resume, to start on the 13 of July – the day of Martin Hurson’s death. Remission was not going to be an insurmountable issue.

THIS WAS ACCEPTED BY THE PRISONERS. The acceptance by O’Rawe and McFarlane was overheard by other prisoners and it is reflected in Duddy’s notes. Duddy’s notes are also reinforced by the British Government’s record.

The British, according to their own contemporaneous documents, were genuine, and willing to comply with the “Shop Steward’s” demand to have access to a draft statement of the proposal before it was made public:

“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).”

All that was needed was for the Adams Committee to accept the proposal as the prison leadership had expressed. The hunger strike would have ended, with enough of the 5 demands granted, before the death of Joe McDonnell, before the deaths of six hunger strikers. The prisoners could have been wearing their own clothes the day before Joe McDonnell died.

The Adams Committee said, “No.” And the hunger strikers continued to die.

 

NOTES: Details of the proposal as noted by the Mountain Climber, Brendan Duddy, with documents from the British confirming the sequencing, and the draft statement that would have ended the hunger strike on terms agreed by the prison leadership had the Adams Committee not rejected it.

DOCUMENT 3
Details noted
5 demands

clothes work
assoc. visits
letters re – XX
————————————–
Clothes at 12
Visits on Tues. [Note: Tues, July 7, re Document 1]
Parcels Next Monday
Work over 1 month
Full remission
————————————–

clothes = letters = visits
Immediately
New Gov. Plus to be decider
Cunningham as Gov
Plus
Work = Each wing to decide a rota with prison staff
A good order
Association realistic with good prison discipline within each wing xxxx
————————————–
No Will
Strike goes on
[Note: Written in pen over ‘No Will Strike Goes On’]
Prison work will vary between cell and block maintenance, in the futherest of educational subjects, ie open university, toy making for charities and building projects: ove
[Note: this is clarified on the back of the page/Document 4]

————————————–
Sincere = YES
————————————–
If they work and conform
5/6 working
2 not working
H
Freedom of M
on the Each Wing P.O. would maint. the unrestricted control of supervision

DOCUMENT 4:
 

 

Freedom of Movement would be permitted within each wing. Prison officer would maintain the total control of supervision during these periods:
Prison work will vary between Cell and Block maintenance, educational, cultural subjects ie Open University, toy making for charities. Building projects, ie New Church. Prison officers would maintain

 

EXTRACT FROM A TELEGRAM FROM THE NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE TO THE CABINET OFFICE

PLEASE PASS FOLLOWING TO MR WOODFIELD

MIPT contains the text of a statement which SOSNI proposes to authorise should be released to the hunger-strikers/prisoners and publicly. The statement contains, except on clothing, nothing of substance which has not been said publicly, and the point on clothing was made privately to the provos on 5 July. The purpose of the statement is simply to give precise clarification to formulae which already exist. It also takes count of advice given to us over the last 12 hours on the kind of language which (while not a variance with any of our previous public statements) might make the statement acceptable to the provos.

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). It has been made clear (as the draft itself states) that it is not a basis for negotiation.

 

[Note: As the extract is describing a meeting that took place shortly after midnight on the 8th of July, it refers to the negotiations described in Duddy’s notes – namely, the back and forth between the 5th and 7th of July]
EXTRACT FROM A LETTER DATED 8 JULY 1981 FROM 10 DOWNING STREET TO THE NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE

The Prime Minister met your Secretary of State at 0015 this morning to discuss the latest developments in the efforts to bring the hunger strike in the Maze to an end. Philip Woodfield was also present.

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. 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.

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.

Statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

1. In the light of discussions which Mr Michael Alison has had recently with the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, during which a statement was issued on 4 July on behalf of the protesting prisoners in the Maze Prison, HMG have come to the following conclusions.

2. When the hunger strike and the protest is brought to an end (and not before), the Government will:
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.

5. This statement is not a negotiating position. But it is further evidence of the Government’s desire to maintain and where possible to improve a humanitarian regime in the prisons. The Government earnestly hopes that the hunger strikers and the other protesters will cease their protest.

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

 

See also: Mountain Climber Notes + Timeline

 

 

 

Mountain Climber Notes

Send on 5 of July
TRANSCRIPTION:
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.


The Smoking Gun
TRANSCRIPTION:
The S.S. fully accept the posal — as stated by the Union MemBship
And that is the only Basis for a successful draft proposal by the Management.
It is essential that a copy of the draft be in the S.S. hands Before it is made public.
To enable the S.S. to apr – up
or to point out any difficulty before publication
If it is pub. without prior sight and agreement the S.S. would have to disapprove it.
Monday Morning
July 6th.
————————————–
————————————–
Reply 11:30 PM July 6

The British Gov. is preparing to issue a statement only if there is an immediate end to the hunger strike.
(A) Prison reg. in Armagh would become general in NI prison ie civian clothing
B Visits as for conforming prisons
C Re. as stated on June 30 by Sec of State


Details noted
TRANSCRIPTION:
5 demands

clothes work
assoc. visits
letters re – XX
————————————–
Clothes at 12
Visits on Tues. [Note: Tues, July 7, re Document 1]
Parcels Next Monday
Work over 1 month
Full remission
————————————–

clothes = letters = visits
Immediately
New Gov. Plus to be decider
Cunningham as Gov
Plus
Work = Each wing to decide a rota with prison staff
A good order
Association realistic with good prison discipline within each wing xxxx
————————————–
No Will
Strike goes on
[Note: Written in pen over ‘No Will Strike Goes On’]
Prison work will vary between cell and block maintenance, in the futherest of educational subjects, ie open university, toy making for charities and building projects: ove
[Note: this is clarified on the back of the page/Document 4]

————————————–
Sincere = YES
————————————–
If they work and conform
5/6 working
2 not working
H
Freedom of M
on the Each Wing P.O. would maint. the unrestricted control of supervision



TRANSCRIPTION:
Freedom of Movement would be permitted within each wing. Prison officer would maintain the total control of supervision during these periods:
Prison work will vary between Cell and Block maintenance, educational, cultural subjects ie Open University, toy making for charities. Building projects, ie New Church. Prison officers would maintain

Sourced from NUI Galway

Press Release: Unseen Documents Unveiled during Launch of Duddy Archive at NUI Galway

Press Release: Unseen Documents Unveiled during Launch of Duddy Archive at NUI Galway

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Documents highlighting the secrecy and tension involved in communication and negotiation between the British government and the IRA throughout ‘the Troubles’ were today (Tuesday, 22 November) unveiled in NUI Galway at the launch of the Brendan Duddy Archive on campus.

The selected documents include Brendan Duddy’s hand written records of negotiations during the hunger strike and a letter from the IRA to the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

Speaking at the launch and on behalf of the Duddy family, Larry Duddy, said: “The family are delighted that the private papers have been donated to NUI Galway. They hope that analysis of these papers will assist current and future generations to understand however complex and how ever long a conflict has gone on with the dedication and commitment shown by Brendan Duddy a resolution can always be found.”

The symposium Negotiating Peace, organised in association with the launch of the private papers of Brendan Duddy, brought together prominent figures from the worlds of academia and diplomacy to explore key questions surrounding the negotiated settlement of violent conflicts, drawing in particular on the experience of negotiation in the Irish peace process.

Symposium speakers inlcuded Seán Ó hUiginn, former senior Irish diplomat who was deeply involved in the Irish government contribution to the peace process; former senior British government official Michael Oatley, a key British official involved in back-channel communication with the Republican leadership over many years; and Professor Paul Arthur, Honorary Associate at the International Conflict Research Centre (INCORE), former Professor of Politics and Director of the Graduate Programme in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Ulster.

Speaking at NUI Galway, Michael Oatley emphasised the need to understand and differentiate between the motivation for differing instances of political violence, and the importance of seeking to establish dialogue. He applauded Brendan Duddy’s work as an extraordinary example of what could be achieved by a brave and determined private individual.

The archive holds documents from the three main periods during which Brendan Duddy secretly acted as an intermediary between the British government and the IRA. The first was in the early and mid 1970s when Duddy acted as intermediary during a series of contacts over the release of hostages and the ending of hunger strikes. This contact culminated in the long IRA ceasefire of 1975 during which British government and Provisional Republican representatives held a series of formal meetings in Duddy’s house in Derry. The archive includes his diaries of negotiation in 1975 and 1976 as well as many handwritten and typed messages exchanged between the two sides.

In 1980 and 1981 Duddy acted again as intermediary during the Republican hunger strikes. In July 1981 he began to record these contacts, conducted mainly by telephone, in a red hardbound notebook, the ‘Red book’. The handwritten formal messages that were dictated to Duddy over the phone are interspersed with sparse personal comments and notations indicating how these contacts sometimes stretched through the night and indicating the intensity of the tensions at this negotiating intersection.

Between 1990 and 1993 Duddy was again active at this intersection after a new Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Sir Peter Brooke, made the decision to try to incorporate the Provisionals in a political settlement, an effort continued by his successor Sir Patrick Mayhew. Duddy was called upon again to take up the role of intermediary and his archive includes the messages passed between the two sides as well as his own contemporary ‘narrative’ of the intense contacts of 1993.

Dr Niall Ó Dochartaigh, Lecturer in Politics at NUI Galway explained: “These papers add significantly to our understanding of this crucial interface between the British state and the IRA. The papers show Brendan Duddy’s persistence and determination in pursuing the goal of a peace settlement and an end to the violence over a period of decades.”

Deposited at NUI Galway in 2009, the archive contains over 700 descriptive items of paper and sound archives which have been catalogued by the Library’s Special Collections staff and will be available to scholars and bona fide researchers from January 2012. The archive includes coded diaries of contact as well as messages exchanged between the British Government and the Provisional Republican leadership.

The Duddy papers are directly related to the papers of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, former President of Sinn Féin, which are also held in the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway. Together these archives constitute one of the most important sources for understanding the attempts to resolve conflict in Ireland that culminated in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

President of NUI Galway, Dr Jim Browne, said: “We all remember the horror of so much of the news emanating from Northern Ireland throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. All through that difficult period Brendan Duddy maintained a steadfast conviction that the conflict could only be ended through a negotiated settlement. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for that steadfast commitment to peace. I would especially like to thank him, on behalf of NUI Galway, for making his Archive available to scholarship, so that others might be inspired and encouraged in the unrelenting work of peace-building, in similar situations internationally.”

Research on the papers involves collaboration between NUI Galway’s School of Political Science and Sociology and the University of Ulster’s International Conflict Research Centre (INCORE) and both institutions will collaborate to make a selection of primary documents from the collection freely available online through CAIN (the University of Ulster¹s Conflict Archive on the Internet) and NUI Galway’s library website.

John Cox, Librarian at NUI Galway: “Clearly this is a collection with huge research potential and I can see us welcoming scholars from far and wide to Galway to work on the archive.”

The donation will be held in the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway, home to a range of theatre, literary, historical and political archives. Collections include the archives of the Druid and Lyric Players theatres and of Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe; the literary papers of John McGahern and Thomas Kilroy; the Huston Archive and original documents relating to the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’.

ENDS
Keywords: NUI Galway Brendan Duddy IRA Archive
Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway

Richard O’Rawe speech in Chicago

Richard O’Rawe, author and IRA Public Relations Officer during the 1981 Hunger Strike, addresses the Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee’s 30th anniversary commemoration on August 6th, 2011. Since Richard is not able to obtain a visa, this address was prerecorded.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLFQelHSU6c&w=405&h=300]

Underlying Slur in Morrison’s Hunger Strike Comments

Underlying Slur in Morrison’s Hunger Strike Comments
Irish News letters page
Terry Hughes

I read with interest Danny Morrison’s recent article in the Andersonstown News about the 1980 hunger strike, which was led by my brother, the late Brendan Hughes.

“Whether the republican leadership’s analysis and depiction of what was happening, was correct”, I do agree that the leadership was bereft of ideas on how to resolve the prison crisis.

Not only was there a dearth of ideas on how to bring the prison protest to a successful conclusion, but there was abject failure at leadership level to highlight to the outside world the conditions that the prisoners were enduring, and it was only when the first hunger strike was called that the world would see what was happening to the Blanketmen in the H Blocks.

During this time there were many rallies and meetings to highlight the demands of the prisoners.  On December 8th, 1980 — the eve of Charles Haughey’s summit meeting with Margaret Thatcher — I met with the then Taoiseach in a hotel in Kilkenny to impress upon him the urgency of trying to resolve the hunger strike.  While Mr Haughey told me that he was not pessimistic of the outcome, he certainly did not leave me with the feeling that he would stick his neck out to resolve it.

The hunger strike ended on December 18th, and, as Danny Morrison now admits, there was nothing on the table when Brendan called off the hunger strike after 52 days. 

Danny used the word ‘unilaterally’ to describe Brendan’s decision to end the hunger strike, saying that he did not consult his OC, Bobby Sands. 

There is an underlying slur there, whether or not Danny Morrison wishes to admit it. 

What Mr Morrison did not say – and should have said — was that Brendan had little choice other than to intervene to save Sean McKenna’s life.

I say this because Sean had indicated to Brendan early on in the hunger strike that he was not prepared to die, and had secured Brendan’s word of honour that he would not let him die.

As well as that, several other hunger strikers had informed my brother that they were not prepared to die either. 

So what was Brendan to do in those circumstances? Let Sean die? Brendan believed that that would be tantamount to him committing murder. 

Perhaps Danny Morrison thinks Brendan should not have kept his word to Sean and let him die. If he does think this, he should say so.

Brendan lived to see ten of his best friends and comrades die on the second hunger strike.

It affected him deeply and, I believe, was the primary contributing factor to his own early death.

Abandoned and demonised by his erstwhile comrades in the leadership, Brendan Hughes he died as he lived, a republican, and a man of honour.

First published in the Irish News

How Could Brits Renege if There Was No Offer?

How Could Brits Renege if There Was No Offer?
Letter in the Irish News and Andersonstown News
Gerard Foster

Danny Morrison in a recent article in another publication, un-prompted, wrote about the Hunger Strikes of 1980 and 81. He stated that he, and the Provisional leadership on the outside, was economical with the truth about the ending of the first Hunger Strike.

In fact, over the last 30 years they have stuck rigidly to the same story: Britain reneged on a deal when the Hunger Strikers ended the protest. Even when Richard O Rawe wrote that there was a deal/offer to end the second Hunger Strike, they, the Provisional leadership, said because the Brits reneged on the deal on the first Hunger Strike, they needed guarantees before the prisoners would end the second Hunger Strike.

Now Morrison is saying that there was no offer/deal during the ending of the first Hunger Strike. This does not add up. They could not end the second Hunger Strike because the Brits reneged on a deal they never made during the first Hunger Strike? What is it Danny, was there a deal or not during the first Strike?

I can only think that the Provisionals, in the run up to the next elections, are going to use the Hunger Strikers that died in 1981 as an election tool, it is on the 30th anniversary of Bobby Sands death, this is to try and increase their support. This might also be the reason they picked Pat Sheehan, a Hunger Striker, to replace Adams in West Belfast.

Before they do that, maybe there are some questions they need to answer around the lead up to Joe Mc Donnell’s death.

The one I have already asked: if the Brits didn’t make an offer in 1980, how did they renege?

Why has it taken 30 years for Morrison to tell the “truth”?

Where are the rest of the “Mountain climber” comms that were not to be seen in the book Ten Men Dead?

Adams was on the phone to his British contact when Joe died; where are the transcripts of these talks, who was he talking to (according to the Mountain climber, Brendan Duddy, he has never spoken to Adams), and what deal/offer was on the table from the British government?

None of the surviving Hunger Strikers who to spoke to Morrison or Adams during their visits to the prison hospital in July 1981 have said that either man had told them what was on offer from the British. In actual fact, Hunger Striker Lawrence Mc Keown, in his book Nor Meekly Serve My Time, wrote of the Adams visit, “he told the parents of Kieran Doherty and the Hunger Strikers that there was nothing on the table”*. It is obvious that Adams did not tell the Hunger strikers about his secret contact with the British government. Why not?

Danny Morrison, and others in the Provisional leadership, has been biggest critics of O Rawe and his claims that a Brit offer had been accepted by the prison leadership in the days before Joe Mc Donnell died. They ask repeatedly; why did it take him 25 years to say this? Well, I now ask Danny Morrison this question: why has it taken you 30 years to tell us that there was no offer/deal at the end of the first Hunger Strike?

First published in the letters page of the Irish News and the Andersonstown News


* Page 236, Nor Meekly Serve My Time, Laurence McKeown describes Gerry Adams’ 29 July visit to the hunger strikers:

“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.”

Did Hunger Strikers Believe Danny’s Spin?

Did Hunger Strikers Believe Danny’s Spin?
Republicans always insisted that the 1980 hunger strike ended because of British trickery. Now Danny Morrison has changed his story, says Liam Clarke
Belfast Telegraph
10 January 2011

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike and already Danny Morrison has enlivened the debate by puncturing one of the most enduring myths of the period.

For years, republican spokespersons — including Morrison himself — had maintained that the earlier hunger strike, led by Brendan Hughes, had ended in December 1980 because of British duplicity.

Only last year Gerry Adams wrote in the Irish News: “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.”

Adams added: “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.”

In July 1981, during the second hunger strike, this claim of earlier British duplicity proved crucial: it was used to resist proposals by the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP), a Catholic Church body, which was attempting to broker an end to the protest after Bobby Sands and three other prisoners had died.

Hugh Logue, a member of ICJP who visited the hunger strikers, recalls: “Danny [Morrison] went in after the prisoners said that they should accept it and told them that they should demand that they [the British] send in somebody to read it out in light of what had happened before. Danny was peddling the myth that the Brits had reneged.”

Logue accepted the spin — but did the six more prisoners who died that year believe it too?

Now Morrison has come forward to put the record straight. He writes in the Andersonstown News that: “Brendan Hughes ended the hunger strike unilaterally . . . we on the outside finessed the sequence of events for the sake of morale and, at a midnight Press conference, merged the secret arrival of a British Government document (promising a more enlightened prison regime: falsely, as it turned out) with the ending of the hunger strike.”

Morrison explains that Sinn Fein made the incendiary claim of a broken agreement because “it was either that or admit — which to the republican base was inconceivable — that Brendan [Hughes] had ended the strike without getting a thing”.

Without evidence of bad faith, it is hard to understand why the second hunger strike continued past the first four deaths.

We now know that, besides the ICJP proposals, Margaret Thatcher had made a secret offer which met most of the prisoners’ five demands — including allowing them to wear civilian clothes. The existence of this initiative was first disclosed by Richard O’Rawe, the PRO for the prisoners.

In his 2005 book Blanketmen, O’Rawe said that he and Brendan McFarlane, the prisoners’ leader, discussed the offer and accepted it in the Maze, but were over ruled by an outside committee headed by Gerry Adams.

Initially, McFarlane denied the conversation. When other prisoners said that they had overheard it, it jogged his memory.

Now, he said that, although the proposals looked interesting, they were too vague. Later a text of the detailed offer was released to me under the Freedom of Information Act and Brendan Duddy, who passed messages between republicans and the British Government, confirmed that it had been dictated to him over the phone by a British official.

Later still, Martin McGuinness confirmed that he had received the note from Duddy and sent it to Adams. Other documents released under FoI showed that Thatcher personally authorised the officials to make the proposal “privately to the Provos on July 5th” 1981.

Thatcher stipulated that, if the IRA indicated privately that it was acceptable, then it would be made public and implemented. On July 8, the statement was tweaked by the British to meet republican criticisms of the language used in it. Nevertheless, the hunger strike continued. Logue can’t understand why, “Danny [Morrison] told the prisoners to request the offer in writing when Adams already had that via Brendan Duddy”.

O’Rawe suspects that the strike was prolonged until Owen Carron, a Sinn Fein member standing as a proxy prisoner, could be elected MP for Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

At the time, Sinn Fein rules banned members from standing in elections, so Carron could not even have contested the seat if the prison protest had been over.

He won the seat on the very day that Michael Devine became the last hunger striker to die. Three months later, the anti-election policy was ditched at the Sinn Fein ard fheis after a rousing speech in which Morrison asked “Will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in the other, we take power in Ireland?”

A whole new republican strategy flowed from the hunger strike and the election. As Adams said in his 1985 Bobby Sands lecture, “The hunger strikes, at great cost to our H-Block martyrs and their families, smashed criminalisation and led to the success of the electoral strategy, plus revamping the IRA.”

High stakes, indeed. And it may have brought peace nearer. But did those who died know the full facts?

First published in the Belfast Telegraph

See also: Danny Morrison on the end of the 1980 Hunger Strike

UPDATED: Danny Morrison on the end of the 1980 hunger strike

Quotes from Danny Morrison, Brendan McFarlane, Laurence McKeown and Gerry Adams on the end of the 1980 hunger strike:

Although it is now well-known that Brendan Hughes ended the hunger strike unilaterally, without consulting his O/C Bobby Sands, we on the outside finessed the sequence of events for the sake of morale and at a midnight press conference merged the secret arrival of a British government document (promising a more enlightened prison regime: falsely, as it turned out) with the ending of the hunger strike.

It was either that or admit – which to the republican base was inconceivable – that Brendan had ended the strike without getting a thing.

Bobby – who turned out to be right – did not believe the British had any intention of working the unsecured promises contained in the document. But we begged him to put them to the test and that if the administration made things impossible then it could be claimed that the Brits were reneging.

Had the British taken the opportunity to resolve the prison crisis at that juncture history certainly would have been different. Instead, the British crowed victory in their briefings to the press and the prison administration felt smug, unbridled and under no obligation.

This bitter experience was to sear itself in the minds of the prisoners who were determined that there would never be a repeat of that scenario.

Tragically, the stage was set for 1981.
Danny Morrison, Andersonstown News, 2011


Previously:

The political responsibility for the hunger strike, and the deaths that resulted from it, both inside and outside the prison, lies with Margaret Thatcher, who reneged on the deal which ended the first hunger strike. This bad faith and duplicity lead directly to the deaths of our friends and comrades in 1981.
Brendan McFarlane, Andersonstown News, 2005


The 1981 hunger strike was a direct result of the 1980 hunger strike. The British government had said that it would not act under duress but would respond with a progressive and liberal prison regime once it ended. The prisoners called off the fast to save the life of Seán McKenna. However, the British immediately reneged on their promises. Because of this duplicity the hunger strikers of 1981 were adamant that any deal must be copperfastened.
Danny Morrison, Irish Times, 2005

The government had promised the same at Christmas 1980 when the first hunger strike ended, only to renege on its promises. Because of this duplicity the prisoners in the second hunger strike wanted any agreement to be copper fastened.
Danny Morrison, Daily Ireland, 2005


Yes, offers were made and discussed and clarified but when we tried to tie the British government down on a mechanism for ensuring they could not renege (as they had at the end of the first hunger strike) they procrastinated. The hunger strikers – as Laurence McKeown made clear the other day – “wanted definite confirmation, not vague promises of ‘regime change’.”
Danny Morrison, Daily Ireland, 2005

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’. We had all of that in December 1980.
Laurence McKeown, An Phoblacht, 2005


The 1981 hunger strike came out of the 1980 hunger strike. The British sent a document to the prisoners which they claimed could be the basis for a settlement. However, the prisoners had already ended the strike before they received the document. The British reneged on their assurances almost immediately. That was why the second hunger strikers were to demand verification of any deal to end their hunger strike.
Danny Morrison, Daily Ireland, 2006


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.
Gerry Adams, Irish News, 2009

Gerry Adams: The ’81 hunger strike

the ’81 hunger strike
FRIDAY, JANUARY 7, 2011 (Leargas Blog)
Gerry Adams

On Christmas Eve 1980 this blogs good friend and comrade, former blanket man Fra also known as ‘cuddles’ McCann, returned home after being deported from the USA.

Fra had just spent a gruelling four and a half months campaigning in the USA in support of the republican prisons on protest in the H Blocks and Armagh prisons. He had been denied a visa to enter the USA but like other ex-prisoners and republican activists who travelled to the states at that time, he entered the country illegally during the summer.

With the help of Noraid activists he travelled back and forth across the USA, from the east coast to the west coast and all places in between, talking to Irish American organisations, politicians, councils, trade unions and any media willing to listen. He did hundreds of meetings and interviews.

Fra’s courage and tenacity was uniquely recognised when he was awarded a ‘citation for bravery’ by the Massachusetts State legislature. It was the first of six states that year to support the prisoner’s five demands.

The British government was outraged at Fra’s success and at the effectiveness of the lobbying campaign. London urged the US authorities to arrest and deport him. On October 1st, a few weeks before the first hunger strike commenced, Fra and Dessie Mackin were arrested. They were held in solitary confinement and on lock-up for 23 hours each day.

Noraid succeeded in raising $30,000 in bail money and Fra was released to go back on the road. This blog thinks Desi was not so lucky. He stayed in detention. Eventually Fra was told that he was to be deported. Fra immediately applied for political asylum, a move which delayed the deportation. He continued his work until the first hunger strike ended. Fra then told the US immigration authorities that he wished to return to Ireland and on December 23rd he was put on a plane and arrived home on Christmas Eve.

Meanwhile Dessie, who was facing extradition by the British back to the north, was held for a further 18 months. He eventually won his extradition case and was deported to Dublin.

Meanwhile the first hunger strike had ended on December 18th. But by the end of the first week of January the omens were not good. At the start of the new year the prisoners had issued a statement calling for pressure on the British government to ‘ensure the speedy resolution of the blanket/no-wash protest and the defusion of the H-Block Armagh crisis’.

The prisoners warned that should the British remain intransigent ‘we will be forced to fall upon our own resources…If the British cling to the forlorn hope that they can yet break the men and women of the H-Blocks and Armagh they have but to look at their failures during the last four and a half years of our protest. We will not be found lacking in illustrating our ability and will to escalate our protest if necessary.’

So, the stark deadline in the first edition of 1981’s An Phoblacht/Republican News was one none of us wished to read – ‘Hunger-strike threatens’.

The tension escalated over the following weeks. Efforts by the prisoners to test the willingness of the prison system to implement a new regime were rebuffed. Prisoners were assaulted and personal clothes which families handed in for the prisoners were refused by prison staff. One governor told prisoners that ‘not until there is a strict conformity and you agree to wear prison issue clothes and do prison work will you get your own clothes.’

On January 16th Bernadette McAliskey and her husband Michael were shot and seriously wounded at their home by a unionist death squad. A week later this blog and hundreds more attended a major conference by the National H-Block Armagh Committee that was held in Dublin’s Liberty Hall with a view to rebuilding the public protest campaign.

On February 5th the prisoners issued a lengthy statement setting out the context for their decision and announcing that ‘hunger strikes to the death if necessary, will begin commencing from March 1st 1981, the fifth anniversary of the withdrawal of political status in the H Blocks and in Armagh jail.’

The scene was set for one of the most pivotal periods in recent Irish history.

First published on Gerry Adams’ blog, Leargas

Forget the myths, Adams didn’t trade lives for votes

Forget the myths, Adams didn’t trade lives for votes
Critics of the Sinn Fein president’s role in the hunger strike have failed to make their case. It lacks credibility, says Chris Donnelly
Belfast Telegraph
Wednesday, 5 January 2011

It is a historical feature of Irish republicanism that rival factions have vied for the status of legitimate claimants to the republican mantle, utilising republican icons both from the living and deceased in pursuit of that objective.

Mainstream republicans lost the support of War of Independence veteran Tom Maguire once abstentionism was settled within Sinn Fein; subsequently, Joe Cahill assumed the status of the senior living republican icon until his death.

The association of one prominent member of the Sands family with a dissident republican outfit in the early peace process era was regarded as a coup by the overly- optimistic dissidents who believed – prior to the Omagh bombing – that they were laying the foundations for a return to war.

But the 1981 hunger strikers have been afforded an iconic status amongst republicans of the present generation due to the enduring legacy of self-sacrifice associated with their actions.

It is, therefore, perhaps inevitable that allegations concerning Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams’ role during the hunger strike period should not only have surfaced, but have been so eagerly welcomed by disaffected – and dissident – republicans in recent times.

Richard O’Rawe’s narrative is constructed around the central theme that Gerry Adams wilfully dismissed the lives of fellow republicans simply to gain electoral support for Sinn Fein. It is a convenient narrative for dissident republicans and hence the decision of the more vocal amongst their numbers to adopt O’Rawe’s cause – nowhere more so than in the blogosphere, where arguments have raged on local political websites for years.

It is wholly unsurprising that the Sinn Fein president has spurned opportunities to respond publicly to Richard O’Rawe; Adams is sufficiently long in the political tooth to avoid falling into a trap from which only his antagonist would benefit from having his stature uplifted through such an encounter.

What is missing from O’Rawe’s narrative is a reasonable explanation for the alleged behaviour of Adams. Observing the plight of his comrades in prison, why would he so recklessly dismiss their lives? Suggestions that the motivation was the prospect of electoral advances are extremely dubious.

How could Gerry Adams have known what mileage there was in the electoral route for republicans?

All evidence points to the fact that, while republican leaders were keen on broadening their battlefield and maximising the potential to garner the legitimacy proffered by an electoral mandate, the same republican leaders clearly believed that the British Government would be forced from Ireland by military means and not by electoral victories. Brighton, the Libyan shipments, the European and England campaigns that followed Sinn Fein’s electoral foray through the 1980s, all indicate clearly that an Adams-led republican movement was nowhere near concluding that an electoral path would ultimately provide the only long-term future for the republican struggle. It stretches credibility to believe that Adams was willing to sacrifice the lives of of his colleagues to ensure the re-election of a republican candidate in Fermanagh South Tyrone.

O’Rawe’s arguments have been countered repeatedly by Danny Morrison and others more centrally involved in the prison discussions at the time in what has become a seemingly endless bout of bickering which has led many families of the deceased hunger strikers to request an end to the dispute.

Alas, it would appear that their collective calls are destined to fall on deaf ears for some time to come.

First published in the Belfast Telegraph

The Tragedy of 1980

The Tragedy of 1980
Danny Morrison,
Andersonstown News
3 Jan 2011

A lot of the ‘state papers’ just issued in Dublin, Belfast and London under the 30-year rule relate to the 1980 hunger strike.

Some of the internal memos were, no doubt, sometimes written with caution and with an eye to history. But many were written with spontaneity and contemporaneous with events or after meetings or briefings with politicians and ambassadors, and were meant to be informative and accurate assessments for their superiors.

Thus, there are insights, little cameos and class indiscretions like that from Andrew Brown, a civil servant, wondering about possible tooth decay among the prisoners on no wash who had no tooth-brushes: “if the protestors are a typical cross-section of the population, half of them will already be on their way to full sets of dentures.”

Ho, ho, ho.

Those of most interest to me concern the build-up to the 1980 hunger strike, the communications within government and agencies during it, and whether the republican leadership’s analysis and depiction of what was happening has subsequently proved correct. Until December 19th, which was the last time I saw Bobby Sands alive, I liaised with Bobby who was the OC of the prisoners, and with Brendan Hughes, the leader of the hunger strike.

In going on hunger strike, the prisoners were taking huge risks with their own lives and that of their families. But the stakes were not just personal, they were political, because republican supporters looked up to the prisoners as iconic heroes, while the British recognised that they could damage the republican struggle (of whom the strikers were symbols) if they could break the hunger strike.

The republican leadership knew that the Brits had the luxury of sitting back and toying with the prisoners and their families. The leadership was opposed to the hunger strike but was bereft of ideas on how to resolve the prison crisis and could not and would not advocate surrender. So they supported the men in the Blocks and the women in Armagh one hundred per cent once the hunger strike began.

The British (and Irish) establishments could not afford the prisoners to win, because of the collateral boost a victory would give to republicanism. At the same time, the hunger strike uniquely focused international attention on the horrors of the prisons and on the conflict in a way that exposed Britain, so Britain was under some pressure to compromise.

The hunger strike also exposed the hollowness and hypocrisy of the rhetoric of the Irish government (especially Haughey), the amorality of most of the Catholic Hierarchy (able to explicitly condemn republicans but not British violence), with the SDLP (as always) running around like a headless chicken. To make sure you got something through, whether true or not, to the Dublin government and on to the British all you had to do was confide in some senior SDLP member ‘in total confidence’.

One prescient British intelligence report sent to Thatcher states that the hunger strike is “deeply disliked by the leadership for it confuses the issues, gives scope for division of views, and damaging disagreement, and is outside their control…

“The [hunger strike] campaign could fizzle out, to the shame of the movement. It could turn out also, to the movement’s shame, that no effective way is found to reinforce the prisoners’ efforts.”

Two months into the strike Thatcher was able to tell her cabinet that Haughey – despite his public stance – backed her position, though calling for ‘cosmetic changes in the prison’ and he “accepted that there was nothing more that British authorities could offer them [the prisoners]”. There was, however, a slight shift in her position – the offer of ‘civilian-type clothes’ and the motive, according to Secretary of State Humphrey Atkins, was “to deprive the protestors of a great deal of public sympathy.”

But the prisoners were only too well aware that for them to have accepted these ‘approved’ clothes (‘another type of uniform’), in the absence of movement on their other demands, would have been claimed by the British as, and generally perceived as, a major climb-down, incommensurate with four years of immense suffering.

Thatcher told Haughey that she would not make any further concessions beyond “dressing up what had already been offered”.

“We cannot make any concessions” appear in the margins of other cabinet papers in Thatcher’s blue felt pen.

Although it is now well-known that Brendan Hughes ended the hunger strike unilaterally, without consulting his O/C Bobby Sands, we on the outside finessed the sequence of events for the sake of morale and at a midnight press conference merged the secret arrival of a British government document (promising a more enlightened prison regime: falsely, as it turned out) with the ending of the hunger strike.

It was either that or admit – which to the republican base was inconceivable – that Brendan had ended the strike without getting a thing.

Bobby – who turned out to be right – did not believe the British had any intention of working the unsecured promises contained in the document. But we begged him to put them to the test and that if the administration made things impossible then it could be claimed that the Brits were reneging.

Had the British taken the opportunity to resolve the prison crisis at that juncture history certainly would have been different. Instead, the British crowed victory in their briefings to the press and the prison administration felt smug, unbridled and under no obligation.

This bitter experience was to sear itself in the minds of the prisoners who were determined that there would never be a repeat of that scenario.

Tragically, the stage was set for 1981.

First published on the Danny Morrison website

Adams starved hunger strikers of the truth

Adams starved hunger strikers of the truth
Did the Sinn Fein president prolong the 1981 campaign to improve the party’s electoral prospects?
Richard O’Rawe outlines the case for the prosecution

Belfast Telegraph
Thursday, 30 December 2010

In a recent column in the Belfast Telegraph, Eamonn McCann said of my 1981 hunger strike book, Afterlives: “O’Rawe – perhaps like Ed Moloney – stretches his argument too far in suggesting that Gerry Adams personally drove the decision to keep the (hunger) strike going in order to build Sinn Fein’s support. Personalising the debate around the Sinn Fein president does little to advance understanding of the factors in play.”

This is a reference, I assume, to the suspicion the hunger strike had been kept going to ensure that the republican candidate, Owen Carron, would be elected to replace Bobby Sands as the MP for Fermanagh-South Tyrone (an important step in Sinn Fein’s journey into electoral politics).

At the heart of the matter was a British Government offer to settle the hunger strike which had been made through secret contacts just weeks before the by-election for the Fermanagh-South Tyrone seat.

The fact that the offer was spurned determined the outcome of that election, because the on-going hunger strike motivated angry nationalist voters in the constituency to turn out for Carron and he won the seat.

Just weeks later, Sinn Fein adopted the ‘Armalite and ballot-box’ strategy.

Unfortunately, Eamonn does not say on what basis he reached the conclusion that it was going “too far” to suggest Gerry Adams personally drove the decision to keep the hunger strike going until the by-election.

But, clearly, he thinks I was too hard on the Sinn Fein president.

Was I? What did I write in Afterlives about Gerry Adams’ part in the hunger strike?

  • That Gerry Adams – and not Martin McGuinness, Danny Morrison or anyone else – had been tasked by the IRA Army Council to set up and manage a committee of senior republicans to help out with publicity and to advise the prisoners on a variety of matters.
  • That he was told by the army council that the prisoners were to be the final decision makers in regards to any approaches or offers from the British Government – yet he ignored that edict.
  • That he had been the main negotiator with the British Government when, on July 4 to July 5 1981, their representatives made an offer to settle the hunger strike.
  • That when the prisoners’ leadership accepted that offer, Adams wrote a communique to the prison leadership which effectively overruled their acceptance of the British offer (my then-cellmate confirmed the rejection of this offer “by the outside leadership” in an interview with Eamonn McCann which was published in the Belfast Telegraph on February 27, 2008).
  • That either in his role as the main negotiator, or as the senior republican on the committee, Adams did not tell the army council about this contact with the British Government.
  • That he did not tell the army council the British had made an offer considered to be good enough by the prisoners to end the hunger strike.
  • That he led the army council – and the republican community at large – to believe the opposite of what was actually the case, claiming the prisoners were implacable and would not settle for any less than their five demands, when he knew from the acceptance of the British offer that this was not true.
  • That he met Monsignor Denis Faul and members of hunger strikers’ families on the evening of July 28, 1981, but did not tell them about the British offer.
  • That he did not tell the families the prison leadership had accepted the offer.
  • That he did not tell the IRSP/INLA leadership about the offer (even though two of their members were among the last six hunger strikers to die). That he met the hunger strikers in the Long Kesh hospital on July 29, 1981 and told them “…there was no deal on the table, no movement of any sort…”.
  • That he did not tell the hunger strikers of the British offer at that visit and that, consequently, he deliberately misrepresented the situation to these dying men.

So, am I stretching my argument too far in suggesting Adams personally drove the decision to keep the strike going in order to build Sinn Fein’s support? I don’t think so.

Still, it would be easy enough for Adams to prove me wrong – he could follow my example and agree to participate in a republican inquiry into the hunger strike.

Or he could refute – point by point – what I have written in this article.

But I’d be surprised if he did either.

First published in the Belfast Telegraph

Read between the lines and shine Ghost Light on Gaza

Read between the lines and shine Ghost Light on Gaza
By Eamonn McCann, Belfast Telegraph
Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Nothing beats a book. Other presents might elicit a squeal of delight when the wrapping is removed, or spark an appreciative thought that this could come in handy over the year, maybe. But a good book is a joy to be savoured at leisure. Here, in my personal, eccentric opinion, are five to fit the bill.

Joseph O’Connor’s Ghost Light is a beautiful thing, eloquent, profound, affecting, told in the voice of Molly Allgood, a girl from the Dublin tenements of the early 20th century who becomes an accomplished actress and forms a passionate, unsatisfying attachment to playwright John Synge.

Molly has been virtually ignored in the many accounts of literary Dublin in the period. None of her hundreds of letters to Synge survives.

But O’Connor occupies her mind – or plausibly conveys the impression that he does. The last 10 pages – an imagined letter found after her death in dire poverty in London – is as touching as anything you’ll read.

Gideon Levy is a former Israeli army major whose columns in the Tel Aviv newspaper Ha’aretz I have been reading on the web for years.

He has a huge and heartfelt empathy with the beleaguered people of Palestine and is surely the only Israeli writer who can naturally use the phrase ‘Gaza, my beloved’.

His writing will do your heart good, and break it. The Punishment of Gaza is a collection of his columns.

You won’t find Larry Kirwan’s Rocking the Bronx easily. But ask around: it’s a blast of a book, well worth searching out.

It tells of Sean from Dublin, who travels to New York, “Clash LPs stuffed beneath my oxter, hair oiled back pre-army Elvis”, having divined that “all was not well with my love in America”.

It inhabits a dimension of Irish-America that we rarely hear of, because it doesn’t fit into any approved category.

None Of Us Were Like This Before, by Joshua Phillips, is a tour de force of investigative journalism, based on interviews with men who had tortured detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo and with the victims of the same torture, a journey into darkness at noon in America.

Phillips shows that Abu Ghraib was nothing out of the ordinary, that most torture was perpetrated as a matter of routine for reasons which arose not from any need to dig out information, but because soldiers were bored and angry, frustrated that they hadn’t experienced the sort of exhilarating action they had psyched themselves up for, and assumed – reasonably, Phillips shows – that savaging Iraqis they had in their power was their order of the day.

Dangerous a thought as it might be, what emerges is that, while the suffering of the victims was, of course, overwhelmingly out of proportion to the subsequent pain of some of the perpetrators, torture can inflict wounds on the torturer, too.

A remarkable percentage became addicted to drugs, were hospitalised for depression or committed suicide back home. This is a vivid account of the price of empire, paid for mainly by subjugated peoples, but also on occasion by the poor bloody infantry.

Richard O’Rawe’s Afterlives is the story of reaction to his first book, Blanketman, published in 2005. If you have ever wondered what the phrase ‘spitting nails’ looks like, stand alongside O’Rawe as he encounters a supporter of the Provisional leadership of the hunger-strike era.

His thesis is that the 1981 fast could have been ended on an honourable basis after four deaths, but was allowed by the Belfast IRA leadership, for political reasons, to continue through the deaths of six others.

O’Rawe was the prisoners’ PRO at the time. I interviewed his Long Kesh cellmate for the Telegraph after publication of the book.

Within hours of publication, men from Belfast descended on him to suggest that he deny that he’d said what I quoted him as saying. What they obtained fell far short of repudiation.

O’Rawe – perhaps like Ed Moloney – stretches his argument too far in suggesting that Gerry Adams personally drove the decision to keep the strike going in order to build Sinn Fein’s support. Personalising the debate around the Sinn Fein president does little to advance understanding of the factors in play.

Still, Afterlives sheds harsh light on a murky area and on the cold calculations of some who have since risen high in respectable society. O’Rawe’s story – and O’Rawe himself – are entitled to more serious attention than they have been accorded so far.

So, if there’s someone you have to buy for and can’t for the life of you think what, get them a book.

First published in the Belfast Telegraph


Other year end mentions for Afterlives:

Malachi O’Doherty (59) is writer-in-residence at Queen’s University. He says:

Afterlives by Richard O’ Rawe (Lilliput Press) is the history of the deal that could have ended the hunger strikes in 1981 and is the book no historian of the period will be able to ignore.

O’Rawe makes a contribution to history that is substantially greater than anything we’ve had to date. His style is both forensic and logical and also conversational. He would make a brilliant barrister but also a brilliant journalist.

O’Rawe faces a moral challenge to tell the truth as he sees it while going easy on the men with him in prison. What’s impressive is that generosity coupled with the ruthless pursuit of the argument.”

Martin Lynch (60) is a playwright. He says:

“Tim Parks’ Teach us to Sit Still: A Sceptic’s Search for Health and Healing (Harvill Secker) is a book he wrote about suffering very bad abdominal pain for 10 years that became an amazing bestseller. He’s normally a novelist and he writes it beautifully with literary and artistic references throughout. At one point he says he regards himself as the young boy taught by the senior water-carrier in a famous painting. It’s about vipassana meditation, a method that Parks found in holistic medicine rather than conventional medicine. And he got better, although it hasn’t helped my back yet.

The other book was Richard O’Rawe’s book Afterlives — he’s such a good writer.”

Excerpted from: Chapter and verse on all of those great reads

“LETTER TO PRESS – EVERYONE RECOGNISES THAT, REPUBLICAN P.R.O. H-BLOCKS”

NOTE: This is the comm referred to by Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane in 2010 and Danny Morrison in 2006.

Letter to Press

Letter to Press, click to enlarge

Letter to Press, page 2

Letter to Press, page 2, click to enlarge

Letter to Press, H Block Committee

Letter to Press, H Block Committee, click to enlarge

Letter to Press, H Block Committee

Letter to Press, H Block Committee, page 2, click to enlarge

Letter to Press, H Block Committee

Letter to Press, H Block Committee, page 3, click to enlarge

Letter to Press, H Block Committee

Letter to Press, H Block Committee, last page, click to enlarge

The Public and the Private

The Public and the Private
Anthony McIntyre
The Pensive Quill

Richard O’Rawe has just published a new book. Its title is Afterlives and was launched in Belfast on Thursday evening. Due to last minute ‘ambushes’ I was dragged elsewhere and had to cancel my planned journey north. Much to my regret, because O’Rawe is a battler who has done much to protect free inquiry from book burners and censors. Each time I have tried to phone him since his line has been engaged. I somehow doubt if it was with callers telling him how upset they were at his new work. They would rather paint on walls.

I have still to get a copy but it is being said that Afterlives is a forensic destruction of the argument that that the then republican leadership has no case to answer over its management of the 1981 hunger strike. O’Rawe sets out his stall in relation to the heated debate generated in the wake of his first book Blanketmen. It was there over five years ago that he first publicly vented grave misgivings about the longevity of the strike, expressing the view that with better management six lives need not have been lost. What he said in Blanketmen he had already been saying in private for years. In fact it was through such claims that I ended up meeting him again after a gap of many years. Our paths for long enough simply had not crossed.

Brendan McFarlane the leader of the IRA prisoners during the 1981 hunger strike has reentered the fray against O’Rawe. McFarlane, while not silent on the issue previously, has not been to the fore of the debate to the extent that some might have expected. The prolix of others who have rejected the O’Rawe claims seems not to have done the trick. Turning up the volume and drowning all else out might have made things loud but certainly not clear. So McFarlane has stepped in to the breach to make up the deficit. No easy task given that O’Rawe in the public mind has taken on the persona of writer in residence in the hunger strike debate, his account the incumbent narrative which others must dislodge if they are to make progress of their own. The once dominant Sinn Fein perspective has been rocked and now struggles to stay on its feet and avoid the telling blows that have so far penetrated its guard.

In literary terms O’Rawe’s reversal of fortunes is akin to the Soviet obliteration of the German Operation Barbarossa. Hit by a seemingly unstoppable Blitzkrieg of ill will and hate salvoes from the minute it emerged out of its birth canal, O’Rawe’s challenging account had to withstand a battle a day. But gradually and against the odds, the besieged author carefully pulled his critics onto the punch and delivered body blows that pushed them back well behind their own lines.

It is with much regret that I have followed Brendan McFarlane’s recent contributions including that in today’s Irish News. He does not seem comfortable in the role. Earlier in the week in the Derry Journal he was adding new detail to the narrative which to have any bearing should have seen the light of day much earlier in the debate. Unlike O’Rawe’s revelations, they seem awkward and grafted on, constructed from the perspective of the present rather than as an accurate history of the past.

I have long regarded Brendan McFarlane as a person of immense integrity who led from the front in the violent crucible of the H-Blocks. His task was onerous and unenviable. I feel distinctly uncomfortable about the position this outpouring of critique has placed him in and have said as much to O’Rawe. Yet the chips fall where they do and the evidence lends itself to no conclusion other than that a deal was offered which was accepted by the prisoners. This acceptance was subsequently subverted by the leadership for whatever reason and the hunger strike carried on with the resulting loss of six more lives.

Today Brendan McFarlane revealed communications written by Richard O’Rawe in his capacity as jail PRO. McFarlane claims these show that O’Rawe while in the prison was not of the view that the British had made any substantive offer. But this is old hat, a repeat of the Danny Morrison venture to Dublin a few years ago to search archives for similar communications. Morrison returned to Belfast and revealed that what he had discovered in Dublin was … Dublin. Few took the Morrison ‘comms’ disclosure seriously, intuitively knowing that the public positions of the day were not what people believed privately. How otherwise could the ‘victory’ parade presumably organised by Morrison and others in the wake of the vanquished 1980 hunger strike have gone ahead? The organisers knew privately that no victory had been achieved but publicly ran with the victory parade anyway.

Brendan McFarlane is an important witness to history. He could do worse than take stock of his situation and render a version of events that, even if at odds with the interpretation of Richard O’Rawe, at least sounds credible. The current narrative he is defending is, as William Sydney Porter might have said, ‘beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.’

Sourced from The Pensive Quill

Former IRA prison leader releases O’Rawe ‘comms’

Brendan "Bik" McFarlane

Former IRA prison leader releases O’Rawe ‘comms’
by Barry McCaffrey
Irish News
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

Comms/Press Release

NOTE: These ‘comms’/press statements were previously referred to by Danny Morrison in 2006

Interview with Bik McFarlane, Derry Journal

Commemoration event in Sandinos tomorrow night
Derry Journal
Published Date: 26 October 2010
By Staff reporter

The 30th anniversary of the first Long Kesh hunger strike will be marked in Derry tomorrow night at an event involving one of the key participants and the man who led the 1981 protest.

Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney spent 53 days on hunger strike from October 1980 to January 1981 along with six other republican prisoners.

Bobby Sands began a second hunger strike in March 1981 and handed over command of the IRA prisoners to Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane.

Mr McFarlane, now a key figure in Sinn Féin in Belfast, will be speaking in Sandino’s Bar, Water Street, tomorrow night alongside Mr McCartney and Mary Doyle, who took part in the 1980 hunger strike in Armagh.

Speaking ahead of the event, Mr McFarlane described the hunger strike period as one of the most important in recent Irish history and compared its impact to the Easter Rising of 1916.

Brendan "Bik" McFarlane

“It was a watershed in our struggle,” he told the ‘Journal’. “It was hugely important and comparable to 1916. My ten comrades who died on hunger strike are comparable to the men who went into the GPO in terms of their influence and place in republican history,” he said.

The former H-Block OC said it was important to remember the period and to explain it to a new generation.

“The political ramifications of that are still being felt and have led us to where we are today. The foundation stone was laid for the development and enhancement of republican politics,” he said.

Mr McFarlane said he believes young people should learn more about the hunger strike period. “It is crucial that people focus on it. This was 30 years ago but, for many people, particularly the hunger strikers’ families, this is not history. It is as fresh in their memories as last week.

“When I look at it now, the age of those involved is remarkable. Joe McDonnell was the eldest by far and he was 30 years-old. The prisoners from Derry always seemed to me to be the youngest. I myself was in my 20s. But the common sense and selflessness of those hunger strikers was massive. They had fierce dedication and commitment,” he explained.

Mr McFarlane also rejected claims from some quarters that the lives of a number of the hunger strikers could have been saved and that a possible deal was rejected by the IRA leadership. “Quite frankly, it is absolute nonsense. There was no secret deal. I was there and it simply did not occur. There is not one shred of evidence,” he said.

Despite the importance of the hunger strikes, Mr McFarlane said his main memories of the period are of the loss of friends. “I remember all the lads but I have an abiding memory of Joe McDonnell at the time the back channel was opened through Derry. He grabbed my arms and told me there was not enough on offer and said, ‘don’t you sell us short.’ I think about that every day,” he said.

The hunger strike commemoration will take place upstairs in Sandino’s Cafe Bar, Water Street, tomorrow night at 8 pm.

Sourced from the Derry Journal

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


There's an inner thing in every man,
Do you know this thing my friend? It has withstood the blows of a million years, and will do so to the end.