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.”

 

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***



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

 

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

 

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

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

“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

Joe McDonnell’s Death: Expanded Timeline 29 June – 12 July 1981

UPDATED 25 Nov 2011 – Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes added; quote from John Blelloch
UPDATED 11 July 2009 – Excerpts from Biting at the Grave added

Merged Timeline – Joe McDonnell’s death

Please note this timeline is by no means definitive and is subject to revision as more sources are added and/or more evidence and information comes to light. This timeline is a verbatim compilation of various sources in a chronological order and is open to interpretation.

Sources: Danny Morrison, Garret Fitzgerald, Brendan Duddy, John Blelloch, British Government documents, Ten Men Dead, Before the Dawn, Biting at the Grave, INLA Deadly Divisions, Blanketmen, Irish News, Belfast Telegraph, eyewitness accounts.

KEY:

DM = Danny Morrison

GF = Garret Fitzgerald

Other sources are noted in text.

29 June

DM: Four hunger strikers have already died – Bobby Sands on day 66, Francis Hughes on day 59, Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O’Hara on day 61 of their hunger strike.

DM: Joe McDonnell is on day 52 without food. Secretary of State, Humphrey Atkins reaffirms that political status will not be granted and that implementing changes in the areas of work, clothing and association present ‘great difficulty’ and would only encourage the prisoners to believe that they could achieve status through “the so-called ‘five demands’”.

30 June

GF: “The IRA reaction, allegedly on behalf of the prisoners, had been to describe this response as ‘arrogant’. Nevertheless the Commission for Justice and Peace saw the British statement as encouraging – as did we – and sought further clarification. Our information from the prison was that, despite the IRA statement purporting to speak for them, the prisoners wanted the commission to continue its involvement. We were also aware that the relatives of the prisoners on hunger strike were becoming increasingly restive at the IRA’s intransigent approach.”

1 July

GF: “On 1 July Michael O’Leary and I communicated our view on these points to the British Ambassador and urged that the NIO meet the commission again and allow the commission to meet the prisoners. We also warned against any policy of brinkmanship, which – especially in the view of the nearness to death of one hunger striker, Joe McDonnell – could harden attitudes, including in particular the attitudes of the relatives, who had the power to influence developments. That night I rang Margaret Thatcher to make these points directly to her.”

3 July

DM: Irish Commission for Justice and Peace [ICJP] has eight-hour meeting with Michael Alison, prisons minister.

GF: Garret Fitzgerald meets with relatives of the prisoners/hunger strikers:

“This meeting on 3 July was, as I had expected, intensely distressing, but it enabled me to see for myself that while there were those among them who took a straight IRA line, most of them were indeed primarily concerned to end the hunger strike.”

4 July

DM: ICJP again meets Alison who gives its representatives permission to meet the eight hunger strikers in prison hospital. They are shocked at the condition of Joe McDonnell. Prisoners later issue statement saying British government could settle the hunger strike without any departure from ‘principle’ by extending prison reforms to the entire prison population. ICJP tells prisoners’ families that they are ‘hopeful’ but that prisoners deeply distrust the authorities.

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

GF: “The Minister of State at the NIO, Michael Allison, met the commission again. He gave the impression that he wanted to be more conciliatory, but referred to ‘the lady behind the veil’, namely the Prime Minister. As we had proposed, he cleared a visit by the Commission for Justice and Peace to the prisoners, who then issued a statement that, as we had thought likely, was much more conciliatory than the one published by the IRA on their behalf three days earlier. They said they were not looking for any special privileges as against other prisoners, and that the British government could meet their requirements without any sacrifice of principle. It looked as if the commission would now be able to resolve the dispute with Michael Allison, who seemed close to accepting their proposals.”

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.”

Padraig O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, pg 90-92: “Both sides met again on 4 July for what the Commission members felt was a pro-forma exercise. Within minutes of the meeting’s beginning, however, Alison did a complete about-face. If the hunger strikes were to end, he told the Commission, the government would not appear to be acting under duress, in which case all prisoners would be allowed to wear their own clothes. Own clothing as a right, not a privilege, Hugh Logue asked. Own clothing as a right, Alison replied.”

“After the meeting with Alison the Commission was given permission to go immediately to the Maze/Long Kesh prison. When they arrived, they were brought to the hospital wing […] The eight hunger strikers sat on one side of a table on which jugs of water had been placed; the five commissioners sat opposite them.”

“For the next two hours the two sides went over the proposals the Commission had hammered out with Alison and which it now thought were on offer. Prisoners would be allowed to wear their own clothes at all times as a matter of right, not privilege; association would be improved by allowing movement by all prisoners during daily exercise time between the yard blocks of every two adjacent wings within each block and between the recreation rooms of the two adjacent wings in each block during the daily recreational period; the definition of work would be expanded to ensure every prisoner the widest choice of activities – for example, prisoners with levels of expertise in crafts of the arts could teach these skills to other prisoners as part of their work schedules, prisoners would be allowed to perform work for a range of charitable or voluntary bodies, and such work could even include the building of a church “or equivalent facilities for religious worship within the prison”.”

5 July

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.

Padraig O’Malley, Biting 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. McFarlane meets hunger strikers.

DM: 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].

Padraig O’Malley, Biting 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.

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.

DM: 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’Malley, Biting 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.”

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.”

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.”

6 July

Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes:

The S.S. [Shop Stewards/Adams Committee] fully accept the posal — as stated by the Union MemBship [The Workers/Prison Leadership]
And that is the only Basis for a successful draft proposal by the Management. [British/Thatcher]
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’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.”

DM: 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.

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: “Members of the commission, furious at this development, then met Allison and four of his officials. They asked him if he had been in communication with the hunger strikers or with those with authority over them. He said that no member of his office had been in contact, and, when pressed, repeated this line. They then discussed the Commission’s own proposals.”

GF: “When the commission contacted us immediately after this meeting, they told us nothing about the London contact with Adams and Morrison – understandably, given that this was a telephone call – which in any event still did not loom large in their eyes at that point beside the agreement they believed they had reached, which indeed seemed to them to have settled the dispute and to be about to end the hunger strike.”

GF: “The commission had produced to Allison the statement on which they had been working, which they described as ‘a true summary of the essential points of prison reform that had emerged.’ They told Allison that this statement was considered by the hunger strikers to be ‘the formation [sic] of a resolution of the hunger strike,’ provided that they received ‘satisfactory clarification of detail and confirmation by an NIO official to the prisoners personally of the commitment of the British Government to act according to the spirit and the letter’ of the statement.”

GF: “Although there was a difference of opinion on whether certain of the concessions were ‘illustrative’ or not, this does not seem to have been a problem for the British at the time, since Allison went out to make a phone call and then came back to say that he had approval. He proposed that an NIO official would see the prisoners with the governor by mid-morning the following day, Tuesday. When we received this information Demot Nally phoned the British Ambassador to urge that this confirmatory visit take place as soon as possible.”

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.”

Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes:

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

7 July

DM: Republican monitors await response from Mountain Climber.

DM: 11.40am: Bishop O’Mahoney [ICJP] telephones Alison asking where the guarantor is. Alison suggests he and the ICJP have another meeting. O’Mahoney tells him he is shocked, dismayed and amazed that the government should be continuing with its game of brinkmanship. He says: “I beg you to get someone into prison and get things started.”

DM: 12.18pm: ICJP decides to hold 1pm press conference outlining what had been agreed by the government and explain how the British had failed to honour it.

DM: 12.55pm: NIO phones ICJP and says that an official would meet the hunger strikers that afternoon.

DM: 1pm: ICJP calls off its press conference.

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.”

Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes:

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.

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.”

GF: “Meanwhile the commission had spent an agonising day, for while London had been negotiating with the IRA, Allison and the NIO had prevaricated about the prison visit, repeatedly promising that the official was about to go to the prison.”

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

Padraig O’Malley: Biting 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.”

DM: 5.55pm: ICJP phones Alison and expresses concern that no official has gone in.

DM: 7.15pm: ICJP phones Alison and again expresses concern.

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: 8.50pm: NIO tells ICJP that the official will be going in shortly.

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’Malley, Biting 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…”

8 July

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 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.”

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. We had believed that the IRA had been in effect bypassed by the commission’s direct contact with the prisoners at the weekend, which we had helped to arrange.”

DM: ICJP holds press conference and condemns British government and NIO for failing to honour undertaking and for “clawing back” concessions.

GF: “That afternoon the Commission for Justice and Peace issued a statement setting out the discussions they had had with Allison leading to the agreement reached on Monday evening. I then issued a statement recalling that I had repeatedly said that a solution could be reached through a flexibility of approach that need not sacrifice any principle. While the onus to show this flexibility rested with both sides, the greater responsibility must, as always, rest on those with the greater power.”

10 July

DM: ICJP leaves Belfast.

10pm comm to Brownie from Bik:

“…No one will be talking to them [ICJP] unless I am present and then it will only be to tell them to skit OK. More than likely you lot have already done a fair job on them this evening. Sincerely hope so anyway. If we can render them ineffective now, then we leave the way clear for a direct approach without all the ballsing about. The reason we didn’t skite them in the first instance was because I was afraid of coming across as inflexible or even intransigent. Our softly softly approach with them has left the impression that we were taking their proposals as a settlement. I’m sorry not I didn’t tell them to go and get stuffed.”

Comm to An Bean Uasal from Bik, Fri. 10.7.81

“Comrade, got your comm today alright. Find here a statement attacking ICJP as requested.”

12 July

Comm to Brownie from Bik

“…Talking to Pat [McGeown] this morning and he reckons we should not have cut out the Commission. I explained the crack in full, but he’s one for covering all exits no matter what the score is. Just thought I’d mention that, OK?…”

GF: “I have given a full account of these events (some of them unknown to us at the time they took place) because in retrospect I think that the shock of learning that a solution seemed to have been sabotaged by yet another and, as it seemed to us, astonishingly ham-fisted approach on behalf of the British government to the IRA influenced the extent and intensity of the efforts I deployed in the weeks that followed, in the hope – vain, as it turned out – of bringing that government back to the point it had apparently reached on Monday 6 July.”

Sourced from:
Danny Morrison, Timeline: 2006 & 2009
Garret Fitzgerald, Excerpt from autobiography, All in a Life, 1991, pages 367-371
Brendan Duddy, Mountain Climber notes
Freedom of Information documents, Sunday Times website
Gerry Adams, Excerpt from autobiograpy, Before the Dawn, 1996, page 299
Padraig O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, 1990, page 90-98; interview with John Blelloch, 1986
Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA, Deadly Divisions, 1994, page 179
Richard O’Rawe, Blanketmen, 2005, page 284
David Beresford, comms from Ten Men Dead
Brian Rowan, interview with Brendan “Bik” McFarlane, 4 June, 2009
Steven McCaffrey, Irish News, Former comrades’ war of words over hunger strike, 12 March 2005

Timeline: 8-12 July 1981

UPDATED 25 Nov 2011 – Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes added; quote from John Blelloch
UPDATED 11 July 2009 – Excerpts from Biting at the Grave added

Merged Timeline – Joe McDonnell’s death

Please note this timeline is by no means definitive and is subject to revision as more sources are added and/or more evidence and information comes to light. This timeline is a verbatim compilation of various sources in a chronological order and is open to interpretation.

Sources: Danny Morrison, Garret Fitzgerald, Brendan Duddy, John Blelloch, British Government documents, Ten Men Dead, Before the Dawn, Biting at the Grave, INLA Deadly Divisions, Blanketmen, Irish News, Belfast Telegraph, eyewitness accounts.

KEY:

DM = Danny Morrison

GF = Garret Fitzgerald

Other sources are noted in text.

8 July

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 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.”

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. We had believed that the IRA had been in effect bypassed by the commission’s direct contact with the prisoners at the weekend, which we had helped to arrange.”

DM: ICJP holds press conference and condemns British government and NIO for failing to honour undertaking and for “clawing back” concessions.

GF: “That afternoon the Commission for Justice and Peace issued a statement setting out the discussions they had had with Allison leading to the agreement reached on Monday evening. I then issued a statement recalling that I had repeatedly said that a solution could be reached through a flexibility of approach that need not sacrifice any principle. While the onus to show this flexibility rested with both sides, the greater responsibility must, as always, rest on those with the greater power.”

10 July

DM: ICJP leaves Belfast.

10pm comm to Brownie from Bik:

“…No one will be talking to them [ICJP] unless I am present and then it will only be to tell them to skit OK. More than likely you lot have already done a fair job on them this evening. Sincerely hope so anyway. If we can render them ineffective now, then we leave the way clear for a direct approach without all the ballsing about. The reason we didn’t skite them in the first instance was because I was afraid of coming across as inflexible or even intransigent. Our softly softly approach with them has left the impression that we were taking their proposals as a settlement. I’m sorry not I didn’t tell them to go and get stuffed.”

Comm to An Bean Uasal from Bik, Fri. 10.7.81

“Comrade, got your comm today alright. Find here a statement attacking ICJP as requested.”

12 July

Comm to Brownie from Bik

“…Talking to Pat [McGeown] this morning and he reckons we should not have cut out the Commission. I explained the crack in full, but he’s one for covering all exits no matter what the score is. Just thought I’d mention that, OK?…”

GF: “I have given a full account of these events (some of them unknown to us at the time they took place) because in retrospect I think that the shock of learning that a solution seemed to have been sabotaged by yet another and, as it seemed to us, astonishingly ham-fisted approach on behalf of the British government to the IRA influenced the extent and intensity of the efforts I deployed in the weeks that followed, in the hope – vain, as it turned out – of bringing that government back to the point it had apparently reached on Monday 6 July.”

Previous: 7 July 1981

Sourced from:
Danny Morrison, Timeline: 2006 & 2009
Garret Fitzgerald, Excerpt from autobiography, All in a Life, 1991, pages 367-371
Brendan Duddy, Mountain Climber notes
Freedom of Information documents, Sunday Times website
Gerry Adams, Excerpt from autobiograpy, Before the Dawn, 1996, page 299
Padraig O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, 1990, page 90-98; interview with John Blelloch, 1986
Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA, Deadly Divisions, 1994, page 179
Richard O’Rawe, Blanketmen, 2005, page 284
David Beresford, comms from Ten Men Dead
Brian Rowan, interview with Brendan “Bik” McFarlane, 4 June, 2009
Steven McCaffrey, Irish News, Former comrades’ war of words over hunger strike, 12 March 2005

Timeline: 7 July 1981

UPDATED 25 Nov 2011 – Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes added
UPDATED 11 July 2009 – Excerpts from Biting at the Grave added

Merged Timeline – Joe McDonnell’s death

Please note this timeline is by no means definitive and is subject to revision as more sources are added and/or more evidence and information comes to light. This timeline is a verbatim compilation of various sources in a chronological order and is open to interpretation.

Sources: Danny Morrison, Garret Fitzgerald, Brendan Duddy, John Blelloch, British Government documents, Ten Men Dead, Before the Dawn, Biting at the Grave, INLA Deadly Divisions, Blanketmen, Irish News, Belfast Telegraph, eyewitness accounts.

KEY:

DM = Danny Morrison

GF = Garret Fitzgerald

Other sources are noted in text.

7 July

DM: Republican monitors await response from Mountain Climber.

DM: 11.40am: Bishop O’Mahoney [ICJP] telephones Alison asking where the guarantor is. Alison suggests he and the ICJP have another meeting. O’Mahoney tells him he is shocked, dismayed and amazed that the government should be continuing with its game of brinkmanship. He says: “I beg you to get someone into prison and get things started.”

DM: 12.18pm: ICJP decides to hold 1pm press conference outlining what had been agreed by the government and explain how the British had failed to honour it.

DM: 12.55pm: NIO phones ICJP and says that an official would meet the hunger strikers that afternoon.

DM: 1pm: ICJP calls off its press conference.

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.”

Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes:

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.

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.”

GF: “Meanwhile the commission had spent an agonising day, for while London had been negotiating with the IRA, Allison and the NIO had prevaricated about the prison visit, repeatedly promising that the official was about to go to the prison.”

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

Padraig O’Malley: Biting 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.”

DM: 5.55pm: ICJP phones Alison and expresses concern that no official has gone in.

DM: 7.15pm: ICJP phones Alison and again expresses concern.

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: 8.50pm: NIO tells ICJP that the official will be going in shortly.

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’Malley, Biting 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…”

Next: 8-12 July 1981
Previous: 6 July 1981

Sourced from:
Danny Morrison, Timeline: 2006 & 2009
Garret Fitzgerald, Excerpt from autobiography, All in a Life, 1991, pages 367-371
Brendan Duddy, Mountain Climber notes
Freedom of Information documents, Sunday Times website
Gerry Adams, Excerpt from autobiograpy, Before the Dawn, 1996, page 299
Padraig O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, 1990, page 90-98; interview with John Blelloch, 1986
Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA, Deadly Divisions, 1994, page 179
Richard O’Rawe, Blanketmen, 2005, page 284
David Beresford, comms from Ten Men Dead
Brian Rowan, interview with Brendan “Bik” McFarlane, 4 June, 2009
Steven McCaffrey, Irish News, Former comrades’ war of words over hunger strike, 12 March 2005

Timeline: 6 July 1981

UPDATED 25 Nov 2011 – Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes added
UPDATED 11 July 2009 – Excerpts from Biting at the Grave added

Merged Timeline – Joe McDonnell’s death

Please note this timeline is by no means definitive and is subject to revision as more sources are added and/or more evidence and information comes to light. This timeline is a verbatim compilation of various sources in a chronological order and is open to interpretation.

Sources: Danny Morrison, Garret Fitzgerald, British Government documents, Ten Men Dead, Before the Dawn, Biting at the Grave, INLA Deadly Divisions, Blanketmen, Irish News, Belfast Telegraph, eyewitness accounts.

KEY:

DM = Danny Morrison

GF = Garret Fitzgerald

Other sources are noted in text.

6 July

Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes:

The S.S. [Shop Stewards/Adams Committee] fully accept the posal — as stated by the Union MemBship [The Workers/Prison Leadership]
And that is the only Basis for a successful draft proposal by the Management. [British/Thatcher]
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’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.”

DM: 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.

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: “Members of the commission, furious at this development, then met Allison and four of his officials. They asked him if he had been in communication with the hunger strikers or with those with authority over them. He said that no member of his office had been in contact, and, when pressed, repeated this line. They then discussed the Commission’s own proposals.”

GF: “When the commission contacted us immediately after this meeting, they told us nothing about the London contact with Adams and Morrison – understandably, given that this was a telephone call – which in any event still did not loom large in their eyes at that point beside the agreement they believed they had reached, which indeed seemed to them to have settled the dispute and to be about to end the hunger strike.”

GF: “The commission had produced to Allison the statement on which they had been working, which they described as ‘a true summary of the essential points of prison reform that had emerged.’ They told Allison that this statement was considered by the hunger strikers to be ‘the formation [sic] of a resolution of the hunger strike,’ provided that they received ‘satisfactory clarification of detail and confirmation by an NIO official to the prisoners personally of the commitment of the British Government to act according to the spirit and the letter’ of the statement.”

GF: “Although there was a difference of opinion on whether certain of the concessions were ‘illustrative’ or not, this does not seem to have been a problem for the British at the time, since Allison went out to make a phone call and then came back to say that he had approval. He proposed that an NIO official would see the prisoners with the governor by mid-morning the following day, Tuesday. When we received this information Demot Nally phoned the British Ambassador to urge that this confirmatory visit take place as soon as possible.”

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.”

Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes:

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

Next: 7 July 1981
Previous: 5 July 1981

Sourced from:
Danny Morrison, Timeline: 2006 & 2009
Garret Fitzgerald, Excerpt from autobiography, All in a Life, 1991, pages 367-371
Brendan Duddy, Mountain Climber notes
Freedom of Information documents, Sunday Times website
Gerry Adams, Excerpt from autobiograpy, Before the Dawn, 1996, page 299
Padraig O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, 1990, page 90-98; interview with John Blelloch, 1986
Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA, Deadly Divisions, 1994, page 179
Richard O’Rawe, Blanketmen, 2005, page 284
David Beresford, comms from Ten Men Dead
Brian Rowan, interview with Brendan “Bik” McFarlane, 4 June, 2009
Steven McCaffrey, Irish News, Former comrades’ war of words over hunger strike, 12 March 2005

Timeline: 5 July 1981

UPDATED 25 Nov 2011 – Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes added
UPDATED 11 July 2009 – Excerpts from Biting at the Grave added

Merged Timeline – Joe McDonnell’s death

Please note this timeline is by no means definitive and is subject to revision as more sources are added and/or more evidence and information comes to light. This timeline is a verbatim compilation of various sources in a chronological order and is open to interpretation.

Sources: Danny Morrison, Garret Fitzgerald, Brendan Duddy, John Blelloch, British Government documents, Ten Men Dead, Before the Dawn, Biting at the Grave, INLA Deadly Divisions, Blanketmen, Irish News, Belfast Telegraph, eyewitness accounts.

KEY:

DM = Danny Morrison

GF = Garret Fitzgerald

Other sources are noted in text.

5 July

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.

Padraig O’Malley, Biting 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. McFarlane meets hunger strikers.

DM: 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].

Padraig O’Malley, Biting 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.

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.

DM: 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’Malley, Biting 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.”

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. ”

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.”

Next: 6 July 1981
Previous:29 June – 4 July 1981

Sourced from:
Danny Morrison, Timeline: 2006 & 2009
Garret Fitzgerald, Excerpt from autobiography, All in a Life, 1991, pages 367-371
Brendan Duddy, Mountain Climber notes
Freedom of Information documents, Sunday Times website
Gerry Adams, Excerpt from autobiograpy, Before the Dawn, 1996, page 299
Padraig O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, 1990, page 90-98; interview with John Blelloch, 1986
Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA, Deadly Divisions, 1994, page 179
Richard O’Rawe, Blanketmen, 2005, page 284
David Beresford, comms from Ten Men Dead
Brian Rowan, interview with Brendan “Bik” McFarlane, 4 June, 2009
Steven McCaffrey, Irish News, Former comrades’ war of words over hunger strike, 12 March 2005

Timeline: 29 June – 4 July 1981

UPDATED 11 July 2009 – Excerpts from Biting at the Grave added

Merged Timeline – Joe McDonnell’s death

Please note this timeline is by no means definitive and is subject to revision as more sources are added and/or more evidence and information comes to light. This timeline is a verbatim compilation of various sources in a chronological order and is open to interpretation.

Sources: Danny Morrison, Garret Fitzgerald, British Government documents, Ten Men Dead, Before the Dawn, Biting at the Grave, INLA Deadly Divisions, Blanketmen, Irish News, Belfast Telegraph, eyewitness accounts.

KEY:

DM = Danny Morrison

GF = Garret Fitzgerald

Other sources are noted in text.

29 June

DM: Four hunger strikers have already died – Bobby Sands on day 66, Francis Hughes on day 59, Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O’Hara on day 61 of their hunger strike.

DM: Joe McDonnell is on day 52 without food. Secretary of State, Humphrey Atkins reaffirms that political status will not be granted and that implementing changes in the areas of work, clothing and association present ‘great difficulty’ and would only encourage the prisoners to believe that they could achieve status through “the so-called ‘five demands’”.

30 June

GF: “The IRA reaction, allegedly on behalf of the prisoners, had been to describe this response as ‘arrogant’. Nevertheless the Commission for Justice and Peace saw the British statement as encouraging – as did we – and sought further clarification. Our information from the prison was that, despite the IRA statement purporting to speak for them, the prisoners wanted the commission to continue its involvement. We were also aware that the relatives of the prisoners on hunger strike were becoming increasingly restive at the IRA’s intransigent approach.”

1 July

GF: “On 1 July Michael O’Leary and I communicated our view on these points to the British Ambassador and urged that the NIO meet the commission again and allow the commission to meet the prisoners. We also warned against any policy of brinkmanship, which – especially in the view of the nearness to death of one hunger striker, Joe McDonnell – could harden attitudes, including in particular the attitudes of the relatives, who had the power to influence developments. That night I rang Margaret Thatcher to make these points directly to her.”

3 July

DM: Irish Commission for Justice and Peace [ICJP] has eight-hour meeting with Michael Alison, prisons minister.

GF: Garret Fitzgerald meets with relatives of the prisoners/hunger strikers:

“This meeting on 3 July was, as I had expected, intensely distressing, but it enabled me to see for myself that while there were those among them who took a straight IRA line, most of them were indeed primarily concerned to end the hunger strike.”

4 July

DM: ICJP again meets Alison who gives its representatives permission to meet the eight hunger strikers in prison hospital. They are shocked at the condition of Joe McDonnell. Prisoners later issue statement saying British government could settle the hunger strike without any departure from ‘principle’ by extending prison reforms to the entire prison population. ICJP tells prisoners’ families that they are ‘hopeful’ but that prisoners deeply distrust the authorities.

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

GF: “The Minister of State at the NIO, Michael Allison, met the commission again. He gave the impression that he wanted to be more conciliatory, but referred to ‘the lady behind the veil’, namely the Prime Minister. As we had proposed, he cleared a visit by the Commission for Justice and Peace to the prisoners, who then issued a statement that, as we had thought likely, was much more conciliatory than the one published by the IRA on their behalf three days earlier. They said they were not looking for any special privileges as against other prisoners, and that the British government could meet their requirements without any sacrifice of principle. It looked as if the commission would now be able to resolve the dispute with Michael Allison, who seemed close to accepting their proposals.”

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.”

Padraig O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, pg 90-92: “Both sides met again on 4 July for what the Commission members felt was a pro-forma exercise. Within minutes of the meeting’s beginning, however, Alison did a complete about-face. If the hunger strikes were to end, he told the Commission, the government would not appear to be acting under duress, in which case all prisoners would be allowed to wear their own clothes. Own clothing as a right, not a privilege, Hugh Logue asked. Own clothing as a right, Alison replied.”

“After the meeting with Alison the Commission was given permission to go immediately to the Maze/Long Kesh prison. When they arrived, they were brought to the hospital wing […] The eight hunger strikers sat on one side of a table on which jugs of water had been placed; the five commissioners sat opposite them.”

“For the next two hours the two sides went over the proposals the Commission had hammered out with Alison and which it now thought were on offer. Prisoners would be allowed to wear their own clothes at all times as a matter of right, not privilege; association would be improved by allowing movement by all prisoners during daily exercise time between the yard blocks of every two adjacent wings within each block and between the recreation rooms of the two adjacent wings in each block during the daily recreational period; the definition of work would be expanded to ensure every prisoner the widest choice of activities – for example, prisoners with levels of expertise in crafts of the arts could teach these skills to other prisoners as part of their work schedules, prisoners would be allowed to perform work for a range of charitable or voluntary bodies, and such work could even include the building of a church “or equivalent facilities for religious worship within the prison”.”

Next: 5 July 1981

Sourced from:
Danny Morrison, Timeline: 2006 & 2009
Garret Fitzgerald, Excerpt from autobiography, All in a Life, 1991, pages 367-371
Freedom of Information documents, Sunday Times website
Gerry Adams, Excerpt from autobiograpy, Before the Dawn, 1996, page 299
Padraig O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, 1990, page 90-98
Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA, Deadly Divisions, 1994, page 179
Richard O’Rawe, Blanketmen, 2005, page 284
David Beresford, comms from Ten Men Dead
Brian Rowan, interview with Brendan “Bik” McFarlane, 4 June, 2009
Steven McCaffrey, Irish News, Former comrades’ war of words over hunger strike, 12 March 2005

1981: 5th IRA Hunger Striker Dies Before Settlement Reached

July 8, 1981, Wednesday, Final Edition

5th IRA Hunger Striker Dies Before Settlement Reached
BYLINE: By Leonard Downie, Jr., Washington Post Foreign Service
DATELINE: LONDON, July 8, 1981 (Wednesday)

Convicted Irish Republican Army terrorist Joe McDonnell died this morning after refusing food for 61 days after it appeared that mediators were near achieving a settlement to stop the four-month-old hunger strike that has now claimed five lives.

Britain’s Northern Ireland Office announced the death in a terse statement that said McDonnell, 30, “took his own life by refusing food and medical attention for 61 days” at 5:11 a.m. (12:11 a.m. EDT). The announcement came more than two hours after McDonnell’s death.

McDonnell, who is survived by a wife and two children, was serving a 14-year sentence for illegal weapons possession.

The death came after sources close to negotiations to end the protest by IRA prisoners in British-ruled Northern Ireland said the British government had decided to send an official into the Maze Prison outside Belfast to read a statement outlining changes the government has agreed to make in the prison regime.

This appeared to break a deadlock over which side would move first to implement a settlement worked out by the five mediators from the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace of the Roman Catholic Church in the Republic of Ireland to the south of Ulster.

The British official still had not gone into the Maze when McDonnell’s death was announced, and it was not unclear why not. In a statement to reporters shortly before midnight last night, the chairman of the Irish church commission, Brian Gallagher, said that the settlement was a race against time with McDonnell near death.

The prisoners had insisted that an official appear in the prison to guarantee that the government would make the promised changes in prison conditions. Government officials had said yesterday that nothing more could be done until the prisoners first ended their fast.

This sticking point, according to sources, had prevented the mediators from making a statement of their own this afternoon in Belfast outlining what the government had proposed, and the prisoners were reported to have accepted. The dispute over whether or not a government official would go into the Maze to talk to the prisoners followed a final meeting between the mediators and government officials in Belfast Monday night.

British sources confirmed yesterday that at the four-hour meeting the mediators presented a draft statement for settling the hunger strike to the British officials, headed by Michael Allison, the minister in charge of prisons in Northern Ireland.

British officials have contended that the prisoners could trust the government to make the discussed changes because it has carried out numerous other steps to liberalize the prison regime in Northern Ireland during the last two years. Only continuation of the hunger strike, British sources said, was stopping the government from beginning immediately to make more improvements.

Sources said the proposed changes include allowing prisoners to wear their own clothes at all times, to visit each other during leisure hours for longer periods in larger numbers, and to substitute education programs, vocational training projects, handiwork for charity and construction of additional prison facilities for traditional industrial prison work. Prisoners ending their protest also would be eligible for expanded mail and visitor privileges and restoration of some of the lost time off for good behavior, according to the sources.

These proposals have been generally accepted by the hunger strikers, the more than 400 other convicted nationalist terrorists in the Maze and other militants, sources said.

1981: British and IRA Prisoners Appear Ready To Move Toward Agreement

July 5, 1981, Sunday, Final Edition

Break Seen In Ulster Jail Crisis;
British and Ira Prisoners Appear Ready To Move Toward Agreement;

British, Prisoners Modify Conditions For Settling Dispute
BYLINE: By Leonard Downie Jr., Washington Post Foreign Service
DATELINE: LONDON, July 4, 1981

Both the British government and imprisoned Irish nationalist hunger strikers in British-ruled Northern Ireland appeared ready today to give ground in their impasse over prison rules in an effort to head off further starvation deaths among inmates.

A Roman Catholic group in the Republic of Ireland, the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, met with British officials and the hunger strikers amid signs that both sides had modified their positions in response to the commission’s intervention. The commission is a group of clergy and lay people affiliated with the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

British officials said the government is willing to make further modifications in prison conditions in Northern Ireland if the hunger strike is ended. They suggested the European Human Rights Commission as an arbitrator of prisoners’ complaints.

A statement made on behalf of the prisoners, markedly more consiliatory than earlier statements, said that there is no need for either side to lose a point of principle and that there is still plenty of room for maneuver.

The statement reiterated the prisoners’ original five demands, but dropped language in previous statements also demanding treatment as political rather than criminal prisoners. Instead, the statement said the prisoners were seeking changes for all prisoners in Northern Ireland.

Time is running short, however. After an interval of six weeks since the deaths of the first four hunger strikers, Joe McDonnell, 30, a member of the outlawed Provisional Irish Republican Army serving a 14-year sentence for illegal possession of arms, lies near death after refusing food for 57 days. He is reported to be having extreme difficulty hearing and seeing. He was given last rites of the Catholic Church Thursday.

Seven other hunger strikers are expected to die at one- or two-week intervals in the next two months if the protest does not end.

Until recent days, there had been little sign of movement away from the longstanding deadlock between the demands of convicted Irish nationalist terrorists in Northern Ireland for changes in prison conditions, including their insistence that they be treated as political prisoners, and the refusal by the British government to grant them that status or give up any of its control of the prison.

British sources said Michael Allison, a government minister responsible for Northern Ireland, told members of the Irish church commission today that the government still would not negotiate with the prisoners and must remain in control of the prison regime.

But the sources also emphasized the government’s willingness to make some changes, particularly if suggested by the European Human Rights Commission, if the prisoners end their hunger strike.

“We are not left with a great deal of room for maneuver,” said one source, “but we wish to get it settled.”

Some of the hunger strikers and their relatives also have been reported to be more receptive to compromise now, although suspicious of promises. A bigger question is the attitude of leaders of other convicted Irish nationalist terrorists inside the prison and their supporters outside, who have remained publicly hostile to settlement for anything less than the prisoners’ original demands.

Efforts to reach a settlement, begun by suggestions for compromise by the Irish church commission last month, intensified with a day-long meeting yesterday between commission members and British officials headed by Allison at Hillsborough Castle, three miles from the Maze Prison outside Belfast where relatives, priests, lawyers and representatives of the commission have been in contact with the hunger strikers.

At the same time, relatives of the hunger strikers met for three hours in Dublin with the new Irish prime minister, Garret FitzGerald, who also consulted on the problem with both the Irish church commission and the British ambassador to Ireland. The commission then met with British officials and the hunger strikers today.

The five specific demands made by the prisoners are that they be allowed to wear their own clothes at all times, be exempted from required prison work, be allowed to associate freely with other prisoners, receive more mail and visitors, and regain the time off for good behavior that they have lost during their protest.

The Irish church commission suggested publicly last month that a compromise settlement be built on allowing the prisoners to wear their own clothes, increasing opportunities for freer association while not allowing paramilitary groupings or training, and reviewing the question of prison work to “ensure that the work is of the greatest possible cultural and educational value and that no work of a demeaning nature is demanded.”

The commission also called on the prisoners “to contribute towards the resolution of this issue by making it clear that the proposals on clothing, association and work which we have outlined would, if implemented, provide the avenue for a solution.”

British officials first criticized the suggestion as being unlikely to resolve the prisoners’ overriding desire to be treated as political rather than criminal prisoners. Informed sources said the government also was concerned about the reaction of Protestant loyalists to a compromise, at a time of high tension in Northern Ireland, and about possible erosion of the government’s authority inside the prison.

But this week, Britain’s Northern Ireland secretary, Humphrey Atkins, made public a long statement detailing steps taken in the past to liberalize conditions for all prisoners in Northern Ireland and indicating areas where modifications could be made or considered in the future.

Atkins reiterated that mail and visitor privileges for conforming prisoners already are more generous that what the protestants have demanded, some remission time has been restored to other prisoners who ended their protests, prisoners may wear their own clothes in leisure time and prison-issued civilian clothes during work hours, supervised association among groups of prisoners already exists, and prisoners have some choice, with the final decision made by the authorities, among various kinds of industrial work, housekeeping chores and educational and training progrms.

He added that greater flexibility could be introduced in the choice of “prison activity” and in rules for group association. But he said control of these would have to remain ultimately with the authorities and no group of prisoners could be treated differently from others.

Atkins was silent about the possibility of any further changes on clothing. Outsiders have contended that this issue should be the easiest to resolve because the prisoners already wear their own clothes much of the time. But it has been a symbol for prison authorities of maintaining control.

Atkins contended that “the Northern Ireland prison regime is generous, and has and will be administered flexibly by the authorities” and added that “there is scope for yet further development.” But he said this would take time and “cannot proceed further while the hunger strike places the authorities under duress.”

An answer purportedly smuggled out of the Maze from leaders of the Irish nationalist prisoners said they would not “submit to such an ambiguous and distorting statement . . . vaguely guaranteeing unspecified further development of the prison regime at some unspecified time in the future.”

A lengthy statement on behalf of the hunger strikers today said they were not seeking special treatment and would not be sacrificing principle if the changes they demand were made for all prisoners.

They said they were willing to perform maintenance work in their cell blocks, for example, and to confine their association with other prisoners to their own cell blocks, under supervision. They said they were not asking to be allowed to do as they pleased in prison.

They said these changes would not erode any of the authorities’ control of the prison and had not been completely understood by British officials. However, they continued to request direct negotiations with the government. Officials made clear today that no such negotiations would occur.

They suggested that some of the hunger strikers and their relatives also had indicated willingness to compromise, but that militant Irish nationalists outside the prison, particularly the Provisional Irish Republican Army, were resisting it. The British have contended that the hunger strike and sympathy it has aroused is an important propaganda and recruiting tool for the IRA.

This has been denied by the hunger strikers’ supporters, organized as “H-Block” committees, named for the shape of Maze Prison cell buildings. Gerry Adams, a leader of Provisional Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Provisional IRA, said the British were acting, “on the false premise that the hunger strikers are in some way manipulated from the outside.”

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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,
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