July 1981

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Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

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


“Rusty Nail”: The Smoking Gun

See also: Mountain Climber Notes + Timeline

23 November, 2011

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

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

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

According to Duddy’s notes, this offer included:

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

DOCUMENT 1:

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

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

The sequence is described by Morrison: “After exchanges, Mountain Climber’s offer (concessions in relation to aspects of the five demands) goes further than ICJP’s understanding of government position. Sinn Fein’s Danny Morrison secretly visits hunger strikers. Separately, he meets prison OC Brendan McFarlane, explains what Mountain Climber is offering should hunger strike be terminated. McFarlane meets hunger strikers.”

After Morrison privately relayed the British offer to Bik McFarlane, McFarlane discussed it with Richard O’Rawe. Both agreed there was enough there to accept. Bik McFarlane speaking to Brian Rowan said: “And I said to Richard (O’Rawe) this is amazing, this is a huge opportunity and I feel there’s a potential here (in the Mountain Climber process) to end this.”

O’Rawe told the Irish News, “I said, ‘Ta go leor ann’ – There’s enough there. He (McFarlane) said, ‘Aontaim leat, scriobhfaidh me chun taoibh amiugh agus cuirfidh me fhois orthu’ – I agree with you, I will write to the outside and let them know.”

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

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

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

The Smoking Gun

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The statement has now been read and we await provo reactions (we would be willing to allow them a sight of the document just before it is given to the prisoners and released to the press).”

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

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

 

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

DOCUMENT 3
Details noted
5 demands

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

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

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

DOCUMENT 4:
 

 

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

 

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

PLEASE PASS FOLLOWING TO MR WOODFIELD

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

The statement has now been read and we await provo reactions (we would be willing to allow them a sight of the document just before it is given to the prisoners and released to the press). It has been made clear (as the draft itself states) that it is not a basis for negotiation.

 

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

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

Your Secretary of State said that the message which the Prime Minister had approved the previous evening had been communicated to the PIRA. Their response indicated that they did not regard it as satisfactory and that they wanted a good deal more. That appeared to mark the end of the development, and we had made this clear to the PIRA during the afternoon. This had produced a very rapid reaction which suggested that it was not the content of the message which they had objected to but only its tone. The question now for decision was whether we should respond on our side. He had concluded that we should communicate with the PIRA over night a draft statement enlarging upon the substance of the previous evening but in no way whatever departing from its substance. If the PIRA accepted the draft statement and ordered the hunger strikers to end their protest the statement would be issued immediately. If they did not, this statement would not be put out but instead an alternative statement reiterating the Government’s position as he had set it out in his statement of 30 June and responding to the discussions with the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace would be issued. If there was any leak about the process of communication with the PIRA, his office would deny it.

The meeting then considered the revised draft statement which was to be communicated to the PIRA. A number of amendments were made, primarily with a view to removing any suggestion at all the Government was in a negotiation. A copy of the agreed version of the statement is attached.

The Prime Minister, summing up the discussion, said that the statement should now be communicated to the PIRA as your Secretary of State proposed. If it did not produce a response leading to the end of the hunger strike, Mr Atkins should issue at once a statement reaffirming the Government’s existing position as he had set out on 30 June.

Statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

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

2. When the hunger strike and the protest is brought to an end (and not before), the Government will:
I. extend to all male prisoners in Northern Ireland the clothing regime at present available to female prisoners in Armagh Prison (i.e. subject to the prison governor’s approval);
II. make available to all prisoners in Northern Ireland the allowance of letters, parcels and visits at present available to conforming prisoners;
III. allow the restoration of forfeited remission at the discretion of the responsible disciplinary authority, as indicated in my statement of 30 June, which hitherto has meant the restoration of up to one-fifth of remission lost subject to a satisfactory period of good behaviour;
IV. ensure that a substantial part of the work will consist of domestic tasks inside and outside the wings necessary for servicing of the prison (such as cleaning and in the laundries and kitchens), constructive work, e.g. on building projects or making toys for charitable bodies, and study for Open University or other courses. The prison authorities will be responsible for supervision. The aim of the authorities will be that prisoners should do the kinds of work for which they are suited, but this will not always be possible and the authorities will retain responsibility for decisions about allocation.

3. Little advance is possible on association. It will be permitted within each wing, under supervision of the prison staff.

4. Protesting prisoners have been segregated from the rest. Other prisoners are not segregated by religious or any other affiliation. If there were no protest the only reason for segregating some prisoners from others would be the judgment of the prison authorities, not the prisoners, that this was the best way to avoid trouble between groups.

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

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

 

See also: Mountain Climber Notes + Timeline

 

 

 

Underlying Slur in Morrison’s Hunger Strike Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First published in the Irish News

How Could Brits Renege if There Was No Offer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

“On their way out of his cell Doc’s parents met and spoke with Gerry, Bik and the others. They asked what the situation was and Gerry said he had just told all the stailceoiri, including Kieran, that there was no deal on the table from the Brits, no movement of any sort and if the stalic continued, Doc would most likely be dead within a few days. They just listened and nodded, more or less resigned to the fact that they would be watching their son die any day now.”

Did Hunger Strikers Believe Danny’s Spin?

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

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

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

Only last year Gerry Adams wrote in the Irish News: “The republican leadership on the outside was in contact with the British who claimed they were interested in a settlement. But before a document outlining a new regime arrived in the jail, the hunger strike was called off by Brendan Hughes.”

Adams added: “The prisoners ended their fast before a formal ‘signing-off’, and the British then refused to implement the spirit of the document and reneged on the integrity of our exchanges.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First published in the Belfast Telegraph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Previously:

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


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

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


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

Strangely, there was nothing new to me regarding what was on offer from the Brits back in 1981. Whether it was the ‘Mountain Climber’ or the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, we wanted definite confirmation, not vague promises of ‘regime change’. We had all of that in December 1980.
Laurence McKeown, An Phoblacht, 2005


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


In December 1980 the republican leadership on the outside was in contact with the British who claimed they were interested in a settlement. But before a document outlining a new regime arrived in the jail the hunger strike was called off by Brendan Hughes to save the life of the late Sean McKenna. The British, or sections of them, interpreted this as weakness. The prisoners ended their fast before a formal ‘signing off’. And the British then refused to implement the spirit of the document and reneged on the integrity of our exchanges. Their intransigence triggered a second hunger strike in which there was overwhelming suspicion of British motives among the hunger strikers, the other political prisoners, and their families and supporters on the outside.
Gerry Adams, Irish News, 2009

Gerry Adams: The ’81 hunger strike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First published on Gerry Adams’ blog, Leargas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First published in the Belfast Telegraph

The Tragedy of 1980

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

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

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

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

Ho, ho, ho.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tragically, the stage was set for 1981.

First published on the Danny Morrison website

Adams starved hunger strikers of the truth

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

Belfast Telegraph
Thursday, 30 December 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I’d be surprised if he did either.

First published in the Belfast Telegraph

Read between the lines and shine Ghost Light on Gaza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First published in the Belfast Telegraph


Other year end mentions for Afterlives:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Public and the Private

The Public and the Private
Anthony McIntyre
The Pensive Quill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sourced from The Pensive Quill

Finding a way through a maze of missed chances

Finding a way through a maze of missed chances
Where better to examine the lessons of the Troubles and the peace process than a conflict resolution centre on the site of the Maze prison, says Liam Clarke
Belfast Telegraph
Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Why are unionists so afraid of the big, bad Maze? Peter Robinson would be foolish to listen to those in his party who want to block any re-examination of the 1981 hunger strike.

Instead, he should be demanding, if possible with the support of Martin McGuinness, that the British and Irish governments release all the papers on the period.

These should be housed in a Conflict Resolution Centre, where they can be examined by public and scholars alike.

Economically, the delay in getting the redevelopment plan underway has been like burning money.

Inaction was opposed – to his credit – by Edwin Poots the former DUP minister responsible, but his party remained paralysed in an agony of indecision which has cost the province tens of millions in lost opportunity.

It is not just the £12m spent on maintenance since the 360-acre site was first gifted by the Ministry of Defence; that is chicken feed.

This was prime development land handed to the Executive while the property boom was still in full swing.

As Sammy Wilson looks for cuts, the DUP must answer questions about why it did not strike when the iron was hot and the price was right. Dithering has lost us the multi-sports stadium that would have given Northern Ireland a slice of the action from the London Olympics.

These squandered opportunities are now gone, so it’s doubly important for the unionist leadership to get a grip on its fears and get the most from the project.

This means building the Conflict Resolution Centre which will incorporate the remaining H-Blocks and the prison hospital.

Visiting such a facility, if it is developed properly, would be a must-see tourist draw for Lisburn. You only have to look at Alcatraz to realise what an important part the Maze could play in attracting visitors to Lisburn. Yet confidence seems to drain away from the DUP and UUP leaderships every time the subject is mentioned.

Even Tom Robinson of EPIC, the loyalist ex-prisoners’ group, who you would think might have an interest in the history of the H-Blocks, is demanding that the remaining blocks be demolished. The fear is that it could become a “shrine to terrorism”.

That need not happen – especially if there was a truly representative group steering the project.

The fact is that the 1981 hunger strike and the protests which preceded it were a formative moment in both the Troubles and the peace process. It was called on the issue of prison rights, but its more lasting impact was in moving Sinn Fein into the electoral process, which in turn led to the ending of hostilities and IRA disarmament.

What went on between the British Government and Sinn Fein at the time?

The standard republican narrative is that Margaret Thatcher was, from beginning to end, determined to starve the prisoners to death in the hope of imposing a strategic defeat on the IRA. That has never entirely held water.

“Margaret Thatcher presented a public face as the ‘Iron Lady’ who was ‘not for turning’, yet she was no stranger to expediency,” Gerry Adams wrote in his autobiography.

He described how, before a G7 meeting in Canada in July 1981, British officials told him she wanted to end the hunger strike. “They fed us a draft speech,” that she wished to make on the subject and, Adams added, “there was no doubt that they were prepared to take amendments to her text from us if it had been possible to come to some sort of resolution at that time.”

Brendan Duddy, the Derry businessman who acted as a link between Adams and the British, says in Beauty and Atrocity, a recent book by Joshua Levine, that “basically everything that sorted it out was on the table”.

Richard O’Rawe, PRO for republican prisoners during the strike, says that he and some of the prison leadership were prepared to accept a British offer after the death of the first four of the 10 hunger strikers, but were overruled by the outside leadership.

His account is denied by Brendan ‘Bic’ McFarlane with whom he says he had the conversation, but it is confirmed by Gerard Clarke, another prisoner who was listening in the next cell.

O’Rawe’s suspicion is that the hunger strike may have been kept going for political reasons until Owen Carron was elected as an MP on a Support the Prisoners ticket. Certainly the hunger strike helped undermine the Sinn Fein policy of not taking part in elections. Since 2006, I have been trying, through the Freedom of Information Act, to gain access to the British papers recoding their communications with the IRA. A few have been released, memos between Downing Street and the NIO, which suggest Thatcher did make an offer which was turned down, but which was implemented once the hunger strike was ended. The rest are still being refused on the grounds that they could undermine relations with the Irish Republic, compromise the operation of an intelligence agency or even undermine the devolution of policing and justice.

There are lessons here, not only for us but for other societies seeking to learn from our peace process. Where better to tease out the answers than in a Conflict Resolution Centre on the site of the Maze prison?

While Robinson’s at it, he should consider making an imaginative appointment to the project’s steering group: Richard O’Rawe.

Sourced from the Belfast Telegraph

Jim Gibney: Hunger Striker Helped Others Through Toughest Times

Note: There are two versions of this article: the one published in the Irish News, and a slightly different one on the Bobby Sands website. Both verisons can be found below.

Hunger Striker Helped Others Through Toughest Times
Jim Gibney
Thursday Column, Irish News
8/07/10

It does not happen very often that the publication of this column coincides with the anniversary of one of the 10 men who died on hunger strike in the H-Blocks in 1981.

Today is one of those rare occasions. Twenty-nine years ago Joe McDonnell died after 61 days on hunger strike. Next Tuesday is Martin Hurson’s anniversary.

Joe was one of the oldest of 10 men yet he was also a very young man. He was just 29 years old.

Joe was married to Goretti and had two children – Bernadette and Joseph. Joe came from a large family of eight children.

He began his hunger strike on May 9 1981, four days after the death of Bobby Sands. Before his death, after 61 days, three other prisoners had died – Francis Hughes, Patsy O’Hara and Raymond McCreesh.

Joe would have heard the news of their deaths while he was in a cell in an H-Block or in the H-Block hospital wing.

There is no doubt that Joe would have known the fate that awaited him as the news of the death of each hunger striker reached his ears. Yet at no stage during his agonising hunger strike did he pause to consider his impending death.

In an article written by Danny Morrison several years ago, following a visit to the then closed and decaying Long Kesh, he recalled meeting Joe, two days before he died, in the canteen of the prison hospital.

With Joe were Tom McElwee, Kieran Doherty TD, Kevin Lynch and Mickey Devine.

Danny wrote: “Joe McDonnell, who had two days to live, was brought in on a wheelchair and kept joking throughout the visit. He smoked several cigarettes in between sipping water.”
Gerry Adams in his book Before the Dawn wrote about knowing Joe from being interned with him:

“Joe was a very happy-go-lucky guy.” He recalled Joe’s “sense of fun”.

“On the day he started his hunger strike, he sent me out a Kind Edward Cigar from his prison cell,” he said.

That wit greeted me when I first met Joe in Cage 3 in 1973 and on the two occasions I visited him when he was on hunger strike.

I wondered at the time, and still do to this day, where Joe and the other hunger strikers got their resolve to carry them beyond life.

Indeed the same question may be asked of their loved ones who stood with them as they faced their final moments.

Jim ‘Jazz’ McCann, then a very young prisoner, remembered his time with Joe on the blanket protest in the H-Blocks. “Joe was a tower of strength. He got a lot of us through the protest. He was forever the optimist. A ‘raker’ – the life and soul of the wing.”

Joe never took a visit with his family for almost five years because he refused to wear a prison uniform. But he “talked about Goretti and Bernadette and Joseph and his family, especially his sister Maura, every day and night,” according to Jim.

He was in constant contact with Goretti through comms and had visitors from across Belfast smuggle her comms to him.

Jim said: “Joe’s dream was to get a visit with Goretti and the children and to be reunited with them, wearing not a prison uniform but his own clothes.”

Former hunger striker Raymond McCartney described Joe as “the heartbeat of the wing. The wise ‘old’ man of the wing, who was very very protective of other prisoners.”

Joe had regularly argued for the hunger strike, two years before it actually began. To his comrades he was “rock-solid”, “unbending”, “stubborn and principled”, “a figure-head”, “a family man”, “a caring person”.

And a man who made others laugh while he got them through the toughest and most challenging of times.

Sourced from the Irish News


A slightly different version of this article appears on the Bobby Sands Trust website:

Joe McDonnell Tribute

July 8, 2010

Today is the 29th anniversary of the death on hunger strike of IRA Volunteer Joe McDonnell from West Belfast. Veteran republican Jim Gibney here pays tribute to the fifth hunger striker to die in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh.

It does not happen very often that the publication of this column [Jim’s weekly feature in the ‘Irish News’] coincides with the anniversary of one of the ten men who died on hunger strike in the H-Blocks in 1981. Today is one of those rare occasions. Twenty-nine years ago Joe Mc Donnell died after 61 days on hunger strike. He was one of the oldest of the ten men yet he was also a very young man. He was 30-years-old. Joe was married to Goretti and had two children, Bernadette and Joseph. Joe came from a large family of eight children.

He began his hunger strike on the 9th May 1981, four days after the death of Bobby Sands. Before his death, after sixty one days, three other prisoners had died – Francis Hughes, Patsy O’Hara and Raymond Mc Creesh.

Joe would have heard the news of their deaths while he was in a cell in an H-Block or in the H-Block hospital wing. There is no doubt that Joe would have known the fate that awaited him as the news of the death of each hunger striker reached his ears. Yet at no stage during his agonising hunger strike did he pause to consider his impending death.

In an article written by Danny Morrison several years ago, following a visit to the then closed and decaying Long Kesh, he recalled meeting Joe, two days before he died, in the canteen of the prison hospital. With Joe were Tom Mc Elwee, Kieran Doherty TD, Kevin Lynch and Mickey Devine.

Danny wrote: “Joe Mc Donnell, who had two days to live, was brought in on a wheelchair and kept joking throughout the visit. He smoked several cigarettes in between sipping water. I had been there to bring them up to date with our contacts with the British and the ultimately forlorn attempts to resolve the political status issue.”

Gerry Adams in his book ‘Before the Dawn’ wrote about knowing Joe from being interned with him: “Joe was a very happy-go-lucky guy.” He recalled Joe’s “sense of fun… On the day he started his hunger strike, he sent me out a King Edward Cigar from his prison cell.”

I wondered at the time and still do to this day where Joe and the other hunger strikers got their resolve to carry them beyond life. Indeed the same question may be asked of their loved ones who stood with them as they faced their final moments.

Three ex-prisoners who knew Joe as an active IRA volunteer outside and inside prison spoke to me about the man they knew. Seamy Finucane said Joe had a reputation in Andersonstown for being “a hands-on IRA operator”. He was a member of two active service units attached to the Belfast Brigade and Battalion staffs. He oozed confidence. “In his company you knew you were safe”.

“Being safe” around Joe is how a very young prisoner, Jim ‘Jazz’ Mc Cann, remembered his time with Joe on the blanket protest in the H-Blocks. “Joe was a tower of strength. He got a lot of us through the protest. He was forever the optimist. A ‘raker’, the life and soul of the wing.” Joe never took a visit with his family for almost five years because he refused to wear a prison uniform. But he “talked about Goretti and Bernadette and Jospeh and his family especially his sister Maura every day and night,” according to Jim. He was in constant contact with Goretti through comms and had visitors from across Belfast smuggle her comms to him.

Jim said, “Joe’s dream was to get a visit with Goretti and the children and to be reunited with them, wearing not a prison uniform but his own clothes.”

Former hunger striker Raymond Mc Cartney described Joe as “the heart-beat of the wing. The wise ‘old’ man of the wing, who was very protective of other prisoners.”

Joe had regularly argued for a hunger strike, two years before it actually began. To his comrades he was ‘rock-solid’, ‘unbending’, ‘stubborn and principled’, ‘a figure head’, ‘a family man’, ‘a caring person’.

And a man who made others laugh while he got them through the toughest and challenging of times.

Sourced from The Bobby Sands Trust website

“Rusty Nail”: Chain of Command

Thursday, October 22, 2009

1981 Hunger Strike: Chain of Command
“Rusty Nail” at Slugger O’Toole

Lots of ground to cover today, with a lot of detail. In today’s Irish News, former hunger striker Bernard Fox says the matter should be laid to rest out of respect for the families, while Richard O’Rawe and Tony O’Hara seek answers.

This post jumps off a quote referenced in one of today’s articles, and expands the background.

Richard O’Rawe’s article references a quote from Nor Meekly Serve My Time. This book, first published in 1994 and reissued in 2006 for the 25th anniversary of the hunger strike, was complied by Brian Campbell, and edited by Campbell, Laurence McKeown and Felim O’Hagan. It’s an oral history of the H-Block Struggle as told by the prisoners and as such is a valuable historical resource.  For those interested in the current hunger strike issue, it contains some nuggets which put the current and shifting Morrison narrative under further pressure. Where it is a real problem, in that context, is that these are the words of people like McFarlane and McKeown; their earlier record contradicts the line being claimed today, and supports the alternative narrative. The two can’t both be right – either they were lying then or they are lying now. What is worse, from the perspective of those defending the contemporary Morrison narrative, is that the book itself can be seen as evidence of collusion in the cover-up by what it has left out. In this regard, the book is a no-win for that position – but the historical record stands.

The business starts on page 198-199 (2006 ed.) with Bik McFarlane describing the background to the ICJP involvement around the 4th of July. The key quote from that section:

“Speculation began to mount in the media and rose to fever pitch when the ICJP was granted permission to visit the hunger strikers. Expectations among our people outside were high – surely this was a clear sign that the pressure had finally forced the British to open negotiations and implement a solution?”

On the next page (200) McFarlane explains the chain of command surrounding negotiations:

“It was Saturday 4 July when the delegation arrived at the prison hospital to speak with the hunger strikers. The Brits stipulated that I could not be present, so the first meeting took place while I remained in my cell. I was pretty annoyed at being excluded because we had already agreed amongst ourselves that negotiations about a settlement would not take place without me being there to represent the views of all the POWs. In fact, our original position, as established by Bobby Sands, that negotiations would only take place in the presence of three advisors (Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison and myself), had not been dispensed with. However, some of the hunger strikers felt that, since they weren’t actually negotiating a settlement, but only hearing what the ICJP had to say, then to possibly jeopardise the meeting by insisting on my presence would, in their opinion, have been foolhardy. But we had allowed a wedge to be driven in which would be difficult to remove. The hunger strikers did inform the delegation that, in the event of a settlement being negotiated or agreed upon, I would have to be consulted, and they urged the ICJP to seek a meeting with me as soon as possible. ”

Contrast this with his statement to Brian Rowan, 4 June, 2009, about meeting with the hunger strikers after they had met with Danny Morrison:

“We went through it step by step,” he said. “The hunger strikers themselves said: OK the Brits are prepared to do business — possibly, but what is detailed, or what has been outlined here isn’t enough to conclude the hunger strike.

“And they said to me, what do I think?

“And I said I concur with your analysis — fair enough — but you need to make your minds up,” he continued.”

What was McFarlane’s role, and how much power did the hunger strikers themselves actually have? Was he merely a ‘consultant’ or was he the one issuing orders? As O/C, he most certainly would have had to have been consulted. But what was the flow of information? How much information did the hunger strikers have about what was being done in their name? Clearly, it was McFarlane who was in charge, not the hunger strikers, and what we see in the tension between these two accounts is the shifting of the onus of responsibility by McFarlane from himself onto the hunger strikers.

CHAIN OF COMMAND

Given that the hunger strikers were never fully informed, and were – in McFarlane’s own words – unable to negotiate on their own behalf, the idea that they and they alone were calling the shots is a nonsense. That is how it should have gone: the O/C would inform the prisoners of the details of negotiations and consult with them, and would be speaking for the prisoners; those representing the Army on the outside would have as their duty to inform the O/C of all that was being said and to be doing as the prisoners wished. Any negotiations and offers from the British, such as what came via the Mountain Climber, would also have to be made known to the Army.

Ruairí Ó Brádaigh is explaining this when he says the Army Council was unaware of any offer coming from the British. Ó Brádaigh’s comments in the Irish News very clearly follow along traditional Army lines.

First and foremost, the Army Council could not order prisoners onto hunger strike. Once a prisoner or prisoners made the decision to go on hunger strike, the prisoners themselves were to be in control – it was they who were to make the decisions about any settlements. However, while the Army Council could not order a prisoner onto hunger strike, if it would help the prisoners they could order them off it (this is what Father Faul wanted Adams to do when he visited the hunger strikers at the end of July).

Standard structure meant that the O/C inside the prison was empowered to negotiate with the prison governor or screws. However, if negotiations were conducted at the level of the British government, that was to be handled by the Army Council on the outside. The A/C representative was to keep the prisoners informed of the negotiations, including any offers being made, so that the prisoners could decide what they were going to do. In this aspect the Army Council’s role would best be seen as a facilitator, not a dictator. They were to keep the prisoners fully informed of negotiations being conducted on their behalf, and to take instructions from the prisoners.

In addition to this, the IRA constitution had its own mandate the Council had to follow; no business could be conducted without a quorum of 4; any settlement or offer the British made, the full Council had to be made aware of, as well as the fact that the British were in direct talks with Army representatives.

What Ó Brádaigh is making very clear is that this was not the case. What was being done by Adams, McGuinness, Morrison and the others was not sanctioned by the Council; the Council did not know. Just like the prisoners, they were told nothing.

There was no quorum as mandated by the IRA constitution; what was being done was being done outside Army structures. The prisoners weren’t in control of their hunger strike, the flow of information was not happening as it should have done. Those representing the Army on the outside were not following the wishes of the prisoners as expressed by the O/C, but rather the other way around. The O/C was dictating to the prisoners what those on the outside were ordering him. Those on the outside were running rogue and not keeping their Army colleagues abreast of their negotiations with the British – nor of their plans to radically change political strategy, of which this hunger strike was a major part of implementing.

This back-to-front order is reinforced in a comm from McFarlane to Adams. He is speaking of the events of the 5th of July; Morrison had been in to see the hunger strikers in the morning and then met with McFarlane; the ICJP came in that evening and spent four hours with the hunger strikers before meeting with McFarlane after midnight:

“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?”

The same comm very explicitly describes how he discussed the ICJP offer with the hunger strikers – not the Mountain Climber one – and the line he instructed them to take.

On page 205, Laurence McKeown describes Danny Morrison’s visit to the hunger strikers:

“Danny told us the history of their contact with the ICJP and also mentioned other contacts with the British Foreign Office (none of the communication between the Republican Movement and the British government at this time has ever been admitted to by the latter). We outlined our position to him and told him we had heard nothing so far to make us believe there was resolution to the stailc in sight. The ICJP would, however, be returning that evening. We split up and Danny went to see Bik who hadn’t been allowed to be present with us during out meeting. I was happy with what had taken place. It seemed there was movement. Why else would the NIO agree to Danny’s visit with Bik and us? I felt we were in a strong position.”

The hunger strikers were told nothing, none of the details of the offer from the Mountain Climber – merely that contact had been made. The only indication of any sort of movement that the hunger strikers had was Morrison’s presence. They were told nothing.

This also shows the chain of command in action; Morrison only told the hunger strikers that there was contact; he told McFarlane the details of the offer.

McFarlane elaborates, on page 208:

“While they [the ICJP] were hopping back and forth between Stormont and the Kesh in supposed negotiations with Alison, the British government had secretly opened a link to the IRA and begun negotiations to attempt to resolve the issue. My first knowledge of this came when I had been summoned to the prison hospital that Sunday morning only to be confronted by Danny Morrison. I was completely flabbergasted at seeing him there; my mind was racing through all sorts of computations. It transpired that the Brits had agreed to allow him into the Kesh to consult with us and to explain the nature of the contact which had been established. There was definitely an air of optimism gripping me, but I was urged to be cautious, as it was possible that nothing would emerge to satisfy our demands.”

McFarlane, 4 June, 2009 interview with Rowan:

“Something was going down,” McFarlane said.

“And I said to Richard (O’Rawe) this is amazing, this is a huge opportunity and I feel there’s a potential here (in the Mountain Climber process) to end this.”

On page 210, McFarlane again:

“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 had reaffirmed on Sunday in the hospital. Then on Wednesday we received the heartbreaking news that Joe had died early that morning. It was more than tragic because I had been holding out hope that this was the chance we had longed for.”

Richard O’Rawe, Blanketmen, page 184:

“Bik and I were shattered. The possibility that the Council might reject the proposals had never entered into our calculations. We were convinced that we had achieved a great victory and that the republican movement could present the deal as a momentous triumph; now it appeared that our analysis and optimism had been both flawed and premature.”

10pm comm from McFarlane to 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…”

THATCHER’S OFFERS

Thatcher continued her pursuit of Adams’ acceptance of her offer throughout July; between the 18th and 19th, during the ‘frank statement’ exchanges, she sent him a draft of a speech she was to give in Canada that would have announced the end of the hunger strike. From Adams’ biography Before the Dawn, page 303:

“During our contact in the course of the hunger strike, her government representatives approached us in advance of a world leaders’ conference in Canada at which she was due to speak on 21 July. “The Prime Minister,” they said, “would like to announce at the conference that the hunger strike has ended.” They outlined the support we had and the support we didn’t have, and then went on to tell us, “This is what the Prime Minister is prepared to say.” They fed us a draft of the speech that Thatcher was going to deliver in Toronto, and there was no doubt that they were prepared to take amendments to her text from us if it had been possible to come to some sort of resolution at that time.”

In an interview in Canada on the 21st, Thatcher was sending a very clear message to Adams when responding to a question about where things would go next:

“I just hope that those people on hunger strike will come off it. It is futile. It can do them no good at all. It is for them or for the people who are influencing them to go on hunger strike. It is for them to get off. It is they who are causing the deaths of these people.”

McFarlane’s 22 July comm to Adams discussing this is very stark (Ten Men Dead, 329-330):

“Comrade Mor, I got your comm today. Quite a revelation I must say. I lay on my bed for a couple of hours, trying to weigh up everything. Almost dashed out of my cell once or twice. I even toyed with the idea that their ‘very frank statement’ was a master-stroke linked to a super brink tactic. It was then that I wised up and started looking to the future (immediate and distant) and began moving to a positive line.

Firstly I’d like to say I believe you have done a terrific job in handling this situation and if we can take the opposition’s ‘frank statement’ as 100% (which it does appear to be) then in itself it is quite some feat, i.e., extraordinary such an admission from them. Then again I suppose it is something we have all known already (or at least suspected).

Anyway, to be going on, I fully agree with the two options you outlined. It is either a settlement or it isn’t. No room for half measures and meaningless cosmetic exercises. Better be straight about it and just come out and say sin e – no more!!

Now, to maintain position and forge ahead, it looks like a costly venture indeed. However, after careful consideration of the overall situation I believe it would be wrong to capitulate. We took a decision and committed ourselves to hunger strike action. Our losses have been heavy – that I realize only too well. Yet I feel the part we have played in forwarding the liberation struggle has been great. Terrific gains have been made and the Brits are losing by the day.  The sacrifice called for is the ultimate and men have made it heroically. Many others are, I believe, committed to hunger strike action to achieve a final settlement. I realize the stakes are very high – the Brits also know what capitulation means for them. Hence their entrenched position. Anyway, the way I see it is that we are fighting a war and by choice we have placed ourselves in the front line.

I still feel we should maintain this position and fight on in current fashion. It is we who are on top of the situation and we who are the stronger. Therefore we maintain. In the immediate this means that Doc and Kevin will forfeit their lives and as you say the others on hunger strike could well follow. I feel we must continue until we achieve a settlement, or until circumstances force us into a position where no choice would be left but to capitulate.

I don’t believe the latter would arise. I do feel we can break the Brits. But again, as you say, what is the price to be? Well, Cara, I think it’s a matter of setting our sights firmly on target and shooting straight ahead. It’s rough, brutal, ruthless and a lot of other things as well, but we are fighting a war and we must accept that front-line troops are more susceptible to casualities than anyone. We will just have to steel ourselves to bear the worst. I hope and pray we are right.”

At this point, Adams was rejecting the Thatcher offer because “Association during leisure hours was not enough and in addition they would need specific assurances as to what they would be allowed to receive in parcels”. (Ten Men Dead, page 325) The offer from Thatcher contained 4 of the 5 demands and she was also promising to remove the prison governor, Stanley Hilditch, who was replaced when the hunger strike dwindled to an end in October (McFarlane met with the new prison governor, Willy Kerr, on 21th October).

ADAMS MEETS HUNGER STRIKERS

All of this is to preface Adams’ meeting with the hunger strikers on 29 July. We are meant to believe, according to the current Morrison narrative, that the hunger strikers were fully informed at all points about all details and were the ones who were calling the shots. Yet the evidence clearly contradicts this, both in terms of the information the hunger strikers were privy to, and what the chain of command in effect was. The hunger strikers were told next to nothing; they were certainly never given the full details of the Thatcher offers. Any information they were given about what Thatcher was offering was shaded in terms of what line the hunger strikers were to take. When the prison leadership was briefed on the early July Mountain Climber offer, they accepted it, and they were over-ruled by Adams and his committee. McFarlane was at great pains to keep everyone in line, and on the conveyor belt of self-sacrifice, beyond the point where they had broken the Brits and had won the demands they were striking for.

Laurence McKeown describes the meeting with Adams in Nor Meekly Serve My Time. Key quotes:

“One evening during lock-up the AG came to tell us that Gerry Adams, Owen Carron, and Seamus Ruddy would be coming to visit us in about one hour’s time. It was something out of the blue. There had been no talk about it nor had any of us requested such a meeting. I had been lying in bed but now I got up to pace the floor – an old habit of mine formed during the Blanket. I thought this must be a positive sign. If Gerry Adams and Owen Carron were coming, it must mean some approach had been made to them by the Brits.” (page 234)

“Those of us who did meet – Pat Beag, Big Tom, Paddy, Red Mick, Matt and myself – were in good form, curious about what was happening and speculating on what could be behind it all. The fact that Seamus Ruddy, an IRSP spokesperson, was also coming with Adams and Carron added to the speculation that a possible deal had been worked out with all involved. ” (234-235)

“Gerry said that, when asked, he readily agreed to visit us and give us an appraisal of the situation and how he saw our position in relation to the possibility of the Brits conceding our demands. It was a grim picture. There were no ifs or buts. Really he was spelling out for us what we in a sense knew but didn’t like to think through. The Brits had already allowed six men to die and they would likely allow more to die. Certainly there was no movement to indicate that they desired a speedy resolution to the protest.” (235)

Did Adams not tell the hunger strikers of the offer being made only a few days before? Didn’t the hunger strikers know about the ‘frank exchange’ that had taken place only a week before? Didn’t they know what had gone on with the Mountain Climber offer? McKeown writes as if they knew nothing of any of this going into the meeting, and what is worse, as he tells it, they were not told of any of it during the meeting with Adams.

McKeown goes on, describing Adams’ brief visit with Kieran Doherty:

“Gerry explained the reason for their visit just as he had done with us. Doc was told that what it would mean for him if he continued on hunger strike was that he would be dead within a few days. Doc said he was very much aware of that, but if our demands were not granted, then that is what would happen. He knew what he was doing and what he believed in. On their way out of his cell Doc’s parents met and spoke with Gerry, Bik and the others. They asked what the situation was and Gerry said he had just told all the stailceoiri, including Kieran, that there was no deal on the table from the Brits, no movement of any sort and if the stalic continued, Doc would most likely be dead within a few days. They just listened and nodded, more or less resigned to the fact that they would be watching their son die any day now.” (236)

Adams lied.


Appendix:

The July offer from Thatcher:

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.


Regarding the IRA Army Council’s role
Excerpted from Anthony McIntyre’s interview with Richard O’Rawe (May 16, 2006)

Q: There are many memorable pages in your book. It is a moving account of how naked men for years defied a vicious and brutalising prison management working for the British government to brand the mark of the criminal on republicanism. But the real point of controversy is your assertion that the Army Council stopped a deal being reached that would have delivered to the prisoners the substance of the five demands. Army Council people of the time seem to dispute this. Ruairi O’Bradaigh, for example, is on record as saying that the council did no such thing although he does state that your claims must be explored further. It seems clear that he suspects you are right in what you say but wrong in whose door you lay the blame at. What have you to say to this?

A: At the time we had no reason to believe we were dealing with any body other than the Army Council of the IRA. What reason was there to think otherwise?

Q: And not a sub-committee specifically tasked with running the hunger strike?

A: Whether they called it a sub-committee or not, we were of the view that everything went to the Army Council. Nobody led us to believe any different. Did you think any different?

Q: At the time, no.

A: We all felt it was the Council. Brownie was representing the Council and he wrote the comms. Why would we think we were dealing with anything less than the Council when he was the man communicating with us?

Q: You might not wish to say it but for the purpose of the reader – and this has been publicly documented in copious quantities – Brownie is Gerry Adams, who was a member of the Army Council and the IRA adjutant general during the hunger strike.

A: I have nothing to add to that.

Q: But do you still hold to the view, despite the protests from O’Bradaigh, that the Council actually prevented a satisfactory outcome being reached?

A: No, I do not. Army Council was the general term I used to describe the decision makers on the outside handling the hunger strike. I was not privy to Army Council deliberations. But I believed they were the only people who had the authority to manage the hunger strike from the outside. So it seemed safe then to presume that when we received a comm from Brownie it was from the Army Council as a collective.

Q: But what has happened to lead you to change your mind and accept that the Council may have been by-passed on this matter by Gerry Adams?

A: I have since found out that people on the Army Council at the time have, after my book came out, rejected my thesis and refused to accept that the Council had directed the prisoners to refuse the offer.

Q: Bypassing the Council as a means to shafting it and ultimately getting his own way would seem to be a trait of Gerry Adams. Do you believe then that the bulk of the Council did not approve blocking an end to the hunger strike before Joe McDonnell died?

A: Absolutely. The sub committee managed and monitored the hunger strike. Given that comms were coming in two and three times a day it is simply not possible to believe that the Council could have been kept informed of all the developments. Could the Council even have met regularly during that turbulent period?

Q: Could they not be covering for their own role?

A: I have not spoken to any of the council of the day. But those that have claim that they appeared genuinely shocked that my book should implicate them. And they do allow for the possibility that the wool was pulled over their eyes by the sub-committee handling the strike.

Q: So what do you think did happen?

A: As I said in my book, Adams was at the top of the pyramid. He sent the comms in. He read the comms that came out. He talked to the Mountain Climber. As I said earlier, we know that he, and possibly the clique around him, decided to reject the second offer, at least, without telling Bik what was in it. Nobody knows the hunger strike like Adams knows it. And yet he is maintaining the silence of the mouse, the odd squeak from him when confronted.

Here’s what he said in relation to the Mountain Climber in the RTE Hunger strikes documentary,

‘There had been a contact which the British had activated. It became known as the Mountain Climber. Basically, I didn’t learn this until after the hunger strike ended.’

He didn’t learn what? About the contact and the offers, or the Mountain Climber euphemism? If he’s saying he didn’t know about the offers, then why did he show the offer to the Father Crilly and Hugh Logue in Andersonstown on 6 July 1981? And if he’s saying he didn’t know of the Mountain Climber euphemism, I’d refer your readers to Bik’s comm to Adams on pages 301-302, Ten Men Dead, where Bik tells Brownie, who is Adams, that Morrison had told the hunger strikers about the Mountain Climber: ‘Pennies has already informed them of “Mountain Climber” angle’ So he knew about the Mountain Climber euphemism, and he knew of the offers. As a defensive strategy, this lurking in the shadows, this proceeding through ambiguity, can only work for so long. At some point academics and investigative journalists are going to ask the searching questions and Gerry Adams is not going to be up to them.

Q: Are you now suggesting that Adams may have withheld crucial details from the Army Council?

A: I don’t know the procedural detail of the relationship between Adams and the Army Council. What I do know is that my account of events is absolutely spot on. You said yourself on RTE on Tuesday that there was independent verification of the conversation between myself and Bik McFarlane.

Q: Indeed. I think you realise there is a bit more than that. As you know I have enormous time for Bik. It goes back to the days before the blanket. But I can only state what I uncovered. I am not saying that it is conclusive. These things can always be contested. But it certainly shades the debate your way. If Morrison and Gibney continue to mislead people that there is no evidence supporting your claim from that wing on H3 I can always allow prominent journalists and academics to access what is there and arrive at whatever conclusions they feel appropriate. That should settle matters and cause a few red faces to boot. We know how devious and unscrupulous these people have been in their handling of this. They simply did not reckon on what would fall the way of the Blanket. Nor did I for that matter. A blunder on their part.

A: If the Army Council say they received no comm from us accepting the deal, and also say that they sent in no word telling us effectively to refuse the deal, then I think the only plausible explanation is that those who sent in the ‘instruction’ to reject the Mountain Climber’s offer were doing so without the knowledge or approval of the Army Council.

Q: When you say ‘those’ you presumably mean Adams and Liam Og who was also sending in comms coming to the prison leadership?

A: Yes.

Q: Liam Og has been identified by Denis O’Hearn, author of the biography of Bobby Sands, as Tom Hartley. It appears that Hartley was privy to every comm between the leadership and the prisoners.

A: That would be the case.

Q: How can we be sure that Adams rather than Liam Og was responsible for withholding information from the Army Council?

A: Because, while we might not know the procedural detail, Adams had a relationship with the Army Council that was vastly different from Liam Og. You point out that this is well recorded in public.

Q: If you absolve the Army Council of the day, as a collective, of responsibility for sabotaging a conclusion to the hunger strike that would have saved the lives of six men, who do you hold responsible?

A: Maggie Thatcher had the responsibility for bringing this all to an end.

Q: But given that she made an offer, which would have brought it to an end, and which was sabotaged, who then on the republican side, if not the Council, was responsible?

A: You are trying to tie me down.

Q: I should not have to. You should be telling us directly if as you say you believe in our right to know.

A: Let’s put it like this. The iron lady was not so steely at the end. She wanted a way out. The Army Council, I now believe, as a collective were kept in the dark about developments. The sub-committee ran the hunger strike. Draw your own conclusions from the facts.

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

“Rusty Nail”: Update to Adams & The Irish News

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Update to Adams & The Irish News
Rusty Nail at Slugger O’Toole

This week’s issue of An Phoblacht, as noted below, contained an attack on the Irish News written by Gerry Adams, which was prefaced by a claim that the Irish News had refused Adams a right-of-reply. This comment has appeared on Gerry Adams’ blog this evening, from a Paul Doran (no relation to Noel Doran), who wrote to the Irish News to complain about their treatment of Adams after reading about it in An Phoblacht. He has reproduced the exchange between himself and Noel Doran, the editor of the Irish News. (It should be noted that all comments on Adams’ blog are pre-moderated, which means they are vetted before they are published.) It seems An Phoblacht was lying about the Irish News and Sinn Fein owes them a big public apology in addition to the private ones they are falling all over themselves issuing at present. Tomorrow’s edition of the Irish News will carry an apology along with Adams’ revised article about the 1981 Hunger Strike. (Full text of comment follows the jump.)

UPDATE: This just in from An Phoblacht:

Top Stories
Correction
In this weeks An Phoblacht newspaper we published an article from Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams on the 1980/81 Hunger Strikes.
We claimed that the Irish News had refused to publish it.
This was untrue.
An Phoblacht regret this and are happy to clarify the point.

See also An Phoblacht’s index page for their current issue (scroll to bottom)

From the comments section at Gerry Adams’ blog:

Paul Doran said…

      erry

  Based on your article in An Phoblacht this week I wrote a letter to them today.and received the following

  A chara.

  I am greatly annoyed that you have failed to publish the article by Gerry Adams which appeared in An Phoblacht this week. When you would publish comments from the likes of Gareth Fitzgerald.

  Is Mise
  Hi Paul,

  Thanks for your message. Everything which An
  Phoblacht said about the Irish News was untrue.
  We approached Gerry Adams over a seven-week
  period in advance of our hunger strike coverage,
  asking him for either an interview or an opinion
  article, but he was unavailable. After the
  coverage appeared, we approached him again to see
  if he could comment on the issues arising. At no
  stage did Sinn Fein seek a right of reply, as An
  Phoblacht claimed. The article which we had
  requested eventually arrived, and we immediately
  agreed to publish it. As it was much longer than
  expected, and would require a response from the
  paper, we told the party in writing that it would
  appear within a matter of days. The party then
  changed its mind, withdrew the original article
  from Mr Adams and said it would submit a revised version shortly.

  An Phoblacht made no attempt to check any of this
  with the Irish News, and instead proceeded with
  its false allegations against our paper. We have
  since received a series of private apologies from
  Sinn Fein representatives, and we are expecting
  an on-the-record statement from the party
  shortly. We have also, today, finally received
  the revised opinion article from Mr Adams, which
  we intend to publish tomorrow. We further expect
  that An Phoblacht will issue an apology to the Irish News in its next edition.

  Noel Doran,
  Editor,
  October 11, 2009 5:34 PM

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

“Rusty Nail”: Adams and the Irish News

Friday, October 09, 2009

1981 Hunger Strike: Adams and the Irish News
Rusty Nail at Slugger O’Toole

UPDATE – This is the introduction to the Adams article as printed in this week’s An Phoblacht:

“Sinn Fein asked The Irish News for a full right of reply and the newspaper agreed.  When the response from Gerry Adams was harshly critical of the Irish News itself, the article was blocked.  An Phoblacht carries the article below.  We are waiting for the Irish News to do the same.”

Interesting that the Stormont Press Officer, who tweeted the same allegation, and the North Antrim MLA, who retweeted it, have both removed their tweets, and the An Phoblacht website no longer carries the Adams article.

It is understood The Irish News was quite keen to publish Adams’ piece, but Sinn Fein withdrew it.

The Irish News’ special investigation on the Hunger Strike has prompted Adams to break his silence on the issue. Unfortunately, he says nothing new, or informative. In fact he actually repeats verbatim points made previously by Danny Morrison, Sile Darragh, and Martin McGuinness – it must be on the hymn sheet passed around Connolly House. It’s understood the Irish News chased Adams for months prior to the publication of their special double issue, being very keen for a one-on-one interview (as they got with former Taoiseach Fitzgerald). Instead, they were eventually given an article from Martin McGuinness. Once the issue ran, it was rumoured that Adams wanted his spake in. Nothing has been published yet, but this piece, tweeted yesterday morning by SF’s Stormont Press Officer Niall Ó Donnghaile, has now appeared in An Phoblacht – and is mysteriously absent from their website (Previously linked live here; it’s currently showing up in Google searches). Ó Donnghaile tweets, “it’s worth noting that despite agreeing to take a right of reply from Gerry, once they got the article the Irish News refused to publish it”, but it is understood that Sinn Fein withdrew the article from the Irish News for revision and have not yet resubmitted it. Its on/off presence at the AP/RN website is puzzling.

UPDATE: Ó Donnghaile’s tweets, like Adams’ article, have now been removed from the web. The first tweet said: “reading an excellent article from Gerry Adams in this weeks AP/RN dealing with the Irish News’ recent ‘series’ on the 1981 Hunger Strikes11:25 AM Oct 8th from web”

Update, 10.09.09: North Antrim MLA Daithí McKay has removed his retweet of Ó Donnghaile’s tweet (see comment 3).

As to the content itself – basically, this is just a screed against the Irish News, playing to Republicans’ instinctual emotions – pure propaganda, no substance. It borders on the rant of a madman, taking a splatter approach Slugger readers following certain contributions in the comments section on this subject will recognise. This ‘splatter’ approach desperately throws whatever comes to mind in the hopes that something will stick, even if its only more confusion. It’s an approach that rarely contains any facts or addresses the issue head on. What is remarkable about this piece is the hodge-podge nature of it, how it is cobbled together, literally in some instances, from previous screeds of others. Nothing in it is persuasive or even addresses the core issue: why did Adams and his committee of people overseeing the hunger strike over-rule the prisoners themselves and refuse Thatcher’s offer?

The first paragraph gives a brief history of the lead-up to the hunger strike, then attacks the Irish News over its coverage (The Irish News did give a historical context to the Hunger Strike in its special issue, though one suspects that Adams’ first salvo is more over-arching than focusing on specific complaints about the content of the double issue).

The second paragraph has a go at Garret Fitzgerald, as the previous issue of AP/RN did, throwing in a quote from his 1991 memoirs for good measure. What is funny about this is the position, as if Fitzgerald’s Irish News article was radically different from what he had previously written. It wasn’t. The only thing new in his article was the revelation of a mole in the prison, and the agreement to participate in an inquiry should one take place. His 1991 memoirs are incredibly direct and clear as to what his position was, and his description of what happened in the crucial days of early July – written over a decade before O’Rawe wrote his memoir – starkly shows where O’Rawe was right, and was filling in the story from his own position inside the prison. What O’Rawe added to our knowledge of what happened was the prisoners’ acceptance of the deal. Each viewpoint adds more detail to the picture – most by what they say but some by what they do not. Adams just goes on a rant against Fitzgerald, using the “Everyone’s a bastard except for me” defence.

But he really ups the ranty-ness with his attack on the Irish News in the next section of his article. Playing fast and loose with facts – which the Irish News should be more than able of correcting – Adams again pulls the emotional strings, propping up the bravery of IRA (and, remarkably for him, INLA) volunteers against the Irish News ‘player’. “You must believe me,” he seems to be saying, “because I am standing on these volunteer’s wounds right now!”

Next, he moves onto the claim that the ending of the first hunger strike is why they didn’t accept Thatcher’s offer in early July. Only he doesn’t say, “During the first hunger strike, I was one of the people who were negotiating with the British,” nor does he say that he himself, and those who were working with him in those negotiations, were deeply distrustful of the British – and nor does he support Laurence McKeown’s theory of screw and civil servant rebellion being ‘the’ factor. He also doesn’t support the previous assertion that claims Morrison went into great detail when he visited the hunger strikers. This is key, as what he has written shows that Morrison was very general in his visit, which is what has been the understanding all along:

This was the prisoners’ mindset on 5 July, 1981, after four of their comrades had already died and when Danny Morrison visited the IRA and INLA Hunger Strikers to tell them that contact had been re-established and that the British were making an offer.
While this verbal message fell well short of their demands, they nevertheless wanted an accredited British official to come in and explain this position to them, which is entirely understandable given the British Government’s record.

So we have confirmation, such that it is, that the hunger strikers themselves were told nothing of substance in regards to Thatcher’s offer. They didn’t know.

Here also, in the next section, Adams sings from the Morrison hymn sheet, going into the song and dance about the ICJP waiting for the NIO to send someone in to explain the offer to the hunger strikers:

“Six times before the death of Joe McDonnell, the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP), which was engaged in parallel discussions with the British, asked the British to send an official into the jail to explain what it was offering, and six times the British refused.”

Previously:

Furthermore, if the NIO had really wanted to do a deal, even one based on the ICJP’s proposals, then all it had to do was send in the guarantor to the hunger strikers. Fr Crilly (ICJP) confirmed this on Thursday on BBC Radio Ulster. Six times the ICJP phoned Allison about the guarantor going in, but none ever appeared and Joe McDonnell died on July 8th, followed by five others. – Danny Morrison, March 5, 2005

However, the British would not verify to the hunger strikers their various ‘offers’. Six times they were asked by the ICJP to explain their position to the prisoners and six times they refused before Joe McDonnell died. – Danny Morrison, 2006

Jim Gibney also picked up that baton in 2006: “On the eve of Joe McDonnell’s death the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace six times asked the Northern Ireland Office to put to the hunger strikers what the NIO was claiming to be offering. Six times it refused. Joe McDonnell died and the ICJP left in disgust.”

And Martin McGuinness had it in last month’s Irish News: “Despite being a vehicle for the British government delivering a compromise and avoiding direct negotiations, even the ICJP’s expectations/demands that the British would send in someone to stand over what London was implying in messages was refused six times in the hours before Joe McDonnell died.”

But we know that is all totally irrelevant, a sleight of hand, a distraction. It is even more insulting coming from Gerry Adams, who according to his own autobiography was on the phone negotiating with the British at the time of Joe McDonnell’s death (See Timeline, 8 July). A reasonable person would think that is the sort of thing Adams should be talking about now, not more bollocks about how the ICJP were kept waiting, as if that leaving out the fact it was while the British conducted their secret negotiations with Adams explains why the it was somehow all the hunger strikers’ fault because they didn’t trust the British and the fact the ICJP were kept waiting six times is some sort of perfect example of why. This lame excuse for cover does not wash, Mr Adams.

Adams then again waxes Morrisonesque, in an impressive double steal:

Ex-prisoner Richard O’Rawe, who never left his cell, never met the Hunger Strikers in the prison hospital, never met the governor, never met the ICJP or Danny Morrison during the Hunger Strike, and who never raised this issue before serialising his book in that well-known Irish republican propaganda organ, The Sunday Times, said, in a statement in 1981:

“The British Government’s hypocrisy and their refusal to act in a responsible manner are completely to blame for the death of Joe McDonnell.”

This refrain of what O’Rawe never did, in comparison to all that Morrison did do, surfaces in a number of places, notably in Greg Harkin’s April 2008 piece: “Richard O’Rawe never met with the hunger strikers in the prison hospital, never met with the ICJP and nor was he dealing with the republican leadership outside the prison.” (Harkin’s piece also has the ‘six times’ refrain: “According to the ICJP, whilst Joe McDonnell was dying, the NIO promised the ICJP that it would send someone into the prison to discuss the offer and six times over this two-day critical period the NIO failed to do so.”)

It also appears in the Sile Darragh letter: “Mr O’Rawe didn’t speak to the hunger strikers, didn’t visit the prison hospital or meet the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace.”

And most recently, Martin McGuinness was joining in the chorus: “I would encourage people to read this book and the documents released in 2009 and compare it to the allegations of those who never visited the hunger strikers in the prison hospital, never dealt with the prison administration and the British government or liaised with the ICJP (which, on its terms, to be fair, was attempting to resolve the situation).”

The 1981 nugget first surfaced in An Phoblacht, 2006, with Danny Morrison producing “secret comms” purporting to show that O’Rawe believed there was no deal. These ‘secret comms’ were actually public press statements and in no way indicative of anything other than the propaganda war being waged at the time.

That President Adams is using them today in his first public statement addressing the issue of the Thatcher hunger strike deal is, frankly, pathetic. He should be better than that, his statement should be made up of more than regurgitated half-truths and bollocksology. This is a statement that, rather than showing the confidence of a man who can stand over the decisions he made at the time and is comfortable accounting for his leadership, is the emotional rantings of a madman, desperately cobbling together discredited statements in the hopes that something sticks. He is so desperate that he goes for the emotional jugular as his conclusion, and hides behind the skirts of the families of the hunger strikers who were so cravenly manipulated at Gulladuff.

Gulladuff was a masterclass in emotional censorship, politicians blatantly using families’ emotions to call for a cover-up of history. And this is President Adams’ conclusion – to once again use the families of the hunger strikers’ for his own gain. “The families blame the British,” is the logic, “Not me! And so should you….if my lies are good enough for them, they are good enough for the rest of you”.

It may buy him some time among the most faithful of his flock, but it won’t cut any ice with history and his place in it.

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

Was there a deal? The IRA hunger strike debate continues

Was there a deal? The IRA hunger strike debate continues.
Mick Hall, Organized Rage

p9-pic1Ever since the former IRA volunteer and Blanket-man Richard O’Rawe, published his book, Blanket-men: An untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike, (2005) there has been an ongoing and increasingly bitter debate amongst Irish Republicans; over the truth of O’Rawe’s claim that the Thatcher government had offered a viable deal, which could have ended the hunger strike after the death of Patsy O’Hara, the fourth hunger striker to die. The importance of this matter cannot be overstated, for if proved true, O’Rawe’s claim removes the shibboleth which has since become established fact, i e the hunger strikers were in charge of their own destiny. As Bobby Sands and his fellow H/S were disciplined revolutionary soldiers, this is something which should never have held water.

What I find interesting about the way this debate has developed over the last three years or so, is those who were the most vocal in claiming Richard O’Rawe was an opportunist scoundrel, or worse; and claimed there was not a shred of the truth in his claims about Thatcher making a viable offer through back channels. (British Intel) Have now moved away from using this argument, and these days mainly concentrate their fire on those who have been vocal in their support for O’Rawe.

It seems to me the main reason for this change is the reality on the ground, there is a growing consensus within the north of Ireland that the SF leadership, despite all the odds in their favor, have lost the argument with O’Rawe; and today, all but the most blind or willful, accept the truth of what he wrote. This was demonstrated last week when the main nationalist daily newspaper in the North, The Irish News, published a series of articles under the header, ‘THE HUNGER STRIKE: Special Investigation’ which solidified Richard O’Rawes claims. (Although it is important to add, many still believe little good will come from poking these coals, as when doing so people will look at the matter from todays political perspective, not the reality on the ground in 1981)

Being Ireland, this is not only about an intellectual search for the historical truth, sadly there is a darker side, on publication of the book, the ‘smear and whispering brigade,’ were set to work undermining O’Rawe integrity. Richard, who lives in the heart of Republican Belfast, had himself witnessed what it is like when a comrade receives the black spot, friends and neighbors, some of whom having known the individual all their lives, cross the road when they see them coming, if they have children they are liable to get ragged at school, doors that were always open become firmly shut.

The award winning journalist and author Ed Moloney, who has had his own experience of the ‘black spot,’ wrote in the Irish News special investigation he had advised O’Rawe not to publish the book, as the backlash against him would make his life an absolute misery. As too did senior members of the PIRA, although I presume their words were couched in somewhat different terms to those of Moloney.

But publish O’Rawe did and in the process he withstood the attacks and smears and in his own way, he has equalled the determination of his ten dead comrades. Thus SF have moved away from attacking O’Rawe’s integrity and character and have instead targeted his supporters.

They have especially targeted ‘Rusty Nail,’ a blogger on the popular Irish web site Slugger O’Toole, who has posted as they have emerged into the public domain, meticulously researched links to this story. A shoot the messenger strategy may be fine for monarchs, para-military chieftains and oligarchs, but now that the PIRA has been all but stood down, it works less well when targeted at ordinary mortals, especially one who posts verifiable links to all they publish. O’Rawes critics have been especially noisy about Rusty Nail’s use of a pseudonym, never mind that most people within Republican circles know Rusty’s real name, or that the overwhelming majority of those who blog at Slugger use pseudonyms, as the legacy of the violent years still raises justifiable fears. So why bother to attack the messenger, could it be what lays behind these attacks on O’Rawe’s supporters, is the Shinners fear of losing supporters abroad, they realize on this issue they have lost the home ground, but they are determined to continue the fight, as they are worried about loosing US support.

The core of the argument from O’Rawes book is that Mrs Thatcher made the hunger strikers an offer which conceded four out of five of their core demands, this offer was acceptable to the prison OC, but rather than rubber stamping it, the leadership of the PIRA outside the jail, advised rejecting it as they felt there was wriggle room for some improvement. When this wriggle room failed to materialize and the deal fell through, a further six prisoners went on to fast to their deaths.

Dixie Elliott, a former Blanket Man, who during the the blanket protest and hunger strikes was imprisoned on the Maze prison wing H-3, along with Richard O’Rawe and the PIRA O/C, Brendan McFarlane and is supportive of O’Rawe, wrote on Slugger last week,

“Did six men die to ‘fast-forward the move towards electoralism.”

Dixie in a few words has got to the core of this kerfuffle, for if you strip away the baggage and political garbage, I find it amazing not a single Shinner has had the confidence to answer this question affirmatively. Instead they preferred to operate in the old way and set the attack dogs on O’Rawe, rather than try to engage with him in an open and honest manner.

We all owe a debt to Richard O’Rawe and those who have supported and encouraged him. This is a very complex tale but one thing that is not complex is the truth. As the saying goes, in war time, the truth is always the first casualty, but for the Provos, the war is over, and there is absolutely no valid reason why the truth should not be told. Not least because the truth of political struggle, arms future generations in the hope they will not repeat the mistakes of their forbears. Legends are for the Gods.

As to Dixie’s question, I would ask this, would it have been such a bad thing if six men had died to ‘fast-forward the move towards electoralism? The volunteers of the PIRA were political soldiers and the truth is, many of them have died for much less. Forget where we are, and without any doubt it is not the destination many Irish Republicans thought they would arrive at when the brought their ticket at the start of their journey. Although, I doubt even a Machiavellian prince like Gerry Adams or George Smiley himself, would have foreseen the Provos running Stormont along side the DUP. I find the implication made by some in the O’Rawe camp surreal, that back in the early 1980s, the Adams leadership crew made a Fustian pact with the devil in the form of British Intel, to place Martin Mcguinness and Gerry Kelly’s bottoms in a Stormont Ministers office.

The leadership of PIRA back in 1981, justifiably had a duty to consider all aspects of the struggle, the lack of an electoral base was clearly hampering their cause. Without expanding its core support base, north and south, the Provisional movements struggle was going no where fast. The support for the hunger strikers had proved there was a support base out there, if only the movement could find the means to harness it.

Volunteers within the Maze were continuing their own war by other means, and the Blanket protest and hunger strikes were part of that. I’m sure they would have been the first to acknowledge that their struggles were part of the wider theatre of struggle.

Future generations of Historians will have much to thank Richard O’Rawe for, as we all do.

To attack Richard when leading Shinners knew he was telling the truth, was not only wrong, but plain stupid, as far to many people, on opposing sides were in the loop to keep this door firmly shut.

Thanks to the hunger strikes and countless committed activists, the SF leadership have managed to build the party as an electoral force on what were problematical footings, to say the least. However by bad mouthing O’Rawe they took a wrong turn, not least because he was once one of their own, more than that he was one of the ‘300 plus spartans.’ That he was paid back for his years of loyalty in such a disgraceful way only highlights this mistake. If SF is not to go the way of the Workers Party and become a shooting star which shone a bright progressive light across the heaven, only to eventually crash to the ground due to the weight of lies and deceit. Then it must pension off the smear and lies brigade and play a prominent role with others in setting up an independent inquiry into this contentious matter.

Sourced from Organized Rage

“Rusty Nail”: Feint and Retreat

Friday, October 02, 2009

1981 Hunger Strike: Feint and Retreat
Rusty Nail at Slugger O’Toole

This afternoon we’ll be looking at Laurence McKeown’s Irish News piece, in a ‘fisky’ sort of way. Other articles are in the works to be looked at. It may be that some of the material will be revisited at a later date. 

To begin with today’s piece, former hunger striker Laurence McKeown wrote: “When O’Rawe first made the claim that the British had been prepared to reach a deal during the 1981 Hunger Strike but that it was rejected by the leadership of the republican movement, I believed the claim to be totally unfounded. I still believe that. In the intervening period it has been disproved by documentation from the period and by a broad spectrum of individuals involved at the time.”

What documentation is he referring to? Where has the claim been disproved by the documentation he is referring to?

Who makes up the broad spectrum of individuals?

Slugger has followed this issue very closely and is left baffled at this. The documentation in the public domain supports O’Rawe’s claim – it doesn’t in any manner disprove it. The ‘broad spectrum’ consensus – at least as broad as it can be made up of former prisoners (hunger strikers and blanketmen), their family members, members of the ICJP, the Mountain Climber link who delivered the offer and refusal (and verified the FOI documentation), and even the Taoiseach of the time, who, in the same issue as McKeown’s article, says, “O’Rawe’s account seems to me to be, within his framework of knowledge, honest and accurate.” – is not that the claim has been disproven, but that it is very much a valid claim that needs explained by those responsible.

And that’s just taking apart the first paragraphs of McKeown’s piece – he’s off to a bad start. Unless he will show us this documentation he refers to, and quote the broad spectrum of individuals to support his case?

We should be so lucky. Instead of expanding on his evidence of O’Rawe’s claims being disproven, he veers off into shooting the messenger. It’s all a political conspiracy, he says, dragging out the usual bogeymen out to get poor Sinn Fein. Why, those disaffected bogeymen are just like alcoholics – you can’t tell them anything – “So why bother?” he posits.

Like O’Rawe, who in his article explains that seeking the truth is “a sacred duty”, McKeown too feels dutybound, to the families of the hunger strikers and “the thousands of ordinary people who did so much for us”.

He paints another hypothetical – that the Brits, if we accept that they were offering concessions, then walked away with their tail between their legs instead of going to the Irish, the Church and the SDLP to make public their offer and force the hunger strikers down that way. First off, they didn’t walk away with their tail between their legs at the refusal of Adams over the early July offer. They came back to Adams in the last half of July attempting once again to come to agreement, and again, the Adams committee refused them. The Red Cross was also sent in to attempt to mediate; they were rebuffed and quickly sent packing. The Adams committee had Thatcher over a barrel in one regard – she could not be seen to be negotiating with the IRA. Were she to make public that she was actively attempting to end the hunger strike by directly negotiating with Gerry Adams, her government would have been in severe difficulties. It would have also impacted relations with the Irish government. So those defending the traditional Adams narrative of the hunger strike can use the question of “Why didn’t she go public” as a shield to hide behind as they know very well that was never on the cards. Had they gone to the media, as McKeown suggests, Thatcher would have been savaged. Was she willing to sacrifice herself and her government in order to end the hunger strike? McKeown can’t have it both ways. She wanted an end to the hunger strike, and did take risks to bring it about, but she wasn’t about to commit public political suicide in order to do so – and no one was under any illusions that she was. So there is a safety in suggesting she would as a defence tactic now.

Even to this day the NIO will not release all documents relating to the hunger strike because of the damage it could do to people still active in politics today. When the British are done with the Sinn Fein leadership and have no further need to protect them, then those secrets will be made public. Adams’ proxies can ask why they aren’t made public today safe in the knowledge that as long as he is useful to them, they will never be released.

McKeown argues that the idea that Thatcher was negotiating with the IRA would have set off the prison authorities too much, and that is his reason for why the O’Rawe claims aren’t true. He cites a discussion with an un-named BBC producer as evidence for this. This discussion has been previously cited by McKeown in R.K. Walker’s 2006 book on the hunger strike, although the context used then is in reference to the first hunger strike, not the second. On page 79, McKeown describes the ending of the first hunger strike:

Released from Long Kesh in 1992, he sheds further light on the feeling among Republicans that during the first hunger strike of 1980 the British authorities had no intention of making a genuine attempt to reach a compromise. He recalls:

“It was said by the British [to Cardinal Ó Fiach and others] that once the strike was ended, there would be concessions on at least the wearing of our own clothes, as opposed to prison uniform. Ó Fiach had appealed to the hunger strikers and to the British government to call off the strike. He thought he had an understanding that our own clothes would be acceptable. And this was the understanding of Republicans at the time. So our relatives brought our own clothes up to the prison to leave in for us to wear, thinking that that was what had been agreed. But instead we were told that we couldn’t wear them, and that we would have to wear “prison-issue civilian clothing”, which was not what had been agreed at all.
Many years later, during the making of a documentary on Ireland by the BBC, the BBC producer said off-screen that he’d been told by someone who’d been in official circles at the time that six NIO officials including the prison governor had threatened to resign if the prisoners had been given any concessions at all.” pg 79, The Hunger Strikes, R. K. Walker

Leaving aside the nonsense of the first paragraph, compare this with Monday’s article, where McKeown uses the same example in a different context:

“A BBC Timewatch programme produced in 1994, a full 11 years before Richard O’Rawe’s claim, possibly holds the answer.
I did an interview for the programme and the producers got access to many senior British government officials from the time.
In casual conversation with the producer I asked if the civil servants, particularly in the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), had felt a bit like ‘piggy-in-the-middle’, forced to hold to Thatcher’s uncompromising line while having to deal with adverse publicity from around the world.
The producer replied that everything they had discovered indicated that Thatcher at one point was going to make concessions but that when the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) got wind of it top civil servants, including the governor of the prison, Stanley Hilditch, threatened to resign.
As soon as he said it I realised it made absolute sense. Of course the civil servants in the NIO (unionists) would be more opposed to any concessions to republican prisoners than the British would.”

 

But it makes sense only to a certain point – because this ‘rebellion’ took place in the context of the first hunger strike, not the second, and Thatcher most certainly learned from this, as the FOI documentation shows. She made sure that the line would be held the second time around, not only by getting Atkins’ assurances, but by moving both Atkins and Hilditch out of their positions – to be replaced by Prior and Kerr – as the hunger strike was winding down and the concessions she had offered were ultimately implemented. She wasn’t looking a third hunger strike. As has been said by other British officials of the ending of the first hunger strike, with a little imagination from the prison authorities the second hunger strike could have been averted. They rebelled, and made it inevitable. Thatcher wasn’t going to give them a second chance.

McKeown writes –  

“So, the producer of the programme added, threatened with rebellion on their doorstep it appears the British government decided it best to weather the storm (of the Hunger Strike) rather than follow through with their ‘offer’.”

10 Downing Street, in the FOI documents, discussing the second July offer, answers both of these hypotheticals:

“The Prime Minister asked whether a detailed offer along the lines set out above were made and failed, he could hold the prison officers. Mr Atkins thought that this would be just about possible. The Prime Minister pointed out that once the offer of own clothes had been made publicly, it would have to be implemented whether or not the hunger strikers called off their strike. Mr Atkins agreed. After further discussion, the Prime Minister decided that the dangers in taking an initiative would be so great in Northern Ireland that she was not prepared to risk them. The official who went into the prison could repeat the Government’s public position but could go no further. The Secretary of State agreed.”

What is being discussed is how far to go without Adams indicating that the offer would be accepted. Thatcher asks would the prison officers comply with the offer’s terms; Atkins assures her they would. She reminds him of the clothes issue, making the point because of the previous problem. In the end she decides that going public with the full offer without the acceptance from Adams was too risky; she can go no further without it.

It was choreography she was seeking, and Adams was, at that date, unwilling to give it to her.

McKeown says the hunger strikers weren’t going to agree: “And given that four comrades had already died and the hunger strike of 1980 had ended with not the merest crumb of concession there was no way we were ending ours without a concrete, copper-fastened deal witnessed by guarantors who could stand over it.”

Yet, as we know, the first hunger strike ended with no chance of concessions; the potential guarantors of the second hunger – the ICJP and the Red Cross – were chased, on order from McFarlane. The hunger strikers themselves weren’t given a chance to agree to Thatcher’s proposals – they were told nothing of them. Those who were – O’Rawe and McFarlane – were over-ruled when they accepted them.

What is most interesting about McKeown’s effort here isn’t his use of hypothetical bollocks to bamboozle, but what he left out, the position he abandoned. One would imagine that he would have been in the perfect position to kick the ball into touch and yet he refuses point blank to go near it this time around.

When O’Rawe’s book was released, McKeown had written, in an attempt to rubbish the claims: “Strangely, there was nothing new to me regarding what was on offer from the Brits back in 1981. Whether it was the ‘Mountain Climber’ or the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, we wanted definite confirmation, not vague promises of ‘regime change’.” – 10 March, 2005, An Phoblacht

This comment is also referred to in an article for the Village magazine: “Laurence McKeown, whose family took him off the hunger strike, has denounced O’Rawe and accused him of glory-seeking. No concrete promises were on offer from the British, he insists.” H-Block hypocrisy, Village, Saturday, 12 March 2005

Today, 2009, we now know that much more than “vague promises” were on offer; we have the “concrete promises” confirmed and verified by the man who delivered them to Martin McGuinness.

McKeown’s retreat, along with Morrison’s and McFarlane’s absence and Adams’ continued silence, is noted.

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

The breathtaking hypocrisy of Garret FitzGerald

October 1, 2009
Editorial, An Phoblacht
The breathtaking hypocrisy of Garret FitzGerald

Former Fine Gael Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald has joined the chorus of those who are attempting to revive the spurious allegations of Richard O’Rawe, comprehensively refuted when they emerged in 2005, that republican leaders deliberately scuppered a ‘deal’ that could have saved the lives of six of the ten hunger strikers of 1981.

Such hypocrisy is breathtaking. What concern did FitzGerald ever show for the hunger strikers, the H-Block or Armagh prisoners or the nationalist people in the Six Counties? Like the rest of the political establishment in the 26 Counties he stood by while prisoners endured years of torture and as the crisis in the jails was growing towards its tragic climax. And then, rather than support the just demands of the prisoners, he dithered in the face of British intransigence.

FitzGerald’s New Ireland Forum of 1984 was conceived with the primary purpose of shoring up the SDLP which was facing a major challenge from Sinn Féin. The republican party was excluded and the policy of censorship and exclusion of republicans was reinforced under the Hillsborough Agreement of which FitzGerald and Thatcher were co-sponsors.

It is clear from FitzGerald’s interview in the Irish News this week and from his previous writings that his main concern before, during and after 1981 was that the British Government might be talking to republicans and that this should stop. With Thatcher, he embarked on one of the most intense rounds of repression in the period after 1985 when the Border was reinforced and collusion between British forces and unionist paramilitaries was stepped up.

The same FitzGerald was portrayed as a great liberal, yet every Government which he led, or in which he served, renewed broadcasting censorship of Sinn Féin. This denial of information and closing down of dialogue helped to prolong the conflict.

It is important that FitzGerald and co. are corrected and challenged, firstly for the sake of the memory of the hunger strikers and for their relatives. They need to be challenged secondly because their spurious allegations form part of an effort to discredit the republicans of 2009.

Such efforts will fail. They will never distract republicans from their task of achieving the just, peaceful and united Ireland for which the hunger strikers gave their lives.

Sourced from An Phoblacht

Anthony McIntyre: Victory to Blanketmen

Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Victory to Blanketmen
Anthony McIntyre, The Pensive Quill

It might have been a long flight for Richard O’Rawe, most of it a climb. It is said that aircraft are most strained during the ascent but once in the sky the cruise is relatively easy. The author of Blanketmen now finds himself cruising at a moral altitude well above that of his critics.

For long we had been regaled with delusional tales of how O’Rawe had been comprehensively demolished and that each new non-discovery by his opponents had finally concluded the debate in their favour. Truly underwhelming stuff where wish was parent to the thought.

Even before this week’s Irish News special on the 1981 hunger strike O’Rawe’s integrity had been both salvaged and enhanced. With Brendan McFarlane feeling compelled to reconfigure his account of the pivotal 1981 prison conversation between himself and O’Rawe in the wake of serious erosion of his original account, the die was cast. After that few believed that O’Rawe had made it all up. They may not have attributed any malign motive to McFarlane but simply acknowledged that O’Rawe’s narrative possessed a consistency that unlike the counter narrative was not chameleon in character. The pendulum of culpability swung decisively away from O’Rawe.

His vindication secured, that the Irish News debate took place at all was further validation of the position of Richard O’Rawe. That the claims made in his book Blanketmen almost five years ago are being given such exposure this week in a newspaper read by more Northern nationalists than any other were beyond his wildest expectations at the time of publication. It was also something Sinn Fein would have viewed as a nightmare had they any inkling. Now all O’Rawe has to do is turn up. His critics, by contrast, have no option but to turn up; a sign of how the balance of power of persuasion has undergone a significant shift. And where they needed to raise the level of their contribution they singularly failed. The issue has now been pushed to a new plateau. Had the original allegation in Blanketmen been about the existence of either the unicorn or the mermaid that would have been the last anyone heard of it. What kept it going to the point where O’Rawe’s narrative is now the dominant one, having successfully challenged and displaced the previous one, was the ring of truth that resonated from it.

There are echoes of the Birmingham Six emanating from this controversy. When convicted it looked as if their goose was cooked. Few gave them a snowball’s chance in hell. When challenged the British judiciary jerked and jumped as if they had had been tapped with a cattle prod. Howls of indignation met the challenges of those seeking to establish accuracy. ‘How dare anyone question us’ was the standard arrogant refrain. All critics were told to shut up and just accept the view of Lord Denning that all they had to offer was an appalling vista. They were smeared as terrorist sympathizers. It got the judiciary nowhere as they were swamped under an avalanche of probing and investigative journalism.

Seems something similar is taking place here. The regime of truth which had little true about it is being dismantled month by month. The old chant from within the bowels of the H-Blocks, ‘Victory to the Blanketmen’, has meaning like never before.

Sourced from The Pensive Quill

“Rusty Nail”: Deconstructing McGuinness

Monday, September 28, 2009
1981 Hunger Strike: Deconstructing McGuinness
Rusty Nail at Slugger O’Toole

A couple of analogies to start. And then an extended deconstruction of McGuinness’ article from the Irish News.

Picture Gerry Adams as manager of the team, Danny Morrison as Captain. Bik McFarlane is a star player. Gibney is a coach. Imagine the Irish News special as the Cup final. The manager, who never gave public interviews all season, has disappeared. The Captain has absented himself from the field, and taken his star player with him (probably after consulting with Coach Gibney). Reserve player Laurence McKeown, who has performed well in the past, and heretofore unseen on the field McGuinness are the main defence. And that is where they spend the game – stuck in their own box, not even able to contemplate scoring a goal of their own, and barely able to keep the other team from repeatedly netting the ball. Now, knowing they were going into a losing game, it may have been sound strategy to absent the key players from the field at the crucial moment, in order have a ready-made excuse for the coming disaster, but it will do nothing to mitigate what is bound to be a resounding defeat. At the start of the season they were the favourites – but anyone who still has money on them now has woefully misread the underdog.

Where are Morrison and McFarlane? At this point, if we were to believe what they have been saying all along, they should be easily sinking it into the net now, shouldn’t they? Instead, their absence hands a victory to their opposition. “Your silence will not protect you,” the saying goes. Speaking of silence, President-For-Life Adams is still staying schtum on the whole thing. A mixed blessing, given his increasing predilection for inappropriate flights of fancy – but an indictment of the worst aspects of his leadership. The buck stops with him, yet he is quite content to pass it until some loyal dimwit falls on his sword for him. (Any takers on who it will be first?)

The strategy of the Adams cadre has been to bury the story at all costs. But, like the Disappeared risen from the bogs and beaches, this issue will not go away. Bits of bone and matter continue to surface, grisly bits at a time. Their presence and significance cannot be denied. With forensic examination, the bodies are being reassembled and identified. And so too the finger of culpability will find its mark. Those who pay attention to the details, however seemingly mundane or trite, know the significance of each find and can read where the evidence is taking them. The full body of the truth will not appear all at the once; it may never appear 100% conclusively. It’s a slow, sometimes plodding process. It’s been 5 years since the publication of Blanketmen, which was little more than a marking on a map of a remembered grave. Those expecting the full skeleton to sit up and point a bony finger will be forever disappointed. Those who have the ability to use logic and reason, however, understand how far the excavation has come, and how close it is to its conclusion.

We’ll turn our attention now to Martin McGuinness’ piece in the Irish News. The current Deputy First Minister, famous for being one of the Chuckle Brothers alongside former arch-nemesis Ian Paisley, and infamous in certain circles for denouncing Republicans as traitors from the steps of Stormont alongside the Chief Constable of the PSNI, was at the time of the hunger strikes, as referenced in Ed Moloney’s Secret History, the Chief of Staff of the IRA.

So it would be reasonable to expect an insight to what went on in July 1981 with some heft to it. After all, a person in such a position would be more than a mere runner between players in Derry and Belfast. In fact such a person might be able to shed light on more than just the events of July and perhaps – staying within the hunger strike framework – beyond. For example, he might be in a position to shed light on how exactly the contact between Thatcher’s spooks and the IRA was revived during the second hunger strike. Denis Bradley has previously hinted at this, claiming variously that this contact began in a room in Derry as far back as early May.

“I was actually in the room with Robert McLarnon [senior MI5 officer] and IRA leaders when a phone call came from a European summit during the hunger strike. Thatcher was at a European summit but kept in contact with us by phone. An offer was made to republicans to end the hunger strike; it was actually a better deal than the one they eventually settled for. At the time the republican movement was not in control, it was the prisoners who were in control and the leadership could not take on the prisoners. As far as I remember the offer was made after the second hunger striker, Francis Hughes, died. What we were being told was that this was the Prime Minister’s last offer on the hunger strike.” – Denis Bradley, quoted in The Guardian, 17 October 1999

“John Devereux, who died later in the Mull of Kintyre Chinook crash, was meant to have accompanied Robert McLarnon to Derry for the meeting. Instead Robert came on his own. I was in the room when Martin McGuinness said ‘Was this authorised by the British Prime Minister?’ To which McLarnon said ‘Yes’ .” – Denis Bradley, quoted in The Guardian, 17 October 1999

Francis Hughes died on the 12th of May – 2 months before the July offer that preceded Joe McDonnell’s death.

Was a substantial offer made to the IRA leadership as represented by Martin McGuinness before the July offer? Why were the prisoners never told of the Derry meetings between McGuinness and the spooks?

This was after the election and death of Bobby Sands; the British were under enormous pressure; archive material makes clear that Thatcher wanted above all else an end to the hunger strike. This is borne out by the lengths she went to with the back channel negotiations. Even Adams says of her during this time, “she was no stranger to expediency”. Politically, if they were going to make a substantial offer, that would have been an opportune time.

Denis Bradley fleshes out the background behind the negotiations and the private positions of the IRA and Thatcher in this quote from Liam Clarke’s biography of Martin McGuinness:

“My other partners in the Link got very annoyed because they thought a deal was on the table long before it was on the table and the reason it didn’t happen was because the Provos gave away their authority to the hunger strikers themselves – they were far too emotionally involved and in no position to make any judgements because the Provos appeared to hand the whole thing over to them. As far as I can make out from our guys, Thatcher would have made a deal quite early on despite what she said in public.” Denis Bradley, quoted in From Guns to Government, page 130

This makes sense taken in conjunction with Bradley’s comments in 2006,

“but [Thatcher] made an offer of doing the settlement basically on the grounds of what was ultimately settled for, and the person who was on the phone, involved in this linkage, said to the person from the republican movement: “I think you have to take this offer. You should take this offer.” And I think the answer was, no, I think it has to be the prisoners who have to make that up and it didn’t happen and it [the hunger strike] went on.” – Denis Bradley, quoted in The Observer, 30 April 2006

Except, as we know, if the account of an offer being made after the death of Francis Hughes is correct, the hunger strikers, just as it would be two months later in July, were told nothing. The IRA leadership, McGuinness in May and Adams in July, gave the appearance that the prisoners were in control, yet kept them out of the loop, and later over-ruled them when the prison leadership did accept a British offer they were told about.

Martin McGuinness, here for the first time publicly addressing the hunger strike controversy, has about 800 words to make his case. Instead of expanding on any of the above points, he uses the first 260 to give a history lesson – one covered in the main by other background pieces in the same issue. He uses the next 100 to hide behind the skirts of the families of the hunger strikers. When he finally gets to the meat of the matter, he re-hashes old points of Danny Morrison’s – the incredulous idea that the hunger strikers were to rely on word of mouth negotiations before making any decisions! The duplicity of the British reneging on the deal of first hunger strike leading to the hunger strikers’ hard-line! The anti-Republican agenda driven ICJP whose own deal could not be finalised due to dastardly Brits!

Given the nature of the Mountain Climber ‘link’, the idea that it would operate via word of mouth, and, in the pre-mobile phone, pre-email days of 1981, the archaic form of the telephone, should not be shocking. The idea, too, that the British would seek private assurances or confirmation of acceptance before documentation, should come as no surprise. What did come as a surprise was the documentation that detailed Thatcher’s directives to her subordinates upon acceptance from those Provisional leaders she was dealing with.

“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.” – Extract from a Telegram from the Northern Ireland Office to the Cabinet Office

We know, too, that the idea that the hunger strikers would not bend due to the British reneging on a deal over the first hunger strike is a complete chimera. There was no deal at the time to renege upon, given that Brendan Hughes called an end to the hunger strike before anything could be completed.

We also now know the reason why the NIO did not send in a representative to stand over the ICJP deal at the crucial moment: Thatcher’s representatives were negotiating with Adams et al and put the ICJP initiative on hold.

So far, McGuinness has used almost 600 of the 800 words he has to make his case by repeating known history and points that have been previously discredited. He sheds no new light on events, or his role in them, apart from a weak admission that it was he who Brendan Duddy gave the details of the early July offer to, and in turn he delivered the details to the Adams committee in Belfast.

He then complains that while people are heralding the release of FOI documents, they aren’t paying attention to the content. Yet he does not illuminate as to what part of the content of the documents he thinks people should be aware of.

This is likely because the content of those documents do not support the narrative he is clinging to. As evidenced by the extract from the telegram quoted above, we see how it confirms the deal sent to the Provos, and that Thatcher issued a directive for it to be released to the prisoners and the press upon acceptance – which we know she never got.

We also see from the content of the documents, which have been verified by Brendan Duddy, the Mountain Climber link who gave the details to McGuinness, that the deal on offer met 4 of the 5 demands.

McGuinness urges readers read the documents and Ten Men Dead – a side by side reading of the offer can be found here: http://www.longkesh.info/category/ten-men-dead/ – and then lifts, almost verbatim, the same point made by Sile Darragh in her letters to the Irish News and Irish Times earlier this year:

“I would encourage people to read this book and the documents released in 2009 and compare it to the allegations of those who never visited the hunger strikers in the prison hospital, never dealt with the prison administration and the British government or liaised with the ICJP (which, on its terms, to be fair, was attempting to resolve the situation)”. – Martin McGuinness, 28 Sept 2009

“Mr O’Rawe didn’t speak to the hunger strikers, didn’t visit the prison hospital or meet the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace.” – Sile Darragh, 21 April 2009

Discerning the original source of these sorts of articles, whom some suspect is none other than Danny Morrison, is akin to ascertaining whether Barrack Obama’s Dreams of My Father was ghostwritten by Bill Ayers. Whether it was actually written by Ayers or not, his fingerprints are all over it, as are Morrison’s on McGuinness’ article.

So we come to the conclusion of McGuinness’s article – are we any wiser as to what happened during that fateful time? Will we be left with any resolution to the controversy? Sadly, no. McGuinness squanders the last of his word count to have a last kick at Thatcher, and to thank the hunger strikers obliquely for their sacrifice which has led to his seat at Stormont today.

The irony being that the oft repeated thanks supports the claims that they were sacrificed for Sinn Fein’s political gain, which delivered McGuinness to that Big House on the Hill as a Minister of the British Crown.

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

Irish News: Hugh Logue, ICJP

Honour of those who died needs explanation
THE HUNGER STRIKE
By Hugh Logue of the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace
28/09/09

The image of those eight hunger strikers for me has never dimmed. Clothed predominantly in the white attire of hospital, the weakest sitting at a table, water jugs and mugs in hand, the strongest seated on higher tables, or standing behind.

That scene has stayed with me over the last 28 years and will remain imprinted in my brain as long as I live. They had been brought together as a group from their hospital beds to meet us in the canteen of Long Kesh.

Bright articulate young men, some reserved and quiet spoken, others defiant and inquisitive, eyes accentuated, all in various stages of physical decline, eager to live, ready to die. Like their image, respect for them has never dimmed.

I met them as part of the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP) as we sought to explore the possibility of squaring their five demands by stretching the British prison regime to a more enlightened, humane, innovative and educationally positive system. The Irish government gave us their full support.

After much coming and going, a best offer was finalised involving new rights on clothes, work, recreation/education, remission and association.

The hunger strikers were positive but cautious, wanting the wider view of their comrades. The prisoners on July 4 issued a statement indicating that a settlement along such lines should be considered.

We were meeting with the relatives and some H-block committee members when the prisoners’ statement reached us. With good reason, the meeting finished with the view that the choreography of concluding the Hunger Strike without further loss of life was being set in place.

Next day we met again with the relatives and on this occasion Sinn Fein representatives were present. The relatives made clear their wish to go for the ICJP-brokered offer.

A senior IRA representative left the meeting early, without saying where he was going, and went in to see the hunger strikers.

When we later visited the hunger strikers that night, their mood had hardened but a number of them clearly indicated that what was on offer was acceptable.

Eventually all agreed that if the British government sent a delegate into the prison and read out the offer it would be accepted.

This condition, we were told, had been demanded as a minimum by the IRA representative who had visited them. Double dealing on the earlier botched hunger strike was given as the reason for this demand.

We went back to the British and it was agreed that an envoy would visit the hunger strikers to read out the offer. As we all know, the British prevaricated and Joe Mc Donnell tragically died before any visit was made, triggering a whole new scenario.

The ICJP next day railed against the British government for its unpardonable complacency and indicted its utterly callous conduct.

That indictment remains.

Four years ago – when I reviewed Blanketmen [by Richard O’Rawe] – I asked that a sane debate take place on its principal assertions, instead of the vilification of its author.

I also suggested that were the Mountain Climber, the British and the republican leadership to spell out what they knew, it would be possible to reach informed conclusions.

The British, via the Freedom of Information Act, have now put new material into the public domain. Mountain Climber has now stated that he passed the British offer to his IRA interlocutor. In what form did the offer come?

Was British secretary of state [Humphrey] Atkins able to sign off if he got an affirmative reply from the IRA? It now appears he was.

Did those in the republican leadership understand that? Parallel Republican writing that Margaret Thatcher wished a settlement suggests they did.

This exchange was at least a day before the hunger strikers were told to demand, via the ICJP, verification from the British authorities.

If the IRA had the British offer , why were the hunger strikers being put through a ritual? The hunger strikers, on the instruction of the IRA, were demanding that the ICJP deliver the British to deliver an offer statement. And the British, whilst agreeing to deliver the statement, apparently were waiting on the okay from the IRA before delivering the statement to the hunger strikers that they had already delivered to the IRA.

And all the while, a hunger striker was slipping in and out of consciousness, edging closer to death. Too grotesque to contemplate. But it happened. Why? Truly, in the name, honour and dignity of the hunger strikers, explanation and clarification is needed.

This is not said for any reason other than that I genuinely do not know for sure, to this day, where the motivation of others lay.

I do know that we in the ICJP had an honourable resolution that would have saved the lives of six hunger strikers and that it was acceptable to the hunger strikers.

It appears from the British statement, given to the IRA via the Mountain Climber, that the British were ready to stand over all that had been agreed with the ICJP.

But were they only ready to go public on it if they got thumbs up from the Republican leadership?

Was there procrastination on the IRA side where a clear affirmative response would have sealed the deal and saved those lives? Was there a rejection?

Did the IRA genuinely overplay their hand believing that once the British were into dialogue more could be extracted?

The high regard that many serious political leaders now have for the republican leadership relates to their focus on ‘the long game’. Did ‘the long game’ focus come into play on this occasion?

Republican leadership has been assiduous in having its tale of ‘the struggle’ committed to history, but the Hunger Strike has been given a wide berth.

Some years ago, as the 20th anniversary of the Hunger Strike approached, I was told by a senior republican that the reason for staying away from the Hunger Strike was ‘because of the range of views, feelings and passions it could arouse within the movement – not all of them positive.’

He was right about that, but whatever those views feelings and passions, it is time for truth to shine.

 

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: Richard O’Rawe

Search for truth a sacred duty
THE HUNGER STRIKE Was there a deal?
By Richard O’Rawe
28/09/09

Former IRA prisoner Richard O’Rawe caused huge controversy in republican circles when in his 2005 book Blanketmen he claimed that the British government had been ready to offer a deal which could have ended the hunger Strike after four deaths…

As one of the 300 Spartans who spent years on the blanket protest and as the prisoners’ PRO during the 1981 Hunger Strike, I have drawn great inspiration and strength from my 10 heroic comrades who died on hunger strike.

Some years ago I published a book entitled Blanketmen in which I recounted my first-hand experiences of that time.

It was instantly slated as ‘scurrilous’ and ‘slanderous’ by some republicans, who, instead of engaging in a respectable debate about the issues I had raised, demonised and vilified me. One leading republican said that I “should hang my head in shame” and that my book should have been called, ‘On another man’s hunger strike.’ It is not I who should hang my head in shame. I have told no lies.

In my book, I said that on July 5 1981 Danny Morrison came to the prison and made our OC, [Brendan] Bik McFarlane aware that someone called the ‘Mountain Climber’, a contact with the British government, had delivered an offer to the IRA leadership.

McFarlane denied this saying: “No offer existed.” I said that McFarlane and I were enthusiastic about the British offer, and had a conversation out our windows, during which we accepted it. McFarlane denied this saying: “That conversation did not take place.”

I offered that a communication came into the prison from Gerry Adams on July 6 1981 which said that the Mountain Climber offer did not validate the deaths of our four comrades and that more was needed.

McFarlane denied that this occurred. Matters stayed like that for about four years. Then in May 2009, at a Hunger Strike conference in Derry City, things changed dramatically.

The journalist Liam Clarke had obtained, under the Freedom of Information Act, a copy of the July 5 Mountain Climber offer.

For the first time in 28 years, I found out that the offer was, in fact, a statement from the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, which was to be released in the event of the Hunger Strike ending. Brendan Duddy (the Mountain Climber), who had been a panellist at the Derry City conference, confirmed that he had passed this statement on to the IRA leadership.

The importance of this cannot be overemphasised because here was the document which determined the fate of the last six hunger strikers. No evidence exists to say that the hunger strikers ever set eyes on this document. Certainly, it was never smuggled in to Bik McFarlane or me.

Who took the decision to withhold this decisive document from the prison leadership? Did they also keep it from the hunger strikers, and if so, why? Brendan Duddy also confirmed that the message the IRA sent back to the British was that “more had to be added”.

Former blanketman Gerard ‘Cleaky’ Clarke then affirmed that he had heard the crucial conversation between Bik McFarlane and me. These revelations prompted the collapse of Bik McFarlane’s position.

In a newspaper interview on June 4 2009 he admitted the British had made the approach I had written about but claimed that they had failed to “expand the offer”. He also said: “And I said to Richard this is amazing, this is a huge opportunity and I feel there’s a potential here [in the Mountain Climber process] to end this.”

So, in the space of a couple of sentences, Bik confirmed that what I had always said was true – there had been an offer after all, he and I had liked the look of it and we had a very positive conversation about it.

I had been looking forward to a healthy public debate with Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison and Bik McFarlane at the Derry conference in June but unfortunately they declined the offer to attend. Instead they chose to convene a closed meeting with some families in Gulladuff, south Derry in July and no-one with an alternate account to theirs was invited. A motion that Willie Gallagher of the IRSP and I stop any further probing into the Hunger Strike failed to get unanimous support.

Not to be outdone, however, the next day Sinn Fein members visited the families throughout the north and asked them to sign a pre-prepared statement which incorporated the failed motion from the night before. Some families did sign the statement and those who did not released their own statement publicly asking Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison, Bik McFarlane and myself to support an independent inquiry into the events of 1981. Having nothing to hide, I responded positively. The others have not.

Despite the viciousness of the attacks on me, and despite the intensity of the ongoing debate, nothing in my approach is intended to, or could ever detract from the heroic sacrifice of the Hunger Strike martyrs.

Regardless of what people may choose to say or think, I have no political agenda.

My intention has always been to seek the truth and nothing less – something which the hunger strikers and their legacy deserve as a matter of respect.

That, I suggest, is the sacred duty of all of us who bore witness to this momentous event in Irish history.

 

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: Laurence McKeown

Unionists in NIO scuppered deal
THE HUNGER STRIKE: Was there a deal?
By Laurence McKeown
28/09/09

Laurence McKeown is a former IRA prisoner who took part in the Hunger Strike. He joined the fast on June 29 1981 after the first four prisoners died. Following the deaths of six more hunger strikers his family authorised medical intervention to save his life on September 6, the 70th day of his hunger strike…

WHEN Richard O’Rawe first made the claim that the British had been prepared to reach a deal during the 1981 Hunger Strike but that it was rejected by the leadership of the republican movement, I believed the claim to be totally unfounded.

I still believe that.

In the intervening period it has been disproved by documentation from the period and by a broad spectrum of individuals involved at the time.

Nevertheless, the controversy has rumbled on, fuelled by an assortment of disaffected former members of the republican movement and political opponents of Sinn Fein.

The ‘debate’ has therefore more to do with contemporary political machinations and allegiances than it has to do with the Hunger Strike.

Trying to ‘answer’ the claim is a bit like trying to convince an alcoholic that they’d be much better off not taking that next drink.

There will never be an answer that will suffice, a response that will be adequate.

So why bother?

For the families of the six who died later that summer and for the thousands of ordinary people who did so much for us during that period.

The Tory government of Maggie Thatcher is infamous for the trail of suffering, death, social upheaval, destruction of communities, and removal of civil and workers’ rights that it wreaked not just in Ireland but in Britain itself.

But let’s just suppose for a moment that it wanted to end the Hunger Strike.

Britain acts only in Britain’s interest so if it was decided that it was in their best interest to concede some or all of our demands it would not have been out of some humanitarian sentiment but because not to do so would be damaging to Britain’s long-term interests.

So, this Tory cabinet of Maggie Thatcher, having decided that it was in Britain’s best interest to act to break the Hunger Strike, comes up with a list of concessions they are prepared to make, presents this to the leadership of the republican movement, who supposedly reject them and what do the Brits do?

They walk away with their tails between their legs.

Is this the same government that cold-bloodedly slaughtered the Argentinean sailors on the Belgrano?

That smashed the powerful National Union of Mine Workers and left whole mining villages and communities desolate?

If the British had thought it was in their interest to end the Hunger Strike then they would have done so regardless of what the republican movement did or did not do.

They would simply have gone to the media – having first confided with and secured the support of the SDLP, the Catholic hierarchy and the Dublin government – and announced concessions they were prepared to make.

We on hunger strike would then have been faced with either calling it off or trying to continue with a now deeply divided support base, not to mention internal and family divisions.

It’s not rocket science.

So why did the Brits not do that? If indeed they ever had any real intention of doing it.

A BBC Timewatch programme produced in 1994, a full 11 years before Richard O’Rawe’s claim, possibly holds the answer.

I did an interview for the programme and the producers got access to many senior British government officials from the time.

In casual conversation with the producer I asked if the civil servants, particularly in the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), had felt a bit like ‘piggy-in-the-middle’, forced to hold to Thatcher’s uncompromising line while having to deal with adverse publicity from around the world.

The producer replied that everything they had discovered indicated that Thatcher at one point was going to make concessions but that when the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) got wind of it top civil servants, including the governor of the prison, Stanley Hilditch, threatened to resign.

As soon as he said it I realised it made absolute sense. Of course the civil servants in the NIO (unionists) would be more opposed to any concessions to republican prisoners than the British would.

It was personal for them. They lived here. They ran the place. They were the ones who formulated policies and how they were implemented on the ground including the criminalisation and Ulsterisation policies.

Stanley Hilditch had actually cut short a holiday at Christmas 1980 to return to the prison and personally handle the aftermath of the first hunger strike.

So, the producer of the programme added, threatened with rebellion on their doorstep it appears the British government decided it best to weather the storm (of the Hunger Strike) rather than follow through with their ‘offer’.

That was his version of events. What we know for definite is that during the Hunger Strike there were always offers from the British but never a deal.

And given that four comrades had already died and the hunger strike of 1980 had ended with not the merest crumb of concession there was no way we were ending ours without a concrete, copper-fastened deal witnessed by guarantors who could stand over it.

And anyone who was on it or involved with it, including Richard, knows that to be the case. Such was our suspicion and distrust of the British.

In the peace and tranquillity of 2009 it’s easy to forget that. To de-contextualise events. To forget the power of the emotions then and the strength of convictions.

It’s also easy to wish it could somehow have been different. What is unforgiveable though is to attempt to make cheap political gain from those events and in the course of it to cause hurt.

 

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: Martin McGuinness

mcguinness)Stature of ten men unassailed
THE HUNGER STRIKE
By Martin McGuinness
28/09/09

THROUGHOUT Irish history Britain attempted to legitimise its actions by criminalising those native forces who opposed them physically, or in conscience. At one time it was Catholicism which was penalised, later it was nationalism and republicanism.

After 1969 the prison population here multiplied, not from an outbreak of criminality but due to the failure of government, street resistance and, latterly, IRA activity.

The first British secretary of state, William Whitelaw, recognised this political reality within the rising prison population and granted special category status (that is, political status) as a result of a republican hunger strike in 1972 before any prisoner lost his life.

Although tensions remained and republicans continued to attempt to escape and thwart imprisonment, by and large a quid pro quo existed within the jails. No prison officer, in those days, lost his life.

All this changed when the British went for wholesale confrontation and picked on what they mistakenly thought was the most vulnerable section of the republican movement – our imprisoned comrades.

They arbitrarily ended political status on March 1 1976, declaring that anyone involved in physical force after that date was a criminal.

But they had several problems, not least that IRA volunteers were politically and community motivated and, unlike loyalists, would not accept the Orwellian dispensation.

Britain’s other ‘criminalisation’ difficulty was that their own laws recognised IRA activities as ‘the use of violence for political ends’.

As we know, emboldened by the sacrifices of the hunger strikers, the H-Block prisoners went on to establish full political status, eventually acknowledged in the early release of prisoners under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Some weeks ago Gerry Adams met with all but two of the families of the hunger strikers. Bridie Lynch, sister of Kevin, couldn’t make the meeting but telephoned her solidarity for the group.

The meeting was private though later misrepresented by others. It was the first time that many of the families had met since those heart-rending seven months in 1981.

The allegation that a ‘deal’ by the Sinn Fein leadership was squandered was given short shrift. The families appealed to those who were perpetuating their ongoing grief to cease, though they have persisted, motivated by a variety of reasons.

In 1981 we were dealing with a ruthless, hypocritical enemy, personified by Margaret Thatcher. I find it quite ironic that in their desire to get at Sinn Fein our opponents are attempting to portray Thatcher as someone anxious to resolve the Hunger Strike.

Nothing could be further from the truth. According to our critics, the hunger strikers, on whose behalf we were acting, should have accepted an ‘offer’ which came to the prisoners and us, via a phone-call from a British official in London, through the intermediary (since identified as Brendan Duddy – an honourable man), to myself, to a phone-call to Gerry Adams, and in a verbal message to Danny Morrison to the prisoners.

Clearly, they have chosen to forget of what mettle the hunger strikers were made, of their experiences of British deceit in December 1980.

Sinn Fein had political and ideological differences with the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP).

We and the prisoners suspected that it would sell the prisoners short. Despite being a vehicle for the British government delivering a compromise and avoiding direct negotiations, even the ICJP’s expectations/demands that the British would send in someone to stand over what London was implying in messages was refused six times in the hours before Joe McDonnell died.

This year the British government selectively released documents about this period under the Freedom of Information Act and our critics have seized upon their release, but not their content, as some sort of proof.

That the republican leadership was in contact with the British was revealed long ago, not least in the 1987 book Ten Men Dead.

I would encourage people to read this book and the documents released in 2009 and compare it to the allegations of those who never visited the hunger strikers in the prison hospital, never dealt with the prison administration and the British government or liaised with the ICJP (which, on its terms, to be fair, was attempting to resolve the situation).

Out of the five demands the only thing the British were offering to the hunger strikers after four men had died was that they could wear ordinary clothes, “provided these clothes were approved by the prison authorities.”

The prisoners would have to do prison work or else they would be ‘punished by loss of remission, or some similar penalty’.

Ironically, Thatcher was without human compassion until her own son, Mark, was lost in the Sahara desert during a car rally in 1982 and as a mother begged God to deliver her son from hunger and thirst in the desert. Mark Thatcher was saved but not our 10 men dead. Nevertheless, their stature is unassailable and increases with every passing year, those men whose memory we will always honour, whose sacrifice triggered such a confidence in the nationalist community that things were changed utterly.

 

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: Hunger Strike freed us all from cycle of deadly ways

Hunger Strike freed us all from cycle of deadly ways
By Roy Garland 
The Monday Column
28/09/09

I once attended an evangelical meeting where a “hymn” written by a hunger striker was occasionally sung.

Thomas Ashe was a 1916 leader who died after force feeding went wrong in 1917.

His “hymn” was an amended version of one of his poems written in Lewes Gaol in England. It included the following lines: “Let me carry your cross for Ireland, Lord: the hour of her trial draws near. And the pangs and the pain of her sacrifice will be borne by comrades dear. But Lord, take me from the offering throng, there are many far less prepared, though ready and all as they are to die, that Ireland may be saved.”

Early last century Dublin-based evangelical Christians Eva and Clara Stuart Watt encouraged people to emulate the resolve of republicans in the service of Christ.

Self-sacrifice was not, however, to be taken literally. They found inspiration in Thomas Davis’s A Nation Once Again especially the words, “and righteous men must make our land a nation once again”. For a righteous person violence was not an option.

Killing for any earthly cause was repudiated. Yet the need for bloodshed was accepted but applied only to the “blood of Christ” whose suffering and death was the sacrifice to end all sacrifice.

The horror of human or animal sacrifice was rejected. The kind of “reasonable service” that evangelicals were called upon to make was, in the words of St Paul, a “living sacrifice”, meaning a life lived for God and one’s fellow man.

In contrast so many animal sacrifices took place in the Jerusalem temple before AD70 that blood spilt into the Jordan River was used by local farmers as fertiliser.

Hunger strikers fasting onto death were sacrificing their own lives. This act may be respected as courageous, revered as an example of dedication or perhaps deemed as wasteful.

On the day Bobby Sands died a deep hush pervaded the whole camp. Loyalists respected his courage. They had also wanted changes in prison conditions and led the way in support of political status in 1972 while some republicans were hesitant.

Loyalist aims were obscured somewhat by their demands for segregation.

The idea that prisoners deserve humane living conditions is of ancient vintage and perhaps derives from the Quaker emphasis on “that of God in everyone”.

Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845) was a Quaker who dedicated her life to the welfare of prisoners.

Support for humane prison conditions even reached into the heart of the Orange Order.

A friend in my dad’s Orange Lodge was secretary of the Prisoners’ Aid Society who gave occasional talks at Orange functions about prisoners’ needs.

The idea that people might die for the right to wear certain clothes or for certain “privileges” was highly questionable.

The violence of the IRA campaign had caused revulsion while unhelpful rumours that Long Kesh was a home from home did not help. Some students were angry that prisoners should gain qualifications at the taxpayers’ expense while they lived with financial difficulties.

It was not fasting itself that was considered repugnant but fasting unto death that even some republicans baulked at.

Any hint of manipulating people’s deaths for private or political ends was regarded as repulsive.

When some loyalists participated in the early dirty protests and hunger strikes, this went against the grain. They were criticised for “lending support to republicans” and became pariahs, demonised by republicans while demeaned and ostracised by many of their own people. Progressive loyalists were sometimes damned as “rotten Prods”.

This was especially difficult given that it was the oratory of unionist leaders that led many of them to take up the gun in the first place. When militant clergy disowned their proteges, this fostered cynicism. Loyalists usually hailed from the most deprived sections of the community but they could see that hunger strikes to the death were extremely emotive events that could raise dark and deadly ancestral voices.

To associate the dying hunger striker with Christ was a form of dangerous idolatry. This might explain why even progressive loyalists remained uneasy about a museum associated with the hunger strikers’ deaths.

Yet those who died in this way could be seen as in some sense Christ-like. They were victims, even if it was at their own hands. However, to manipulate their deaths for party political ends, if this is what happened, was surely the ultimate abuse of human suffering.

Yet strangely the final outcome proved to be a political path which had the capacity to free us from the ways of death.

 

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: Conflict is over but the battle for truth goes on

Conflict is over but the battle for truth goes on
By Tom Kelly
28/09/09

Nineteen-eighty-one was a seminal year. It didn’t just radicalise northern nationalism – it radicalised much more.

I was in lower sixth preparing for summer exams and my family, like many others, were worried about keeping teenagers out of trouble and ‘The Troubles’.

Most succeeded.

It’s funny the things we remember from that year but Newpoint Players had a production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (insanity was not an inappropriate theme back then).

Also, long before we both worked for Seamus Mallon, the late John Fee and I were in an after-school project called the St Francis’s Youth Group.

Spurs won the FA Cup.

That was May, the same month Bobby Sands died.

Long before 1981 I decided the IRA and so-called republicans were doing nothing for Newry. Well let’s be honest; the remnants of Newry still standing.

In 1981 the scars of the conflict were all around. Hill Street and Monaghan Street were puckered with inexplicable architectural gaps courtesy of the IRA’s economic war. The town centre was a no-go area and the human cost was well evidenced by the thriving trade at the misnomer known as the Newry Labour Exchange, where thousands of people waited with their labour – with little in the way of any exchange going on.

But the Hunger Strike was not something to be ignored.

As a history buff, I knew of the most famous Irish hunger striker, Terence MacSwiney.

His memorial card was among the memorabilia of my grandfather who himself was a political prisoner in Crumlin Road Prison a mere nine months after MacSwiney died.

MacSwiney said that “victory is not won by those who can inflict the most but those who can endure the most”. (He was subsequently invoked by Indian nationalists like Nehru).

But MacSwiney was no pacifist resistance fighter.

He had the messianic zeal of Pearse. He understood not only the principle of personal sacrifice but the impact too. MacSwiney’s death no doubt would have impacted on the emotions of my 17-year-old grandfather.

But just as the madness of the Great War milked the life blood of an entire generation who fought in a conflict neither of their making nor in their interests, the rhetoric of zealots held no truck with me in 1981 and notwithstanding my emotional ties to my grandfather – who as his subsequent election posters said “has in civic affairs and national rendered valuable services” (sic) – to me Provisional Sinn Fein were like monkeys on backs of the nationalist community; with one hand on their throats and the other in their pockets.

But then there was Bobby Sands.

And to be honest, I too, got swept up in the emotion. I had not reckoned on my almost genetic and primitive antipathy against the British.

I even agreed with the then reported comments of Provisional propagandist Danny Morrison that Thatcher was “the greatest bastard ever”. Like many others, I was motivated enough to attend the funeral of Raymond McCreesh.

Reflecting on that day, I reckon until the Good Friday Agreement that was, politically speaking, the closest I ever got to Sinn Fein.

Having been given the greatest propaganda coup of the century, the reach of IRA recruiters was never far away for attendees of that funeral.

The most active recruiter in the vicinity was referred to locally as having neither “chick nor child”. That saying stuck with me for it meant they would never know the loneliness of widowhood, the vacuum of lost sons or the rearing children without fathers.

Yet the Hunger Strike struck a raw nerve in the psyche of nationalists generally and teenagers in particular. That Provisional Sinn Fein was the main beneficiary of the sacrifice of those hunger strikers and their families, there is no doubt.

In fact it launched careers.

I agree too with Sands’s sister that Bobby most likely did not envisage dying for cross-border bodies and a devolved UK administration in the north.

Nonetheless as iconic a figure as he is to republicans, modern Sinn Fein could never live up to Bobby’s Irish utopia of 1981 by 2009.

The British/Irish war is most definitely over.

What is not over is the truth about that period as former Provisionals now question whether the sacrifice not only of the hunger strikers but the hundreds of other victims who died between 1981 and 1994 was worth it, for a political settlement which was always on the table.

 

Sourced from the Irish News

“Rusty Nail”: A Case to Answer

Monday, September 28, 2009
1981 Hunger Strike: A Case to Answer
Rusty Nail at Slugger O’Toole


WAS THERE A DEAL? ask the Irish News in its two part special on the Hunger Strike. Today’s issue is damning, featuring commentary by Deputy First Minister and, according to the Ed Moloney’s Secret History, Chief of Staff of the IRA at the time of the hunger strikes Martin McGuinness, who admits to his role as the Derry messenger between Mountain Climber Brendan Duddy and the Belfast cadre of Adams, Morrison, Gibney and Hartley. Former Hunger Striker Laurence McKeown also weighs in, shedding little light on the details but muddying the waters on the rhetoric. More significant are the contributions from former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald, who believes the IRA vetoed the deal with the British despite the prisoners’ willingness to accept – which he reveals the Irish government was aware of at the time because of a mole they had inside the prison. Hugh Logue of the ICJP, who were at the time of Joe McDonnell’s death negotiating a parallel offer similar to the one between Thatcher and the Adams committee, also weighs in, asking why the outside leadership held out at the expense of the lives of the hunger strikers. Richard O’Rawe, whose book Blanketmen opened up this appalling vista, gives an overview of how the debate has progressed and supports the call for an independent inquiry into events, describing the seeking of truth as a “sacred duty”. The contributions that focus on the families of the hunger strikers are very emotional, as the anguish of their loss is palpable. The Dohertys are hurt by the allegations of the needless death of their son, and want the issue laid to rest, while the O’Haras and Devines, also upset by the issue, want to get to the bottom of things and know the truth of what happened. The late Brendan Hughes, who led the first hunger strike in 1980, touched on this when speaking to Spanish academic Rogelio Alonso: “I’ve spoken about this to people and I’ve always been advised by people like Jim Gibney, Danny Morrison and others that it would be too hurtful for the families of the dead hunger strikers to tell the truth. But that was the other attempt to bury the truth.”

As Sarah Brett concluded on Radio Foyle this morning, after interviewing Irish News Editor Noel Doran, “This isn’t going to go away.”

This special investigation by the Irish News contains a huge volume of material, which Slugger will be sifting through more in depth in the coming days.

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

“Rusty Nail”: Gerry Adams speaking with Kieran Doherty, 29 July 1981

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Gerry Adams and Kieran Doherty, 29 July 1981
Rusty Nail at Slugger O’Toole

Writing on his blog, Gerry Adams relates an anecdote from his 29 July 1981 visit with Owen Carron to the hunger strikers in Long Kesh. This anecdote is sourced from his autobiography, Before the Dawn. It is important to put the account of this conversation into context, in order to fully appreciate its meaning. Firstly, Kieran Doherty’s condition was dire; he was nearly blind, had considerable difficulty hearing, and was demonstrably ‘delirious’, hallucinating and unaware of his surroundings. At this stage, when he was conversing with Adams, he was in no position to be making any strategic decisions. He was hardly fit to process any information about the negotiations with the British, had he been fully informed, being conducted on his behalf by Adams. As told by Adams, Kieran Doherty was blind and confused, despite being described as ‘firm’ on the five demands; he lost track of who was in the room with him, greeting Bik McFarlane only to ask not much later where Bik was, and to ask after the boys repeatedly, even after his questions had already been answered. Yet it seems today Adams is holding up this conversation as some sort of defense against the charge that the hunger strikers were sacrificed for Sinn Fein’s political gain.

What is really significant about this piece is that it shows the hunger strikers were unaware that they had already broken Thatcher. From at least early July and possibly before, if some accounts are to be believed, she was offering Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness four of the five demands and by the time Gerry Adams was sitting with Kieran Doherty, the offer from the British that Adams had been negotiating was what the prisoners got when the hunger strike ended in October.

Although already having won the concession of letters and parcels, only 10 days before the 29 July meeting with the hunger strikers Adams was still stalling the British, seeking clarification over what could be in the parcels. (“Association during leisure hours was not enough and in addition they would need specific assurances as to what they would be allowed to receive in parcels.” Beresford, Ten Men Dead, pg 325.) The hunger strikers’ commitment was used by Adams as leverage in the negotiations with the British, although by this point the hunger strikers, according to Pat McGeown, whom Bik McFarlane was striving mightily to keep in line and silenced, were more committed to each other and those who had preceded them in death than they were tied down to the details of the five demands. “When Gerry was in I didn’t say anything to him,” [McGeown] says. “Bik had already said to me, ‘Don’t make your opinions known,’ to which I had given my commitment. I just accepted [the situation].” (O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, pg 83.)

To Brownie from Bik Sun 26.7.81

“…had a long yarn with Pat Beag [McGeown] this morning and impressed upon him the necessity of keeping firmly on the line. I explained that independent thought was sound, but once it began to stray from our well considered and accepted line that it became extremely dangerous. He accepted what I said alright. Also I stressed the need for all of us to have confidence in you lot.” (Comm quoted in Beresford, Ten Men Dead, pg 333.)

By August, after having had the visit from Adams and Carron, McGeown and Devine were discussing coming off the strike; neither wanted to be seen as saving himself but both recognised the futility of carrying on – except for one strategic gain: the election of Owen Carron. “I [McGeown] said to him [Devine], ‘Hold out for ten days. After the Fermanagh-South Tyrone by-election, I don’t see any political point in us continuing the hunger strike and I’ll be saying that quite openly.’ To say to him [Devine] to come off it before it [the by-election], politically I did think we needed to stay until the whole process had been completed with Owen Carron.” (O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, pg 84.) Devine died the day of the election; he was the last hunger striker to die.

patbeag

I nDíl Chuímhne

To the memory of PAT (Beág) McGeown

A Soldier, politican, community worker and bridge builder
who died October 1 1996 as a direct result of
being on the 1981 Hunger Strike in the H Blocks

“To live in the hearts of those left behind, is not to die”

– Plaque outside Sinn Fein headquarters on Falls Road


 

An Bean Uasal from Bik 28.7.81

“…Was up in hospital tonight. […] Doc was able to talk, but became delirious and told me he was ‘talking to Bik earlier on and had a yarn with Bobby’. He’s practically blind and has great difficulty in hearing. His spirit is strong and he is very determined.” (Comm quoted in Beresford, Ten Men Dead, pg 338.)

 


Gerry Adams, Leargas blog:

I thought of the last time I saw Kieran. In the prison hospital in the H Blocks of Long Kesh. By this time he was the TD for Cavan Monaghan. It was the 29 July 1981. Kieran died on August 2.

‘I’m not a criminal.’ He said
.
‘For too long our people have been broken. The Free Staters, the church, the SDLP. We won’t be broken. We’ll get our five demands. If I’m dead … well, the others will have them. I don’t want to die, but that’s up to the Brits. They think they can break us. Well they can’t.’ He grinned self-consciously: Tiocfaidh ar lá.’

We shook hands before I left, an old internee’s hand-shake, firm and strong.

‘Thanks for coming in, I’m glad we had that wee yarn. Tell everyone, all the lads, I was asking for them and … ‘ He continued to grip my hand.

‘Don’t worry, we’ll get our five demands. We’ll break Thatcher. Lean ar aghaidh.

Talking later to Kieran’s father Alfie, his eyes brimming with unshed tears, in the quiet cells in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, I felt a raw hatred for the injustice which created this crisis.

I am glad to say that I still feel the same today 28 years after Kieran’s death.

Gerry Adams, Before the Dawn, pages 308-310:

“Brendan [McFarlane] arranged for us to go and see Kieran Doherty. I told the lads that I wouldn’t tell Doc of their position.
‘He knows it anyway,’ someone said.
‘We saw him last night after Father Crilly’s visit.’
‘I know,’ said I.
Doc was propped up on one elbow; his eyes, unseeing, scanned the cell as he heard us entering.
‘Mise atá ann,’ (‘It’s me’) said Brendan McFarlane.
‘Ahh Bik, cad é mar atá tú?’ arsa Doc. (‘Ahh Bik, how are you?’ Doc said.)
‘Nílim romh dhona, agus tú féin?‘ (‘I’m not too bad, and yourself?’)
Tá mé go hiontach; tá daoine eile anseo? Cé…?‘ (‘I’m great; are there other people here? Who…?’)
Tá Gerry Adams, Owen Carron agus Seamus Ruddy anseo. Teastaíonn uatha caint leat.‘ (‘Gerry Adams, Owen Carron, and Seamus Ruddy are here. They want to speak with you.’)
Gerry A’, fáilte.‘ (‘Gerry A’, welcome.’) He greeted us all, his eyes following our voices. We crowded around the bed, the cell much too small for four visitors. I sat on the side of the bed. Doc, whom I hadn’t seen in years, looked massive in his gauntness, as his eyes, fierce in their quiet defiance, scanned my face.
I spoke to him quietly and slowly, somewhat awed by the man’s dignity and by the enormity of our mission.
He responded to my probing with paitence.
‘You know the score yourself,’ he said, ‘I’ve a week in me yet. How is Kevin [Lynch] holding out?’
‘You’ll both be dead soon. I can go out now, Doc and announce that it’s over.’
He paused momentarily and reflected, then: ‘We haven’t got our five demands and that’s the only way I’m coming off. Too much suffered for too long, too many good men dead. Thatcher can’t break us. Lean ar aghaidh. I’m not a criminal.’
I continued with my probing. Doc responded.
‘For too long our people have been broken. The Free Staters, the church, the SDLP. We won’t be broken. We’ll get our five demands. If I’m dead…well, the others will have them. I don’t want to die, but that’s up to the Brits. They think they can break us. Well they can’t.’ He grinned self-consciously. ‘Tiocfaidh ár lá.‘ (‘Our day will come.’)
‘How are you all keeping? I’m glad you came in. I can only see blurred shapes. I’m glad to be with friends. Cá bhfuil Bik? (Where is Bik?) Bik, stay staunch. How’s the boys doing?’
We talked quietly for a few minutes. Owen got another ribbing about the election. We got up to go. I told Doc to get the screw to give us a shout if he wanted anything.
We shook hands, an old internee’s handshake, firm and strong.
‘Thanks for coming in, I’m glad we had that wee yarn. Tell everyone, all the lads, I was asking for them and…’ He continued to grip my hand.
‘Don’t worry, we’ll get our five demands. We’ll break Thatcher. Lean ar aghaidh.’
Outside Doc’s cell, the screw led us in to speak to Kieran’s father, Alfie, and brother, Michael, who had just arrived to relieve Kieran’s mother.
We spoke for about five minutes. I felt an immense solidarity with the Doherty family, broken-hearted, like all the families, as they watched Kieran die. Yet because they understood their son, they were prepared to accept his wishes and were completely committed to the five demands for which he was fasting.
Talking to Alfie, his eyes brimming with unshed tears, in the quiet cells in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, I felt a raw hatred for the injustice that created this crisis. Alfie, concerned for us, had a quiet word with Bik McFarlane and left to sit with Kieran.”

Note: Kieran Doherty died 4 days later.

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

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


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