Sep 29, 2009 1
O’Rawe warned of backlash from republicans – journalist
Was there a deal?
By Allison Morris
VETERAN reporter Ed Moloney has said that he warned Richard O’Rawe about an inevitable backlash from former republican associates if he went ahead and published his book.
O’Rawe’s claims that the Sinn Fein leadership sabotaged a possible resolution to the protest in order to further the party’s political fortunes has caused a storm of controversy which has gained momentum ever since.
Having covered the unfolding situation at the Maze prison as a journalist, from the blanket protest through to the first and later the second Hunger Strike on which 10 men died, the former Irish Times and Sunday Tribune northern editor said claims contained in Blanketmen came as no surprise to many.
“I not only read Richard’s book at an early stage I helped edit it and advised him strongly at the time not to publish it,” he said.
“I told him they, and by they I mean primarily the Sinn Fein leadership, would make his life very difficult.
“Knowing Richard, where he lived and the background he came from, I was aware from previous personal experience that it would get very rough for him.
“But I got the impression this had been eating away at him for some time.”
Mr Moloney, who lives in the US, is expected to reveal new material on the republican movement in a book due out early next year.
The book includes a series of interviews with top republican Brendan ‘The Dark’ Hughes before his death last year.
Hughes had been a former OC of the IRA’s Belfast brigade and was leader of the 1980 republican Hunger Strike in the Maze.
During his conversations with O’Rawe, Mr Moloney said he was aware that he had delayed publishing his book Blanketmen until the peace process was firmly embedded.
“He did this so he couldn’t be accused of causing the Sinn Fein leadership problems,” Mr Moloney said.
“Covering the Hunger Strike as a journalist, even back then at a republican grassroots level, there was a general feeling that it had just gone on for far too long,” he said.
“Ten deaths was excessive and went way beyond anything that they had previously asked their prisoners to do.
“To leave the decision up to the prisoners themselves was thought by some to be a tactical move.
“Each man carried the weight of the dead comrade who went before them on their shoulders and so the protest continued.”
Mr Moloney said it was fairly well recognised that the 1981 Hunger Strike was the Provos’ Easter Rising.
“So many horrendous horrible acts had gone before it that this supreme sacrifice and unfaltering belief was a kind of justification for the IRA’s campaign,” he said.
“It was also the very start of the modern peace process and the beginning of Sinn Fein’s electoral and political strategy.
“More recently, evidence uncovered by Liam Clarke [who reported details of British government documents which were released to The Sunday Times earlier this year following a freedom of information request], if not entirely settles the matter, then takes us to a point where explanations are certainly required.
“There have been changes to some people’s stories that are so significant it begs the question why?
“That is what in my opinion now needs to be cleared up.”