July 1981

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Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

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.”

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

Pádraic Wilson in Andersonstown News

You can’t rewrite history, says leading republican
Andersonstown News,Thursday 21st of August 2009
By Anthony Neeson

A leading Belfast republican has told a hunger strike commemoration in the West of the city that you can’t rewrite history.

Pádraic Wilson was speaking at a gathering of several hundred people in Whiterock Leisure Centre on Sunday evening.

Earlier that day republicans had taken part in a march commemorating the 1969 pogroms as well as a hunger strike rally in County Tryone.

Mr Wilson said that while republicans were used to being demonised by political rivals and the mainstream media, now some “former comrades” had “aligned themselves” with revisionism.

Speaking about the former he said: “They vilified and demonised our comrades, their families and each and every one of us.

“They provided a rationale for the murderous attacks against the Relatives’ Action Committees and others.

“In recent times there have been attempts, led by some of the same people, to rewrite the history of that period.

“If we didn’t know better we could be forgiven for thinking that these people actually cared about our comrades or their families.”

He said people needed to be clear about a number of things.

“The British government, led by Thatcher, was not an honest broker trying desperately to find a solution to a situation for which they had no responsibility.

“Thatcher had shown quite clearly in December 1980, when the opportunity for a solution to the situation in the H-Blocks and Armagh arose, that she had one intention and one only, and that was to demoralise us, crush us, and to deliver a death blow to republican resistance. According to her we had played our last card… the game was still going in Brighton in 1984, Maggie.

“She and her allies failed inside the prisons and they failed on the outside.

“They failed because we, and that means those of us who were in prison, those of you who fought and campaigned on the outside, and those of you who provided the resources for that, all of us refused to be intimidated, refused to bow down and refused to be criminalised.

“While we expect it from those quarters, there are others, some of them former comrades, who have aligned themselves with this revisionism. The logic of their position is that our comrades were like sheep being led aimlessly along.

“That is an insult and it needs challenged.”

Mr Wilson spoke about Andersonstown hunger striker Kieran Doherty, a man he knew well, and recalled the punishment that he and others endured in the H-Blocks.

“I’ve been asked at various times over the years if it was all worth it,” he told the audience. “I’ve always responded that everything that I’ve experienced and all that I’ve been a part of were necessary and worthy.

“Mindful that some people might think that’s an easy answer to give because I’m alive and well, I can only say that any other response would be a lie and a betrayal.”

Sourced from the Andersonstown News

Pádraic Wilson: The hunger strikes of ’81 and what they mean today

The hunger strikes of ’81 and what they mean today
Andersonstown News
Thursday 14th of August 2009
by Francesca ryan

The 1981 hunger strike is to be remembered at an event being held at Whiterock Leisure Centre this Sunday.

Leading Belfast republican Pádraic Wilson will share his memories of his time on the blanket and the dark days of 1981.

Pádraic, Sinn Féin’s Director of International Affairs, spent three separate stints in prison and recalls vividly the effect both the hunger strike and the hunger strikers had on him.

Pádraic told the Andersonstown News that the talk will focus on his time in Long Kesh from 1976 to 1982.

“I was in Long Kesh during the blanket protest and the hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981,” he said.

“I knew most of the hungerstrikers, some from the outside and others I got to know while inside. I will be talking about the hunger strke in general and what it meant for me.”

Pádraic says it was Kieran Doherty who gave him the morale boost he needed to get through the bleakest of times in Long Kesh.

“Of all the hunger strikers, I knew Kieran Doherty the best,” he said.

“He lived a few streets away from me and was just a few years older than me.

“Kieran was someone everyone looked up to, literally, because of his height, but also because he was an inspiration.

“Big Doc just instilled confidence in everyone, he was practically fearless. Just standing beside him at Mass on a Sunday – the only time we were allowed out of our cells – was enough to boost my morale.

“Even the screws were afraid of him and would never take him on one-to-one like they would have done with the others. He was the one who kept my morale going.”

Pádraic is also ready to address the current debate surrounding the hunger strike.

“There is no way I could talk about that time without mentioning that there is some controversy at the minute regarding the hunger strike.

“For anyone to suggest that Margaret Thatcher and her government wanted to offer a deal that republicans rejected, well, they need their heads examined.

“I intend to talk about this in reference to the hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981.”

Pádraic will also touch on the path republicanism has taken in the years following the hunger strikes right through to today’s peace process.

“I’m going to speak about the relevance of the hunger strike in terms of where we are now.

“For me, it is the same struggle with the same objectives, the only thing that has changed is the way of achieving the objectives.”

Pádraic will be speaking at the commemoration night in Whiterock Leisure Centre this Sunday (August 16).

Admission is £5 and the doors open at 7pm.

Sourced from The Andersonstown News

Gerry Adams recalls Kieran Doherty

Note: See also Before the Dawn, pages 308-310.

Monday, August 3, 2009
Fair Play
Gerry Adams, Leargas blog

doherty_cupJoe McDonnell’s grandson Caolan presents the Joe McDonnell Cup to Captain Gary Lennon of Sarsfields

3 Lúnasa 2009

FAIR PLAY.

On Saturday afternoon this blog travelled to Saint Teresa’s Club in Belfast to watch the play offs in the Joe McDonnell – Kieran Doherty Football Tournament.

Joe and Kieran who died on hungerstrike in the H Blocks in 1981 were Saint Teresa’s men. The very fine playing facility on the Glen Road bears their names, Páirc Mhic Dhomhnaill Uí Dhocartaigh.

Each year the club organises a very competitive days sport for Under 16 players in their memory. Fair play to the organisers, the referees and most especially the players and mentors. Joe and Kieran would have enjoyed the day out. They were good Gaels.

Joe, a wee bit older and a wee bit smaller than Kieran was a good sportsman, resourceful in a skirmish and inclined to play on the referee’s blind side. But always for the devilment of it. He was not a cynical player. In football or anything else. Doc was a big guy. Six foot three inches tall. Maybe in another era he could have been county material. He won a minor medal with Saint Teresa’s and although the struggle interrupted his sporting life Kieran stayed fit, energetic and athletic.

I thought of Doc and Joe as I sat with my back to the Black Mountain. The city of Belfast stretched before us away off to the middle distance and the Craigantlet Hills. To our left the Cavehill looked down its nose at Belfast Lough and to our right lightly shrouded in rain in the far distance, the Mournes swept down to the sea. Impervious to all this, Saint Teresa’s and Naomh Pol Under 16s battled it out in the final of one competition and Eoin Roe’s and the Paddies (Sarsfields) in the other. Eoin Roe’s are a Tír Eoghan club and they play good football but the Paddies were better on the day. Saint Teresa’s were victorious as well. Seven clubs in all participated.

The Pearse’s turned up with their Under 16 hurlers but they couldn’t get a game. Communications, communications, communications!! But fair play to the stalwarts who keep this very fine club going. It was terrific to see such a fine squad of young hurlers ready to do battle for their team.

I got to do some of the presentations afterwards. Caolan McDonald, Joe’s grandson did the rest. And a fine job he did as well.

Between them all and all the other young athletes who turned up at the Feile an Phobal Carnival opening on Sunday morning, methinks the future of the gaelic games is secure in Aontroim. Our camógs, hurlers and footballers are the sleeping giants of the GAA. Our senior footballers have shown what is possible. Fair play to them. They did us and our county proud.

Joe and Kieran would be pleased about that as well.

I went to the Féile Carnival from the commemoration at Doc’s house and the vigil on Andytown Road on Sunday morning. At the commemoration Big Bobby regaled us with tales of derring-do and other bits of loose talk laced with gems of political clarity and words of great wisdom.

Then Mrs Doherty sang for us. A song about her son.

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 That¬cher. 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. And I am humbled that I knew him and Joe who died on July 8 1981, and the other hungerstrikers.

Fair play to them all. And to their families.

 

Sourced from Leargas blog

One reader still has questions about 1981 hunger strike

One reader still has questions about 1981 hunger strike
Andersonstown News Monday, Mala Poist

The recent and very private meeting between Provisional Sinn Féin and families of the 1981 hunger strikers seems to have left us with even more questions unanswered than there was before the meeting.

Firstly, I want to recognize that this is still a very emotional event for the families and no doubt also still very painful. I have difficulty writing this letter for these reasons. But the truth is the hunger strike is such an historic event that anything concerning it will always attract a lot of attention. 

The families recently released a statement through PSF press office asking for the allegations that the Provisional leadership turned down an offer that the prisoners thought was enough to end the hunger strike. For some of the families to say they want the controversy to end will not, unfortunately, make it go away.

The hunger strike and the slow death of the ten men reached all corners of Ireland and even well beyond our shores. Former blanketmen, even surviving hunger strikers and republicans have a vested interest in what happened in July 1981, as can be seen by the amount of them that attended the public, and packed meeting held in Derry’s Gasworks a few weeks ago. Adams and the PSF leadership refused to attend this meeting.

The British go-between to the Provisional leadership, the Mountain Climber, did attend and was open to questions from the public for the first time. He confirmed that O’Rawe’s account of the offer from the British was true. He also confirmed that the offer was rejected by the PIRA. What also came out at this meeting was that the INLA leadership inside and outside the H-Blocks knew nothing about the contact with the British. Two INLA prisoners died after the events of July 1981.

Since O’Rawe’s claims came out the reaction from PSF was fast and furious, so fast that they did not coordinate what they were saying as they contradicted each other in public, and also forgot what was already recorded in the public domain. 

Adams has remained totally silent on the issue since he was interviewed in two TV shows for the 25th anniversary in 2006, where in one show, for the BBC, he spoke openly about his role in the hunger strike and about the Mountain Climber with ease. Then O’Rawe’s claims came out and Adams in the RTé show denied he knew about the Mountain Climber, two totally different versions that are contradictory, both can not be true.

Mountain Climber

The Mountain Climber issue is now well documented, as one of the contacts with the British. But one contact that seems to have slipped under the radar is the contact Adams personally had with the British. In his book Before the Dawn, Adams, in his own words, says that he was on the phone to a British contact when Joe McDonnell actually died. 

Who was this contact and where are the transcripts of these conversations? Why the need for the Mountain Climber if Adams and his “kitchen cabinet” had direct contacts with the British?

There are lots of other questions that need to be answered about the role that Adams and his “kitchen cabinet” played during the hunger strike, for instance, in the same book, Adams also claims that the British always left it until the critical stage, as a hunger striker neared death, and phoned late at night believing that they (the “kitchen cabinet”) would be at a low ebb (now this is not the Mountain Climber contact, as that was all done in writing and only started on the 4/5 July) so he, Adams, got into the habit of cat-napping during the day to be fresh for these calls.

Now what has me confused about all of this is (1) what “critical stage” was there before Joe died that Adams had contact with the British? Surely that would be the first four strikers? (2) Did the prisoners and their families know about this contact, because as far as I can tell this contact is not recorded elsewhere. (3) It is obvious from his own words that Adams played a major role (key role?) in the hunger strike, yet now remains totally silent in public on what that role was. Why?

Finally, to the families I am sorry if this has opened old wounds for you, but this is not going to go away. The hunger strike and the men who died on it are such a massive part of our history that the events of 1981 will always be in the public domain and questions will be asked about the men and the hunger strike, just as questions are asked and examined about other major events in our history that wider society has a vested interest in, and that’s the way it should be.

Gerard Foster
Andersonstown

Sourced from The Andersonstown News

Danny Morrison: O’Rawe’s Attacks Untrue

O’Rawe’s Attacks Untrue
Danny Morrison
From Daily Ireland, 9 March 2005
Also An Phoblacht

Having quickly run out of argument, having found his account rebuffed by former hunger strikers and blanket men, Richard O’Rawe has resorted to personal, untrue and hurtful attacks. His claim that in 1981 the army council of the IRA turned down a deal from ‘Mountain Climber’ (a British representative) which could have saved six hunger strikers lives in order to gain a sympathy vote for Owen Carron in the Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election has been demolished.

Few believe his plea that he wrote the book for the families of the hunger strikers (but forgot to tell them). Instead of conceding that his memory might be false, or that being only partly privy to the talks in 1981 led him to misinterpret events, he persists with his myths because his book and its sales are his primary concern.

The fact that during all the propaganda wars successive British governments have never in the intervening 24 years claimed the IRA squandered a deal in 1981 speaks for itself. It would certainly have been in British interests to level such a charge – after all, the allegation is of such a magnitude that were it true it had the potential for stopping the struggle in its tracks.

In this paper last Saturday Richard wrote: “Danny [Morrison] has accused me of being oblivious to the feelings of the families. Let me say that’s rich.

“This man went into a meeting with the families on July 28th with the Mountain Climber offer in his back pocket and yet he didn’t think the families should be made aware of the offer. Why did he do that?”

On July 10th at Joe McDonnell’s funeral I collapsed in Milltown Cemetery. I was taken into hospital in Dublin with hepatitis, which is an infectious disease, and kept in an isolation ward at Cherry Orchard hospital in Ballyfermott. That’s where I was on July 28th. In hospital I was humbled to receive a message from the hunger strikers asking about my condition. A month after Joe McDonnell’s death I returned to the North to speak at the funeral of IRA hunger striker Tom McElwee in Bellaghy. My point is that Richard’s memory isn’t as sharp as he claims.

Interestingly, in his ‘Daily Ireland’ right of reply Richard also had the opportunity to rebut criticism of him the day before from Laurence McKeown but chose not to. Laurence was one of those on hunger strike at the time in 1981 when Richard alleges that the IRA refused ‘a deal’ to end the fast. Richard seems incapable of grasping the distinction between an offer and a confirmed deal. 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’.”

Richard was a blanket man and a PRO for the prisoners in 1981. He was not a negotiator and was never in the prison hospital with the hunger strikers, though he elevates his importance in his book. He was a good PRO and upon his release from prison he worked for a year in the Republican Press Centre in Belfast at the time when I was Sinn Fein’s Director of Publicity. So, we saw each other at briefings every day for a year until he decided to go into business for himself.

Since then there have been a dozen occasions when we’ve discussed politics late into the night. During and after the hunger strike, and in all the time I have known and spoken to him, Richard never made this allegation.

He says that in 1991 he privately criticised the role of the IRA Army Council in the hunger strike but was told that he could be shot and so he kept quiet. He explains that because of the new atmosphere following the ceasefire and that because he believes there will be no return to armed struggle he now feels free to say these things. Even if for the sake of argument we accept that Richard felt threatened in 1991 that doesn’t explain why in the interests of accuracy he would not now have consulted Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane, his former OC, whom throughout the book he has recruited to his position, other hunger strikers who survived, Gerry Adams or myself. Bik, like Laurence McKeown, repudiates Richard’s allegation.

Richard deceived many people into believing that he was writing a book about growing up in West Belfast. When the book was published last week any merit it had for former comrades, as one blanket man’s grim experience of jail, was destroyed by his implicit insult to the intelligence of the hunger strikers and his scurrilous attack on the IRA leadership and Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

As a result of his attacks Richard has been feted by the ‘Sunday Times’ and lauded by revisionists, anti-republican journalists and the usual suspects. Had his book been called ‘Blanketmen – Thatcher kills hunger strikers’ I think we can guess at how little media coverage he could have expected.

Richard’s book has helped no one but the enemies of the struggle. Not the hunger strikers’ families, not the blanket men, not the republican cause, not his friends and comrades, and, certainly, not himself. What Richard O’Rawe has written is repugnant but it has exposed him as a minor figure against the inviolable memory of the hunger strikers, their sacrifices and their greatness.

First published in Daily Ireland and An Phoblacht

McFARLANE DENIES HUNGER STRIKE ‘DEAL’ WAS STRUCK

Brendan McFarlane denies Hunger Strike deal
Irelandclick.com (Andersonstown News)

Also: Republicans Reject Hunger Strike Claims, An Phoblacht

McFARLANE DENIES HUNGER STRIKE ‘DEAL’ WAS STRUCK
Brendan McFarlane, OC H-Blocks

Brendan McFarlane, the leader of the H-Block prisoners during the hunger strikes of 1981, has rejected any suggestion that a deal was rejected before the death of Joe McDonnell.

The North Belfast man said the claims in Richard O’Rawe’s book entitled Blanketmen: The Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike had caused distress among the families of the hunger strikers.
In his book O’Rawe claims the final six men to die were sacrificed for political reasons and to help the election of Owen Carron to Bobby Sands’ Westminster seat.
“All of us, particularly the families of the men who died, carry the tragedy and trauma of the hunger strikes with us every day of our lives.
“It was an emotional and deeply distressing time for those of us who were in the H-Blocks and close to the hunger strikers,” said Brendan McFarlane.
“However, as the Officer Commanding in the prison at the time, I can say categorically that there was no outside intervention to prevent a deal.
“The only outside intervention was to try to prevent the hunger strike.
“Once the strike was underway, the only people in a position to agree a deal or call off the hunger strike were the prisoners – particularly the hunger strikers themselves.
“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″.
Raymond McCartney, a former hunger striker and now Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle, also said O’Rawe’s claims lacked credibility.
“Richard’s recollection of events is not accurate or credible.
“The hunger strike was a response to Thatcher’s criminalisation campaign.
“The move to hunger strike resulted from the prisoners’ decision to escalate the protest after five years of beatings, starvation and deprivation.
“The leadership of the IRA and of Sinn Féin tried to persuade us not to embark on this course of action.
“At all times we, the prisoners, took the decisions.”

First published on Irelandclick.com and in An Phoblacht

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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.