July 1981

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Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Only an independent inquiry can reveal the truth of the Hunger Strike

Only an independent inquiry can reveal the truth of the Hunger Strike
Thomas Lynch, Irish News
24/10/09

Duleek 1916-1981 Monument Committee in Co Meath are an independent republican commemoration committee who erected a monument in memory of the 22 hunger strikers who died between 1917 and 1981.

We read with interest your coverage of the ‘Hunger Strike – Was There A Deal’ and took into account the claims and counter-claims regarding the era of 1981.

Sinn Fein Councillor Michael Henry McIvor in his letter (October 10) made a number of points:

– Dissidents and political foes join to attack Sinn Fein and accuse them of allowing six prisoners to die for political gains.

– Thatcher gave in to the Hunger Strikers and conceded the five demands turning her into putty.

– It is absurd for anyone to say Ruairi O Bradaigh (then Sinn Fein president in 1981) would sell out six hunger strikers for votes.

– Only an idiot would claim that the INLA allowed two of their members to die for more electoral support for Sinn Fein.

Add all this to calls by Gerry Adams for an independent international truth commission to be formed regarding the Troubles.

Mr McIvor and Mr Adams should have no problem in supporting an independent inquiry into the deaths of the hunger strikers.

And that is precisely what is being called for by the Devine and O’Hara families.

We, as an independent committee not affiliated to any political party, call on Councillor McIvor and Mr Adams to confirm that they will participate in an inquiry along with all those making claims and counter-claims about the events of 1981.

As republicans we owe it to the memory of those brave men and their families to put these rumours to bed once and for all.

Thomas Lynch
Duleek 1916-1981 Independent Monument Committee
Duleek, Co Meath

Sourced from the Irish News

“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

Richard O’Rawe: There was an offer on the table – but the prisoners weren’t told

There was an offer on the table – but the prisoners weren’t told
THE HUNGER STRIKE Was there a deal?
By Richard O’Rawe, for the Irish News
22/10/09

Richard O’Rawe – former republican prisoner, PRO of the 1981 hunger strikers and author of Blanketmen – responds to Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams on claims a deal was available which would have saved the lives of six hunger strikers

There is now no room for doubting that the hunger strikers, by their sacrifice and courage, melted the iron will of Margaret Thatcher.

In doing so they tore asunder the British government’s policy of criminalisation. Not only that, but the hunger strikers forced the British to make a substantial offer, which was passed to Brendan Duddy (the Mountain Climber) on 5 July 1981.

Martin McGuinness said in his September 28 Irish News article that he took the offer from Duddy and passed it on to Gerry Adams in Belfast.

I believe that, had that offer not been rejected by those republican leaders on the outside who ran the Hunger Strike, it would have spelt victory to the Blanketmen, proved to be a massive propaganda coup for the republican struggle and, most importantly of all, saved the lives of six hunger strikers.

I also believe that while other accounts of the period have crumbled under the weight of damning contemporaneous evidence, my version of events has been vindicated: there was an offer; Bik McFarlane and I did accept it; a comm from Gerry Adams came in to the prison leadership which said that ‘more was needed’.

A similar message was sent to the British government.

Besides Martin McGuinness, the former hunger striker Laurence McKeown contributed an article to The Irish News special edition.

In it Laurence made no direct reference to this offer, preferring instead to write about a conversation he had had with a BBC producer in the 1990s.

That prompts the question: had Laurence and the hunger strikers been made fully aware of the details of the Mountain Climber offer?

I do not think they were and Laurence McKeown’s own book, Nor Meekly Serve My Time, demonstrates this.

For example: on July 29 1981, at the request of the families and Mgr Denis Faul, Gerry Adams, Fermanagh and South Tyrone election candidate Owen Carron, and INLA leader Seamus Ruddy visited the hunger strikers, ostensibly to give them their assessment of the situation.

Thirteen years later, in 1994, Laurence recorded the visit in his book. On page 236 he wrote of Gerry Adams having visited hunger striker Kieran Doherty:

“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 stailceoirí, including Kieran, that there was no deal on the table from the Brits, no movement of any sort and if the stailc continued, Doc would most likely be dead within a few days. They just listened to this and nodded, more or less resigned to the fact that they would be watching their son die any day now.”

Kieran Doherty TD passed away four days after Adams’s visit, believing that there ‘was no deal on the table from the Brits, no movement of any sort’.

What Adams seemingly did not tell Kieran’s dignified parents, Alfie and Margaret, was that, actually, there was a deal on the table from the Brits, and it had been there from before Joe McDonnell died.

Moreover, he did not tell them that there had been movement.

Adams did not tell Mr and Mrs Doherty – or their noble son – about the Mountain Climber offer.

According to Laurence McKeown, Adams did not tell any of the hunger strikers about the Mountain Climber offer. Worse still, he told them the opposite of what he knew to be the facts of the situation.

I believe that Adams misrepresented the situation and Bik McFarlane did nothing to correct him. That is hardly surprising since before Adams even set foot in the prison McFarlane told Pat ‘Beag’ McGeown ‘Don’t make your opinions known,’ at the forthcoming meeting.

Subsequently Pat Beag said, ‘When Gerry was in I didn’t say anything to him.’

In the face of all the evidence Sinn Fein has sought to demonise anyone who criticises their version of the Hunger Strike by representing that any condemnation of them automatically means that the hunger strikers had been dupes.

The hunger strikers were never dupes. In reality, like Pat Beag, they were very astute and politically-aware individuals, people who would not be ‘easily deceived or cheated’ by anyone.

Yet, like any of us, they could only make decisions on the basis of the information they had.

If those they trusted withheld vital information from them, their judgements would obviously have been impaired.

Besides Gerry Adams not having told them of the Mountain Climber offer, when he visited them on July 29, Bik McFarlane never told them that he and I had accepted the Mountain Climber offer.

Furthermore, like McFarlane and the rest of the prison leadership, the hunger strikers were never shown a copy of the British government’s offer.

In fact, none of us prisoners in Long Kesh were told that the offer came in the form of a statement from the then secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Humphrey Atkins, which the British, as documents recently disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act made clear, would have been released if and when the Hunger Strike ended.

So, why was this offer not sent in to the hunger strikers so that they could properly evaluate the attitude of the British?

Who took the decision to withhold it from them?

And the biggest question of all – why?

Sourced from the Irish News

Bernard Fox: Claims only add to pain

Claims only add to pain says ex-hunger striker
THE HUNGER STRIKE Was there a deal?
By Allison Morris, Irish News
22/10/09

bernardfox

UPSET: Bernard Fox today PICTURE: Hugh Russell

Former republican hunger striker Bernard Fox says he is deeply distressed by allegations that a deal which could have ended the strike was vetoed in order to maximise electoral support for Sinn Fein.

The west Belfast man, who spent a total of 22 years in prison, was on hunger strike for 32 days when the protest was ended.

Speaking to The Irish News Mr Fox said: “I was a close friend of Joe McDonnell. I was on active service with him on the outside, and later imprisoned with him.

“Under those circumstances you get to know a person’s character very well.

“Joe loved life and had no desire to die but he was determined and pragmatic and was not for settling for anything other than the five demands – that I can say for sure.

“I wasn’t in the hospital at that time and I don’t know what the men were told or not told but I do know that there was no deal.

“Offers, yes – there were plenty of offers.

“Sure wasn’t Kieran Nugent given an offer of a convict’s uniform in 1976, an offer he declined?”

Having been interned twice the former IRA man was returned to the Maze prison as a convicted prisoner in 1977 and immediately joined the blanket protest, before volunteering for the Hunger Strike.

He spent 32 days on hunger strike before the protest, which claimed the lives of seven IRA and three INLA prisoners, came to an end.

“It took me 20 years before I could even speak openly about my experiences,” he said.

“It’s still emotional and raw for me even now. These claims just add to that pain.

“I can only imagine what it must be like for the families of the 10 lads.

“Bik [McFarlane] was chosen to act as our OC [officer commanding]. It’s a job no-one envied – the pressure must have been unbearable.

“Regardless of what I or anyone else may think about the political direction he has taken since, at the time we knew he wasn’t going to let us down.

“To suggest that he in some way colluded with the outside leadership to let his comrades die is sickening to me and does not hold up to scrutiny.

“After the first hunger strike we, [the prisoners] were very clear we wanted our demands in writing and delivered by a representative of the British government so there could be no reneging this time.

“Look, I would never criticise any former blanketman. We all suffered equally and the comradeship we had at that time was the only thing that saw us through.

“But try as I may I cannot understand where some people are coming from or why they would wait all these years to bring this out.

“Thatcher and the British government are responsible for the deaths of our comrades – that’s where the blame lies.”

In 1998 Fox was released from prison under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

He has since parted company with Sinn Fein in disagreement over its political direction.

“I have no personal or political agenda,” he said.

“My only concern is for the families and how all this must be hurting them.

Addressing calls for a public inquiry, he said: “I have no time for inquiries. What you need is not an inquiry but the truth and it would be naive to think the British will ever tell the truth.

“If there are unanswered questions my advice would be to seek clarification.

“That way the families who have called on all this to stop can be left in peace.”

Sourced from the Irish News

Tony O’Hara: The truth about the Hunger Strike

The truth about the Hunger Strike
Tony O’Hara, Derry
Irish News Letters
22/10/09

I read with amazement the attempt by Gerry Adams (October 12) to win back some ground in the controversy over the Hunger Strike offers.

Most of his piece was spent demonising everyone who dared offer an opinion against the Sinn Fein line.

But Mr Adams’s opinion of any of these people doesn’t mean that what they have said is wrong.

The evidence has been growing and – as other avenues are explored – more evidence will come to light.

Let’s deal with some of the facts of the controversy.

Richard O’Rawe claims that he and Bik McFarlane had a conversation about ‘the Mountain Climber’ offer received in a communication in which O’Rawe said in Gaelic, ‘‘There is enough there’’ (to end the Hunger Strike). Bik agreed. This has been verified by two other prisoners who heard the conversation.

Bik claims this never happened. As well as his other contradictory statements, Bik on UTV live on March 1 2005 denied that any offer of any sort was ever made by the British at any point.

In March 2005, in an interview with The Irish News, Bik stated: “There was no concrete proposals whatsoever in relation to a deal.”

At Gulladuff he said he took the offer to the prisoners – they turned it down.

Kevin Lynch and Mickey Devine never heard this offer.

We know the offer came via Brendan Duddy – ‘the Mountain Climber’.

Yet Gerry Adams has stated that he never heard of ‘the Mountain Climber’.

Who overruled the POW leadership to reject the British offer that contained almost four of the five demands?

Did Gerry or any other members of the republican leadership get any other offers from the British?

On the issue of Garret Fitzgerald and censorship – Gerry’s own members have been trying to silence people talking about this – with threats, demonising etc.

Gerry should put some manners on them.

It should also be clarified that there was no family statement at Gulladuff.

The following day Sinn Fein members took a SF-composed statement around to some family members for them to sign.

My mother and I never signed it. Neither did Michael Devine (who was also at Gulladuff) or Louise Devine.

The British government were ultimately responsible for the deaths of our relatives.

We all agree on that.

But could some of the lives have been saved?

My family and Mickey Devine’s family are receiving tremendous support from hundreds of ex-POWs, republicans and nationalists in our quest to uncover the truth.

We are not selective about where evidence comes from. Facts are facts – it is the truth we are after.

At Gulladuff, I suggested that we invite all concerned into a room together to thrash things out. Gerry didn’t reply.

That suggestion is still there, only now I ask for it in public with an agreed international humanitarian as chairperson. Only that will end it.

Richard O’Rawe has agreed to attend, former taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald has also said he would cooperate with an inquiry.

Will Gerry?

I invite the readers of The Irish News to make up their own minds by visiting http://www.longkesh.info

Sourced from the Irish News

Ruairí Ó Brádaigh: In the interests of historical accuracy

In the interests of historical accuracy
Ruairi O Bradaigh, President of Republican Sinn Fein, Dublin 1
20/10/09

Arising out of recent publicity in The Irish News on the 1981 hunger strikes I wish to clarify certain matters.

– Dr Garrett Fitzgerald places Gerry Adams as president of Sinn Fein in 1981.

I was president at that time.

– Sinn Fein’s task in 1980-81 was to campaign in support of the hunger strikers.

Sinn Fein knew nothing of conditions alleged to be on offer for settlement of the strike.

– I do not believe that the army council of the IRA was aware of such alleged conditions either.

In the interests of historical accuracy I wish to place this information on the public record.

Sourced from the Irish News

Hunger strikers ‘were not sacrificed for political gain’

Hunger strikers ‘were not sacrificed for political gain’
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh interview
By Allison Morris
17/10/09

STRATEGY: Ruairí Ó Brádaigh has dismissed suggestions by former republican prisoner Richard O’Rawe, inset, that some of the 1981 hunger strikers were allowed to die in the Maze Prison as part of a Sinn Fein strategy to gain electoral support

Throughout the1981 republican Hunger Strike, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh reigned as president of Sinn Fein. It is also believed he was a member of the IRA’s ruling army council throughout the same period.

Controversy surrounding the publication of Richard O’Rawe’s book Blanketmen, which claims the fast was allowed to continue for political gain, has provoked reaction from a vast spectrum of republicans.

While Ó Brádaigh has said he passionately supported using elections as a strategy to draw global attention to prison protest, he maintains it’s unthinkable that men were sacrificed for electoral success.

“When the first four men had died we had a situation in the 26 counties where Charlie Haughey was hesitating calling a general election,” he said.

“Men were dying and Haughey knew this would do him no favours.

“After the first four died it was thought there would be a space – people generally go about 60 days – so Haughey finally called the election “I pushed for a contest and I have to say there was a lot of opposition to that, especially from people north of the border who wouldn’t be that familiar with the ground in the south.

“But eventually we got agreement and it went ahead.

“People were very nervous but men were dying. We had to do something.

“Getting reaction from people I knew well and whose judgment I trusted. The feedback I was getting back was that there was great support there.

“In the end two were elected but I would say if we had more time we could have got a couple more elected.”

The election of republican candidates achieved its aim, namely drawing attention to the protest.

However, allegations against Sinn Fein are that a deal, that came close to granting the prisoners’ five demands was rejected in order to exploit gains being made at the polls.

Ó Brádaigh, while no friend of the present Sinn Fein leadership, says he would challenge this version of events, claiming British dirty tricks were responsible for prolonging the protest.

“The Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP) were doing their best, I’m sure of that judging by the talks they had with us,” he said.

“But the Brits were up to their tricks.

“They would always have something else going on – and that is the diversion – while the real thing is going on somewhere else.

“That is what I believe was going on there with the ICJP, they were the diversion.”

As Ó Brádaigh was banned from Britain and Northern Ireland at the time he was only able to cross the border covertly.

It has been suggested the northern leadership could have been acting autonomously without his knowledge and so rejected any deal without the knowledge of the full IRA army council.

“No, no, no I wouldn’t say that at all. With the situation as it existed at the time, no,” Ó Brádaigh said.

“Or even for the second by-election that has been much talked about, no that just couldn’t and wouldn’t have happened.”

Sourced from the Irish News

In the interests of historical accuracy
Ruairi O Bradaig, President of Republican Sinn Fein, Dublin 1
20/10/09

Arising out of recent publicity in The Irish News on the 1981 hunger strikes I wish to clarify certain matters.

– Dr Garrett Fitzgerald places Gerry Adams as president of Sinn Fein in 1981.

I was president at that time.

– Sinn Fein’s task in 1980-81 was to campaign in support of the hunger strikers.

Sinn Fein knew nothing of conditions alleged to be on offer for settlement of the strike.

– I do not believe that the army council of the IRA was aware of such alleged conditions either.

In the interests of historical accuracy I wish to place this information on the public record.

Sourced from the Irish News

Probe ’81 deal claim ex-INLA man says

Probe ’81 deal claim ex-INLA man says
By Allison Morris, Irish News
17/10/09

A FORMER Belfast councillor who represented the interests of INLA prisoners during the 1981 Hunger Strike has backed calls for an inquiry into controversial claims the protest was allowed to continue for political gain.

Former INLA inmate Sean Flynn said he thought enough evidence had come to light to warrant further investigation into the deaths of 10 republicans, including three INLA men.

During the republican prison protests Mr Flynn was spokes-man for the INLA prisoners.

He was one of two IRSP candidates elected to Belfast City Council in 1981 but served only half of his four-year term after going on the run to the Republic when he was implicated in paramilitary activity on the word of supergrass Harry Kirkpatrick.

Speaking from his north Belfast home the 61-year-old, who is no longer active in politics, said: “I’ve no agenda and I’m certainly not coming at this from a Sinn Fein bashing angle.

“I can only say what I know from my experiences at the time.”

Mr Flynn claimed he received a call on July 5 1981 from the NIO telling him it was imperative that he visited the jail that day.

By that time four prisoners had already died including INLA man Patsy O’Hara.

“The caller said he was from the NIO and that it had been arranged for me to gain entry to the jail,” he said.

“I did see Danny Morrison (the IRA prisoners’ spokes-man) that day and I don’t know if he saw me, he would have to answer that himself.

“They took me through the door the screws used and straight to the hospital.

“I spoke to Kevin Lynch. Micky Devine was at that point still being held in the blocks as he wouldn’t have been sick enough yet to be moved to the hospital.

“What I can say for absolute certainty is that the INLA and the IRSP were not made aware of the Mountain Climber negotiations or any proposed deal.

“I spoke to Kevin Lynch that day and he also didn’t know or he would have mentioned it.

“I have no idea if Danny Morrison told the IRA prisoners of an offer, I can only speak for our men and they didn’t know.

“Something was obviously going on or else why would the NIO have contacted me?”

Mr Flynn said the INLA prisoners had been denied the opportunity of making up their own minds on whether the Mountain Climber offer from the British government was worth accepting.

“There is also no way of knowing whether our prisoners would have been willing to accept an offer. I’ve been told that it was pretty close to the five demands,” he said.

Sean Flynn was to later give an oration at the funeral of Kevin Lynch in Dungiven, Co Derry, following his death on August 1 after 71 days on hunger strike. He was the seventh person to die.

“Look, I know that there is a lot of speculation and misinformation going about,” Mr Flynn said.

“What I will say is that Sinn Fein do need to answer some basic questions.

“Was there an offer and if so why were the IRSP not informed and given a chance to look it over?

“In that respect I would support recent calls for an inquiry,” he said.

Sourced from the Irish News

Adams rejects hunger strike ‘deal’ claims

Adams rejects hunger strike ‘deal’ claims
Published Date: 13 October 2009
The News Letter

SINN Fein leader Gerry Adams has rejected claims that several of the republican hunger strikers were allowed to die in 1981, despite there being an acceptable deal on the table from the Government.

Mr Adams spoke out after recent claims from former Irish premier Dr Garret FitzGerald that he remembered there being a deal on offer from the Thatcher Government that would have ended the hunger strike and saved the lives of some of those who later died.

The current claim and counter claim wrangle about the hunger strike and any possible deal started after a former senior republican prisoner in the Maze, Richard O’Rawe, wrote a book claiming there was an acceptable offer to the prisoners that was kept from them by the Sinn Fein leadership in order to make political capital out of the continuing deaths.

Writing in the Irish News, which carried the original claims from the former Irish premier, Mr Adams categorically rejected any accusation that the prisoners were kept in the dark about a possible deal.

He said it had been communicated to them verbally that there was an offer being made, but the prisoners wanted a Government official to come into the Maze and explain to them exactly what was in the deal.

The full article contains 215 words and appears in News Letter newspaper.

Last Updated: 13 October 2009 8:58 AM
Source: News Letter
Location: Belfast

An Phoblacht and The Irish News

An Phoblacht and The Irish News
Platform
By Staff Reporter
Irish News
12/10/09

The editor of The Irish News, Noel Doran, last night welcomed an apology from the Sinn Fein newspaper An Phoblacht over allegations about an opinion article by the party president, Gerry Adams.

In its latest edition, An Phoblacht claimed that Sinn Fein had asked for the right of reply to detailed coverage of the 1980/81 hunger strikes which was carried by The Irish News on September 28.

An Phoblacht, in a commentary beside its main editorial page, said: “When the response from Gerry Adams was harshly critical of The Irish News itself, the article was blocked.”

In a statement last night it said: “In this week’s An Phoblacht newspaper we published an article from Sinn Fein 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.”

Mr Doran said: “The article from Mr Adams was requested by us in the first place and was not the result of an approach from Sinn Fein. We agreed in writing that we would publish it and we do so today.

“I am glad that An Phoblacht has withdrawn its serious allegations, and, although I was surprised that the paper did not check the background with us at any stage, I now regard the matter as resolved.”

Sourced from The Irish News

Adams’ Revised Article for the Irish News: There was no deal

There was no deal
Platform
By Gerry Adams Sinn Fein president, West Belfast MP, MLA
Irish News
12/10/09

Joe McDonnell

Joe McDonnell

Twenty-eight years ago, 10 Irish republicans died over a seven-month period on hunger strike, after women in Armagh prison and men in the H-Blocks (and several men ‘on-the-blanket’ in Crumlin Road Jail) had endured five years of British government sanctioned brutality.

The reason for their suffering was that in 1976 the British government reneged on a 1972 agreement over political/special category status for prisoners which had actually brought relative peace to the jails.

You would not know from reading Garret FitzGerald’s newly-found ‘memory’ of 1981 in the recent Irish News series that in his 1991 memoir he wrote: “My meetings with the relatives came to an end on 6 August when some of them attempted to ‘sit in’ in the government anteroom, where I had met them on such occasions, after a stormy discussion during which I had once again refused to take the kind of action some of them had been pressing on me.”

This came after a Garda riot squad attacked and hospitalised scores of prisoner supporters outside the British embassy in Dublin only days after the death of Joe McDonnell. It is clear from FitzGerald’s interview and from his previous writing 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 the most intense round of repression in the period after 1985. Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of that year the Irish government supported an intensification of British efforts to destroy border crossings and roads and remained mute over evidence of mounting collusion between British forces and unionist paramilitaries.

The same FitzGerald was portrayed as a great Liberal, yet every government which he led or on which he served, renewed the broadcasting censorship of Sinn Fein. This denial of information and closing down of dialogue subverted the rights of republicans. It also helped prolong the conflict.

The men who died on hunger strike from the IRA and INLA were not fools. They had fought the British and knew how bitter and cruel an enemy its forces could be in the city, in the countryside, in the centres of interrogation and in the courts.

The Hunger Strike did not arise out of a vacuum but as a consequence of frustration, a failure of their incredible sacrifices and the activism of supporters to break the deadlock.

Part of the problem was that the Irish establishment, including the Dublin government, the SDLP and sections of the Catholic hierarchy had bought into British strategy.

This was actively supported by sections of the Catholic establishment in the north including The Irish News.

The prisoners, our comrades, our brothers and sisters, resisted the British in jail every day, in solitary confinement, when being beaten during wings shifts, during internal searches and the forced scrubbings.

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.

This was the prisoners’ mindset on July 5 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.

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.

After the death of Joe McDonnell the ICJP condemned the British for failing to honour undertakings and for “clawing back” concessions.

Richard O’Rawe, who had 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.”

Republicans involved in the 1981 hunger strike met with the families a few months ago.

Their emotional distress and ongoing pain was palpable.

They were intimately involved at the time on an hour-by-hour basis and know exactly where their sons and brothers stood in relation to the struggle with the British government.

They know who was trying to do their best for them and who was trying to sell their sacrifices short.

More importantly, they know the mind of their loved ones.

That, for me, is what shone through at that meeting.

The families knew their brothers, husbands, fathers. They knew they weren’t dupes. They knew they weren’t stupid. They knew they were brave, beyond words and they were clear about what was happening.

All of the family members, who spoke, with the exception of Tony O’Hara, expressed deep anger and frustration at the efforts to denigrate and defile the memory of their loved ones. In a statement they said: “We are clear that it was the British government which refused to negotiate and refused to concede their [the prisoners’] just demands.”

Sourced from the Irish News

 

See previous version of article as published in An Phoblacht:  The Irish News and Garret FitzGerald’s ‘new memory’ about 1981 H-Blocks Hunger Strike deal

“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

Cllr McIvor: Sinn Fein ‘allowed’ no-one to die on hunger strike

Sinn Fein ‘allowed’ no-one to die on hunger strike
Councillor Michael Henry McIvor, Irish News
10/10/09

The dissidents and our political foes have come together to attack Sinn Fein with the cowardly claim that six prisoners were allowed to die in order to generate more political support.

But not one who makes this claim says that Thatcher gave in to the hunger strikers or says she sold out her ‘not an inch’ policy.

Not one. Why?

If Thatcher sold out, why not say so?

If the hunger strikers got their demands after four died or after ten – as history and the truth tell – those who tried to withhold the five demands were defeated.

There is no-one foolish enough to say that Thatcher won. Is there?

The prisoners got to wear their own clothes, the British crime uniform was banned, which is still the case today.

First to be won: 50 per cent remission and association on their own military wings were secured, more mail and better visits because no uniform had to be worn, another demand.

No prison work was still needed. Republicans had to know the H-Blocks inside out to set up all the stages for the great escape in 1983.

Then this demand came, Tory Thatcher gave in – the hunger strikers turned the Iron Lady into putty.

Ruairi O Bradaigh was Sinn Fein president in 1981 and it’s absurd for anyone to say that O Bradaigh or the leadership would sell out six hunger strikers for votes.

Also two of the last six hunger strikers – including the last one to die, Michael Devine – were INLA.

Only a complete idiot would claim that the INLA allowed two members to die for more electoral support for Sinn Fein.

Councillor Michael Henry McIvor
Loughshore Sinn Fein Cumann, Co Tyrone

Sourced from the Irish News

“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

Gerry Adams: The Irish News and Garret FitzGerald’s ‘new memory’ about 1981 H-Blocks Hunger Strike deal

The Irish News and Garret FitzGerald’s ‘new memory’ about 1981 H-Blocks Hunger Strike deal
By Gerry Adams
An Phoblacht
8 October, 2009

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.

TWENTY-EIGHT years ago, ten Irish republicans died over a seven-month period on hunger strike, after women in Armagh Prison and men in the H-Blocks (and several men ‘on-the-blanket’ in Crumlin Road Jail) had endured five years of British Government-sanctioned brutality.

The reason for their suffering was that, in 1976, the British Government reneged on a 1972 agreement over political status (“special category status”) for prisoners which had actually brought relative peace to the jails.

You would not know that from reading this series in The Irish News.

Nor would you know from reading Garret FitzGerald’s newly-found ‘memory’ of 1981 that in his 1991 memoir he wrote:

“My meetings with the relatives came to an end on 6 August when some of them attempted to ‘sit in’ in the Government anteroom, where I had met them on such occasions, after a stormy discussion during which I had once again refused to take the kind of action some of them had been pressing on me.”

This came after a Garda riot squad attacked and hospitalised scores of prisoners’ supporters outside the British Embassy in Dublin only days after the death of Joe McDonnell.

It is clear from FitzGerald’s interview and from his previous writing 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 Margaret Thatcher he embarked on the most intense round of repression in the period after 1985. Following the Anglo-Irish Agreement of that year, the Irish Government supported an intensification of British efforts to destroy border crossings and roads and remained mute over evidence of mounting collusion between British forces and unionist paramilitaries.

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

The Irish News played an equally reprehensible role.

As far as I am concerned, this newspaper is ‘a player’ in these attacks on Sinn Féin. Oh, but had The Irish News given a series to the Hunger Strikers when they were alive! Instead, at the same time as The Irish News decided to publish death notices for British state forces, this paper refused to publish a death notice from the Sands family because it carried the words “In memory of our son and brother, IRA Volunteer Bobby Sands MP”.

The men who died on hunger strike from the IRA and INLA were not dupes. They had fought the British and knew how bitter and cruel an enemy its forces could be, in the city, in the countryside, in the centres of interrogation and in the courts.

But you would not know that from reading this series in The Irish News.

The prisoners – our comrades, our brothers and sisters – resisted the British in jail every day, in solitary confinement, when being beaten during wing shifts, during internal searches and the forced scrubbings.

The Hunger Strike did not arise out of a vacuum but as a consequence of frustration, a failure of their incredible sacrifices and the activism of supporters to break the deadlock, to put pressure on the British internationally and, through the Irish Establishment, including the Dublin Government, the SDLP and sections of the Catholic hierarchy – although you would not know that from reading this series in The Irish News.

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 promised, allegedly liberal regime arrived in the jail, the Hunger Strike was called off by Brendan Hughes to save the life of the late Seán 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.

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.

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.

After the death of Joe McDonnell, the ICJP condemned the British for failing to honour undertakings and for “clawing back” concessions.

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 Da nny 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.”

But you would not know that from reading this series in The Irish News.

Republicans involved in the 1981 Hunger Strike met with the families a few months ago. Their emotional distress and ongoing pain was palpable. They were intimately involved at the time on an hour-by-hour basis and know exactly where their sons and brothers stood in relation to the struggle with the British Government.

They know who was trying to do their best for them and who was trying to sell their sacrifices short.

More importantly, they know the mind of their loved ones. That, for me, is what shone through at that meeting. The families knew their brothers, husbands, fathers. They knew they weren’t dupes. They knew they weren’t stupid. They knew they were brave, beyond words, and they were clear about what was happening.

All of the family members, who spoke, with the exception of Tony O’Hara, expressed deep anger and frustration at the efforts to denigrate and defile the memory of their loved ones. In a statement they said:

“We are clear that it was the British Government which refused to negotiate and refused to concede the prisoners’ just demands.”

But you would not know that from reading this series in The Irish News.

Sourced from An Phoblacht

Hunger striker’s children renew inquiry call

Hunger striker’s children renew inquiry call
Published Date: 06 October 2009
By Staff reporter, Derry Journal

The children of Derry hunger striker Micky Devine have renewed their call to find out the truth about the circumstances that led to their father’s death in Long Kesh in 1981.

Michael Og and Lousie Devine have called on leading Belfast republican, Laurence McKeown, to explain comments he made in a recent interview when he said there was “nothing new” on offer from the British during the negotiation surrounding the hunger strike in 1981.

The Devines are calling for an independent inquiry to be held into claims that a deal which could potentially have saved the lives of six of the hunger strikers was rejected by the IRA leadership, despite having been accepted by republican leaders within jail. The claim, which was made by a former blanketman, has been rejected by Sinn Féin and many leading republicans.

Michael Og Devine said: “Our father was the last of the Hunger Strikers to die and all we ask from republicans is the truth. Due to all the contradictions, new evidence and the ever-changing shifting Sinn Fein narrative we feel that only an independent republican Inquiry can heal this festering sore that has erupted over what occurred during the Hunger Strike,” he said.

Mr Devine also said he is confident his father was not aware of any deal coming into the prison through a secret contact known as the ‘Mountain Climer.’

“Both Louise and I attended the Gasyard debate and listened to Brendan Duddy claim that the offer he wrote down and communicated to Martin McGuinness on the 5th July ’81 contained four of the demands. He also stated that he believed this was a genuine offer from the British.

“We would make this appeal to Laurence to tell us publicly exactly what did happen in the prison hospital and what exactly was my father told, if anything, that he felt he couldn’t share with his family or his movement. We would also like to ask Laurence did he see a copy of the offer which Duddy gave to McGuinness who in turn gave it to Gerry Adams,” he said.

Sourced from the Derry Journal

“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

Irish News rehashes bogus claim of ‘deal’ during Hunger Strike

October 1, 2009
Top Stories
Irish News rehashes bogus claim of ‘deal’ during Hunger Strike
An Phoblacht

p9-pic1In a ‘special investigation’ this week The Irish News has rehashed the claim made by Richard O’Rawe in 2005 that a deal was on offer from the British government to resolve the 1981 Hunger Strike and that this alleged deal was scuppered by the leadership of the Republican Movement.

Even though O’Rawe’s claim was comprehensively refuted by republican ex-prisoners, The Irish News has revived the allegation, partly to sell newspapers through stirring up controversy on an issue of such huge interest and deep emotion and partly to attempt to discredit Sinn Féin. To create a new ‘angle’ to the story The Irish News went to former Fine Gael Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald who claimed he ‘believed’ that there was such a deal and that the IRA blocked it. This from a politician who has been vehemently opposed to republicans throughout his career and whose main concern, as he still makes clear, was not the hunger strikers but the fact that the British government was talking to republicans.

McGuinness response

Writing in response in The Irish News on Monday, Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister and Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness said he found it “quite ironic that in their desire to get at Sinn Féin our opponents are attempting to portray Thatcher as someone anxious to resolve the Hunger Strike”. McGuinness continued:

“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 Féin 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).”

Former hunger striker

Also writing in the The Irish News Laurence McKeown, former hunger striker, described the deal claim as “totally unfounded” and disproved since it was first made. He said the claim has rumbled on “fuelled by an assortment of disaffected former members of the Republican Movement and political opponents of Sinn Féin”. He continued:

“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 Mineworkers 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.

Never a deal

“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 unforgivable, though, is to attempt to make cheap political gain from those events and in the course of it to cause hurt.”

Sourced from An Phoblacht

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

Irish News letters page: The men behind the wire grow all the more noble as time reveals its truth

The men behind the wire grow all the more noble as time reveals its truth
Irish News letters page
Carrie Twomey
29/09/09

Manus McDaid claims in his most recent letter, entitled ‘(S)he who paid the piper’ (September 16), that he never heard of the claim that the last six hunger strikers could have been saved by a deal on offer from Thatcher – the same terms that the prisoners got at the end of the hunger strike – but instead were sacrificed for Sinn Fein’s gain.

Yet it was only June when he was expounding on the same topic – making similar misleading points about the ending of the first hunger strike – in a previous letter to The Irish News (‘Tread lightly on the dreams of heroes’, June 13).

Perhaps Manus suffers from goldfish syndrome.

This would entail swallowing whole whatever crumbs are being served, then promptly forgetting their content, a memory sustained only, if at all, until the next line is fed.

The first hunger strike ended not because of British duplicity but because of the humanity of the late Brendan Hughes.

The second hunger strike continued far longer than it needed because of the inhumanity of those managing it on the outside, to whom the hunger strikers were merely more cannon fodder for their ambitions.

This heartbreaking fact does not in any way whatsoever impinge on the integrity of the hunger strikers.

In fact, it makes them all the more noble as they had little idea of the manner in which they were being abused by their own – and remained committed to their beliefs to the end.

The same cannot be said and will no longer ever be believed about those who led them.

Sourced from the Irish News

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

Irish News: Independent inquiry may end ‘festering sore’

Independent inquiry may end ‘festering sore’
Was there a deal?
By Seamus McKinney
29/09/09

SENIOR IRSP figure Willie Gallagher says he cannot understand why any republican would not support calls for an inquiry into the handling of the hunger strikes.

Mr Gallagher, who has been criticised by Sinn Fein for his involvement in the campaign, said only an independent inquiry could put an end to what he said was a “festering sore”.

“We note that of the four republicans whom the families specifically called on to back an inquiry; Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison, Bik McFarlane and Richard O’Rawe, only O’Rawe has publicly stated that he is willing to give his backing to the inquiry,” he said.

“The silence of the other three has been noted and can only but be interpreted as damning.”

The Strabane man said the only conclusion he could draw from their silence was that they were concerned about what might come out.

Mr Adams and Mr Morrison have spoken about the controversy at a private meeting with families of the hunger strikers in Gulladuff and publicly.

Mr Gallagher said the IRSP was not pursuing the issue to embarrass Sinn Fein.

“However, we totally refute the claims by Sinn Fein that in looking for answers into how our hunger strike comrades died, we are somehow being dishonourable,” he said.

“That is highly insulting and it is hard to understand how anyone could reach such a conclusion.”

The IRSP ard comhairle member denied Sinn Fein claims that evidence put forward at a meeting on the issue at Derry’s Gasyard centre was “manufactured” by people with an anti-Sinn Fein agenda.

“The IRSP demands answers as to why the 5 July Mountain Climber (IRA/British government go-between in 1981) offer – which was accepted by the IRA jail leadership – was rejected and who outside the prison rejected it,” he said.

“We also want to know why the INLA jail leadership and their outside representatives were kept in the dark about the Mountain Climber negotiations and the offer.”

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: O’Rawe warned of backlash from republicans – journalist

O’Rawe warned of backlash from republicans – journalist
Was there a deal?
By Allison Morris
29/09/09

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.”

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: Deal claims ‘completely wrong’: O Bradaigh

Deal claims ‘completely wrong’: O Bradaigh
THE HUNGER STRIKE
By Staff Reporter
29/09/09

VETERAN republican Ruairi O Bradaigh last night disputed former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald’s version of events surrounding the 1981 Hunger Strike.

Mr O Bradaigh, who was president of Sinn Fein at the time, also appeared to contradict claims by Martin McGuinness about the role of the party at the height of the crisis.

A former chief of staff of the IRA, Mr O Bradaigh was Sinn Fein president between 1970 and 1983 before being replaced by Gerry Adams.

He broke away from the party at its Ard Fheis in 1986 after a majority of delegates voted to drop a policy of abstentionism if elected to the Dail.

He held the position of president of the break-away Republican Sinn Fein since its inception 23 years ago but announced this week that he was stepping down from the post.

Recalling events in 1981, Mr O Bradaigh, who was banned from entering the north, described Dr FitzGerald’s claim that a deal was scuppered by the leadership outside the jail as “completely wrong”.

“I must reject what is being said. Sinn Fein at the time were not involved in making settlements,’’ he said.

“Their role was to campaign for the prisoners. Sinn Fein was not involved at all.

“I don’t believe either that the [IRA] army council was aware that there were terms on offer either.”

Mr O Bradaigh said Sinn Fein was not standing back allowing prisoners to die.

“Sinn Fein felt their job was to get out there… I was galloping all over the country and was in touch with people, at home and abroad trying to get support,” he said.

Writing in yesterday’s Irish News, Martin McGuinness said he was the conduit for an offer from the British government about ending the Hunger Strike protest.

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: Gerard Hodgins – “All evidence points to dark dealings”

All evidence points to dark dealings
THE HUNGER STRIKE
By Gerard Hodgins
29/09/09

ghdm


QUESTIONS: Gerard Hodgins, left, pictured with Danny Morrison
PICTURE: Seamus Loughran

THE blanket protests and Hunger Strikes are sacrosanct in republican history. The commitment and courage of the men and women who participated in those prison struggles can never be questioned.

Richard’s [O’Rawe] assertion that the leadership blocked a deal on the Hunger Strike in order to further political ambitions and in the process prolonged the agony doesn’t sit easily in the republican conscience.

So uncomfortable is this fact that most republicans tend to follow the Adams/Morrison narrative that Richard just wants to sell more books and so makes a sensationalist claim about dirty dealings

between the Provisional leadership and the British government in order to increase sales.

This despite the fact that a prima facie case exists that Richard’s assertion has validity: Gerry Adams has (writing in one of his books) previously referred to a happy ending narrative rather than a tell-all story now, yet he won’t elaborate on what this cryptic sentence means.

Gerry Adams has referred to the British coming back with the deal again around the July 18/19 1981.

Gerry Adams has referred to how he got into the habit of catching sleep during the daylight hours during that summer of 1981 because the British would contact him via telephone late at night.

Yet Gerry Adams refuses to put meat on these statements. What is he hiding? What was the true extent of contact between the leadership and the British?

For daring to ask questions like this puts one beyond the pale of the dominant republican narrative. Suddenly you find former comrades in the upper echelons are referring to you as a revisionist, a drug-dealer, a dissident, an antirepublican: no slur is too great, no act too low.

When I learned a meeting was to take place in Gullaghaduff I went along accompanied by Jimmy Dempsey whose son John was killed by the British army the morning Joe McDonnell died.

We both had questions we would like to ask, we were both politely but firmly refused entry to the meeting and I personally was subjected to threats and menaces by a senior Provisional, all because I wanted to ask questions about events in 1981.

When this genie was first let out of the bottle in 2005 the leadership figures were adamant there were neither deals, offers nor anything else. Today they are not so certain.

Bik [Brendan McFarlane] categorically denied that any such conversation took place between him and Richard O’Rawe about accepting a British offer.

Today he says different and remembers “a huge opportunity” and “potential” in the conversation he initially didn’t have with Richard.

On the face of it the evidence points to dark dealings going on in the background of the Hunger Strike, dealings of which nobody on Hunger Strike was aware.

Whether we ever will know the truth of those times is doubtful. The acquisition of any level of power and maintenance of that power is rarely a tale of honour alone.

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: Speculation mounts on the identity of Maze spy

Speculation mounts on the identity of Maze spy
Was there a deal?
By Staff Reporter
29/09/09

THE revelation that the Republic’s government had an operative inside the Maze prison during the 1981 Hunger Strike has led to wide speculation about the identity of the ‘spy’.

Throughout the Troubles it was traditionally the British government or IRA that were accused of having spies within the government or security forces on either side of the border.

The only recorded claim of anyone ever being accused of spying for the Republic’s government in the north came in 2004 when John Hume and three other members of the SDLP were accused by the RUC Special Branch of having spied for the Republic.

A Special Branch report submitted to the Bloody Sunday Tribunal named Mr Hume, Austin Currie, Paddy O’Hanlon and Ivan Cooper as spying for then taoiseach Jack Lynch in the 1970s.

“It is also worth recalling previous intelligence to the effect that Mr Lynch’s intelligence officers in Northern Ireland are Messrs Cooper, Currie, O’Hanlon and Hume,” it said.

Mr Hume described the claim as “absolute rubbish”.

“It’s totally ridiculous and has nothing to do with Bloody Sunday,” he said.

“It underlines the total ignorance of senior RUC men in those days about relationships between nationalists and southern politicians.’’

Mr Hume claimed the SDLP kept in regular contact with all parties in the Dail to work out an agreed approach to Northern Ireland.

“When we were founded as a party in the early 1970s, it was common sense that we would build relationships with the parties in the south,” he said.

“How in heaven’s name could we have been agents of the Irish government?

“If we were, what did they think we were doing?”

While there has been a plethora of books in recent years written about MI5 and even the FBI’s role in the Troubles, little or nothing is known about the southern intelligence service’s role in Northern Ireland.

The southern secret service is understood to be made up of Garda Special Branch, the army intelligence unit G2 and the diplomatic corps of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

It is unclear who heads the secret service in the Republic, how many staff it has at its disposal, or where the department is based.

In 2002 the Republic’s then justice minister Michael McDowell denied that the government even had a secret service.

“There is no secret service structure in this jurisdiction,” he claimed.

However, in the same year it was revealed that the Republic’s secret service agency’s lack of spying activity meant it was forced to hand back £431,665, after spending less than half of its £735,000 spy budget.

Irish government officials refused to state why its secret service had spent only half of its spy budget, stating: “It’s a secret.”

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: First confirmation of Republic’s intelligence operations in north

First confirmation of Republic’s intelligence operations in north
Was there a deal?
By Bimpe Archer
29/09/09

FORMER taoiseach Garret FitzGerald’s revelation that the Republic’s government had a mole in the Maze prison is the first reference to emerge from the Troubles of such operations.

The 83-year-old would not be drawn on the identity or position of the Irish government’s source within the jail.

However, the person was not the only agent from the Republic operating in the north at that time.

One well-placed nationalist source said the Republic’s military intelligence – also known as G2 – was active in the north.

However, he said the unit was unlikely to have had a permanent member placed in the jail during the Hunger Strikes.

G2 did not enjoy the resources of the British intelligence services.

“It wasn’t very big or well-funded, nothing like MI6, and it tended to be largely military intelligence,” he said.

“Garda Special Branch wasn’t operating in the north.

“But there were G2 agents on the streets of Belfast and Derry, picking up whatever information they could find.

“I’m sure the British knew but there wouldn’t have been much knowledge on the unionist side.

“They certainly didn’t make themselves known.

“As far as the Maze goes, they would have made contact with a person involved.

“This it the first time I heard about a mole in the prison.”

Lord Maginnis, who was the Ulster Unionist Party candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone in the second by-election in 1981 which resulted from the death of Bobby Sands, said unionists were not unaware of such practices.

“If [Dr FitzGerald] says there was, there was,” he said.

“I always believed in the old saying: ‘There are no secrets in Northern Ireland’.”

G2, or the Defence Forces Directorate of Intelligence, was set up to provide operational intelligence and security to help the Republic’s forces internationally and maintain security at home.

As with most such agencies, staff actively monitor “relevant” political, economic, social and military situations to support military operations.

A relatively small service, G2 does work with foreign governments and intelligence agencies.

The Irish Defence Forces as a whole include intelligence as part of officer training, although those in G2 receive further specialist training.

It came to public notice during the Second World War when it was prominent in the detection and arrest of 13 German spies in Ireland. During this period the IRA was also a target of G2 and remained so in the decades following.

Sourced from The Irish News

“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

Garret had mole among H-Block hunger strikers

Garret had mole among H-Block hunger strikers
By Ian Graham, Evening Herald
Monday September 28 2009

The Government had a mole inside the Maze Prison during the IRA hunger strike of 1981, former Taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald revealed today.

Dr FitzGerald said he was convinced a deal between the prisoners and the British government could have been struck to halt the last six of 10 deaths.

But that it was vetoed by the IRA leadership, said the 83-year-old, who revealed the behind-the-scenes activity during a brief window of opportunity which could have saved the hunger strikers’ lives.

There has been deep division within republicanism about the hunger strike since the publication of a book, Blanketmen, by former IRA prisoner Richard O’Rawe, in which he said the Sinn Fein leadership blocked a deal for political purposes.

Sinn Fein always denied the claim, but Dr FitzGerald said: “O’Rawe’s account seems to me to be, within his framework of knowledge, honest and accurate.”

The North’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who has admitted having being in the IRA, also revealed for the first time that he was one of the conduits for the offer from the British government, but he disputes there was a deal acceptable to the prisoners.

He accused Sinn Fein’s opponents of trying to portray the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as someone anxious to solve the hunger strike when she was what he called “a ruthless, hypocritical enemy”.

Dr FitzGerald, who started the first of his two terms as Taoiseach during the hunger strike, said Maze prisoners were ready to accept a deal if they had been allowed to by Sinn Fein.

“We knew that. We had our sources in the prison,” he said, but refused to say if the mole was a warder or a prisoner.

When Dr FitzGerald came to power, the Catholic Church’s Irish Justice and Peace Commission (IJPC) was working to resolve the stand-off between republicans prisoners in the Maze and the British government over the concession of ‘prisoner-of -war’ status.

The IJPC was granted a meeting with Northern Ireland Office minister Michael Allison, who cleared the way for the IJPC to visit the prisoners. The inmates later issued a statement which was more conciliatory than the messages issued from outside the jail by Sinn Fein.

At that same time Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was contacted by MI6 and a deal parallel to that of the IJPC was created, said Dr FitzGerald.

“He was delighted the British were running to him and he did get an additional offer to the IJPC offer. It is my recollection that he got an offer [prisoner access] to the Open University which was not in the IJPC offer,” said the former Taoiseach.

Eventually the whole deal collapsed and another six men died before an end was brought to the hunger strike.

Dr FitzGerald added: “If the British had not intervened and brought the IRA back in, a deal could have been done.”

Sourced from The Evening Herald

Irish News: The Other Players

THE OTHER PLAYERS

IN compiling this special edition extensive efforts were made to contact most of the main players from the hunger strike era.

Attempts were made to get the views and recollections of British government and Northern Ireland Office officials from that period.

However due to ill-health, the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher and Secretary of State Jim Prior, who took over the role towards the end of the Hunger Strike, were not available.

Humphrey Atkins, who was secretary of state from 1979 to September 1981, and Prisons Minster Michael Allison, have both since died.

Others including Lord Gowrie who followed Mr Allison, were not available for interview, while former senior prison officials in the Maze have since died or were unavailable for comment.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams was asked for his views on the hunger strike but was not available.

Danny Morrison, Sinn Fein publicity director during the hunger strikes, declined to take part as did Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane, IRA ‘Officer Commanding’ in the jail at the time of the strike.

•  A letter in the Irish News on April 7, 2009, by Richard O’Rawe, discussing the 1981 hunger strike, claimed that documents newly released under the FoI Act stated that ‘republican negotiators, Gerry Adams and Danny Morrison, changed their minds when the British warned that they were going to pull the plug on the process’. We have been asked by Mr Morrison to make clear that he was not named in the documents.

 

Sourced from The Irish News

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