July 1981

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Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Adams rejected chance of early end to hunger strike

Adams rejected chance of early end to hunger strike
Claims that the Sinn Fein president could have stopped the 1981 fast in July are vindicated by newly-released papers, says Carrie Twomey
Belfast Telegraph
Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The controversial claim that Gerry Adams and his committee controlling the 1981 hunger strike from outside the Maze prison refused a substantial offer from then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – an offer accepted by the prisoners – has been proven true.

The allegation is substantiated in the notes of Derry businessman Brendan Duddy. Duddy, the ‘Mountain Climber’, was the messenger between the British Government and IRA during the hunger strike.

Duddy previously confirmed he delivered an offer from Thatcher’s Government to Martin McGuinness. Along with Danny Morrison and Jim Gibney, McGuinness was a member of Adams’s clandestine hunger strike committee.

The content of that offer was the same as was revealed in FOI documents obtained by the Belfast Telegraph’s political editor, Liam Clarke. These documents show most of the five demands prisoners were hunger striking for would be met.

In his books Blanketmen and Afterlives, Richard O’Rawe, PRO of the IRA prisoners during the hunger strikes, wrote of the acceptance of that offer by himself and Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane (in charge of the hunger strike inside the prison).

This claim was vehemently denied by Morrison and Sinn Fein. O’Rawe faced vilification, threats and intimidation for revealing this information, as it meant six of the 10 hunger strikers need not have died had the offer been accepted.

Duddy’s notes of talks between Thatcher and Adams over the weekend of July 4-5, 1981 conclusively prove O’Rawe’s account was true.

After a conciliatory statement from the prisoners, Thatcher sent Duddy details of an offer with the potential to end the hunger strike.

Danny Morrison went into the prison to convey this offer to McFarlane, who discussed it with O’Rawe. McFarlane then sent word out that they would accept it.

Written in code on the morning of July 6, Duddy’s notes reflect this significant movement.

Adams and his committee were the ‘Shop Stewards’, the prisoners were the ‘Union Membership’ and the Government was ‘Management’.

The message Adams wanted conveyed to Thatcher was: “The S.S. fully accept the posal [sic] – as stated by the Union MemBship [sic]”. In other words, the prisoners had endorsed the proposal.

The rest of the message added conditions to the acceptance that gave the Adams committee, not the prisoners, a veto over the deal.

Crucially, the message added, if the British published the offer without Adams having prior sight, and agreeing to it, he would publicly ‘disapprove’ it.

In spite of the prisoners’ acceptance of the offer negotiations continued over the next two days, with Joe McDonnell close death.

The demands the prisoners were seeking via hunger strike had effectively been granted. Before implementing the agreed proposal, the British were waiting for word from Adams that the prisoners would end their hunger strike. Once that word was given, the proposal would be read to the prisoners by the NIO and released to the Press.

It was not to be. On July 7, the Adams’ committee sought to alter the ‘tone’ of the agreement, not the content. The substance had already been met. Adams and his team were concerned with presentation.

Negotiations continued throughout the night. At 4.50am on July 8, while Adams was in mid-discussion with the British, Joe McDonnell became the fifth hunger striker to die. Five more were to die before the hunger strike’s end in October 1981.

All the proposals made by Margaret Thatcher in early July were implemented immediately after the hunger strike ended.

Sourced from the Belfast Telegraph

Provo bosses let hunger-strikers die – they know who they are and so do I

Provo bosses let hunger-strikers die – they know who they are and so do I
Suzanne Breen
Sunday World

An ex-Provo prisoner who watched his comrades die on hunger-strike has blasted the IRA leadership for their “needless deaths”.

Richard O’Rawe says key IRA leaders should “hang their heads in shame” for rejecting a secret British offer which could have saved six hunger-strikers’ lives in the notorious H-Blocks.

The West Belfast republican, who was the prisoners’ public relations officer, claims “six men with hearts like lions were let die horrific deaths for nothing other than getting Sinn Féin votes”.

Four hunger-strikers were already dead when British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, capitulated and made her dramatic offer in July 1981 effectively granting most of the prisoners’ demands.

O’Rawe, who bravely lifted the lid in 2001 on the secret British proposal to end the hunger-strike, was speaking after his account was proven true by documents just lodged in an Irish university.

He’s now urging republicans all over Ireland to urgently revise their understanding of what happened during the H-Block death fast that made headlines across the world.

“The evidence is there for all to see. It’s the biggest cover-up in the history of Irish republicanism,” he told the Sunday World.

The hunger-strike was run on the outside by a clandestine committee set up by the Army Council. Its members included the North’s best known Provos who were also in Sinn Féin.

“These men should have the guts to finally come clean and tell how they let six republicans, whose boots they weren’t fit to lace, needlessly die horrific deaths in a H-block hell-hole.

“Let them explain how they rejected an offer which meant Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Tom McElwee, Kieran Doherty and Mickey Devine would all have lived.”

O’Rawe spoke of the threats and intimidation he and his family had suffered since he exposed the leadership’s lies. “‘Richard O’Rawe H-Block traitor’ was written on the wall opposite my home. Well, it’s now as clear as daylight who betrayed the hunger-strikers.”

Papers donated to the National University of Ireland in Galway by Derry businessman, Brendan Duddy, show how the IRA prison leadership accepted a substantial British offer to end the death fast.

Known as the ‘Mountain Climber’, Duddy was the messenger between the British and the IRA. His notes show – as O’Rawe claimed in his best-selling book Blanketmen – that the British made an offer on 5 July 1981 effectively granting the prisoners’ five demands except free association.

Joe McDonnell, the fifth hunger-striker, was hovering on the brink of death so urgent action was required. Duddy relayed the offer to Martin McGuinness who told Gerry Adams. Danny Morrison was then despatched to the H-Blocks to brief Bik McFarlane, the IRA commander in the jail.

When he returned to his cell, McFarlane told O’Rawe the good news. “We were both delighted. A few hours free movement every day wasn’t worth one more life,” says O’Rawe.

“The British were compromising on prison uniforms, work, visits, letters and segregation. Bik wrote to Gerry Adams, accepting the offer.”

However, the Army Council committee then sent word into the jail that the offer wasn’t enough. On 7 July, the IRA told the British that while the substance of the proposal was acceptable, the “tone” needed changing.

Joe McDonnell died the next day. “This fine republican died because an Army Council clique didn’t like the ‘tone’ of a document,” says O’Rawe. “Five other great men, the bravest of the brave, followed him. The hunger-strikers were Spartacuses.

“They gave everything they had to the republican movement. They believed to their death in a 32 county socialist republic. This Army Council committee between them didn’t have even an ounce of one hunger-striker’s courage. They were a bunch of immoral, unscrupulous b*****ds.”

It was later revealed that the Army Council committee never briefed the entire Army Council itself on the details of the offer.

The hunger-strike had become “a cynical PR exercise to gain votes”, O’Rawe claims. It had to continue at least until Owen Carron won the Fermanagh and South Tyrone Westminister by-election in August, holding Bobby Sands’ seat.

The official Provo line has always been that a callous, uncompromising British government let 10 men die. “That lie’s now exposed,” says O’Rawe. “The hunger-strikers broke Margaret Thatcher. She blinked first. She gave in but the men weren’t told

The ex-IRA man says he faced a campaign of vilification since he began exposing the truth about the hunger-strike: “I was told I could be shot. My children were harassed. ‘Your da’s a liar,’ people shouted at them.

“I was ostracised. Guys I’d operated with in the IRA, some of my best friends, snubbed me as the leadership spread their lies.”

O’Rawe (57) lives just across the road from Milltown Cemetery on the Falls where three hunger-strikers are buried.

He often visits the graves of Bobby Sands, Joe McDonnell, and Kieran Doherty: “It’s heart-breaking but I don’t need to go there to remember them because they never leave my mind.” On the 30th anniversary of the 10 deaths, he still breaks down in tears thinking of his comrades.

________________
This article appeared in the December 11, 2011 edition of the Sunday World.
Sourced from Nuzhound

Sentinel: Never-before-seen 1981 hunger strike documents disclosed

Never-before-seen 1981 hunger strike documents disclosed
01 September 2010
By William Allen
Londonderry Sentinel

DOCUMENTS kept secret since 1981 have revealed a fascinating picture of how Margaret Thatcher’s Government dealt with the IRA hunger strike.

The documents released by the Northern Ireland Office show how the Government was determined to maintain a firm stance in public while trying to come to an arrangement that the IRA would agree to through secret contacts.

The request for the documents was made under the Freedom of Information Act by the Sentinel amid claims that several of the hunger strikers were sacrificed to boost the republican movement’s electoral strategy and that an acceptable offer was made but the hunger strikers were not told by the IRA.

The papers, released 15 months after being requested, show the Government was working on a number of levels, with organisations such as the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP), while also using a secret conduit directly to the IRA – believed to be the Mountain Climber initiative.

Taken at face value, there is no evidence on whether protestors wanted to agree a deal but were over-ruled by IRA leaders. But the documents do show offers were made secretly to the IRA rather than directly to the hunger strikers, and illustrate the central role played by Brendan McFarlane, the Provisional IRA leader in the jail.

Chance to clarify

And they also show that, less than two weeks before the death of Dungiven INLA man, Kevin Lynch, the hunger strikers were offered a chance to clarify the latest position in front of relatives and clergy, but the prisoners’ insistence that they would only meet in McFarlane’s presence was rejected by the Northern Ireland Office officials, who saw him as intransigent.

The 32 newly released documents, combined with a number that were previously released, offer an amazing insight into the Government’s dealings with a range of agencies, including the Dublin Government, Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, the Vatican, and Catholic Church leaders in England as well as Ireland. They also show how the Government was involved in backdoor approaches and attempts to find a formula and form of words that would allow a solution to be choreographed – a forerunner to the way the Peace Process unfolded in the 1990s.

The documents show that the Government consistently believed the prisoners were acting under orders and that McFarlane would not consider anything short of negotiating the “five demands”.

These demands were: the right not to wear a prison uniform; the right not to do prison work; the right of free association with other prisoners, and to organise educational and recreational pursuits; the right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week; full restoration of remission lost through the protest.

The documents show how the Government’s position shifted from its early belief that it was involved in a stand-off that there could be no compromise on, though it was consistent in demanding an end to the protest before any public moves would be made on its part. And it showed how the Government believed it was also fighting a propaganda battle.

Holy See

A telegram to the Holy See in April 1981 insists that the Government could not back down and regretted that the Pope’s personal plea to the hunger strikers to end the protest failed.

As the death of the first hunger striker, Bobby Sands drew near, a telegram to the NIO mentioned talks with an Irish government representative, saying that: “Nally agreed that while there was a concern in the south over the consequences of Sand’s death, support for the hunger strikers was very limited. However, Sand’s death, particularly if followed by Hughes, could change things.”

The documents show that a press release had been prepared before Sands died, with the time and date, and the number of days he had refused food to be inserted after his death.
But the hardline, public approach was not being followed through in private by July.

An extract from a letter – previously released to the Sunday Times – dated July 8, from 10 Downing Street to the NIO said the PM had met the Secretary of State Humphrey Atkins after the message that the PM had approved had been communicated to the Provisional IRA. It said the IRA originally did not regard it as satisfactory but when it was made clear that this ended the initiative, this “had produced a rapid reaction which suggested that it was not the content of the message which they had objected to but only its tone”.

The Secretary of State, “had concluded that we should communicate with the PIRA over night a draft statement enlarging upon the message of the previous evening but in no way whatever departing from its substance. If the PIRA accepted the draft statement and ordered the hunger strikers to end their protest the statement would be issued immediately. If they did not, this statement would not be put out but instead an alternative statement reiterating the Government’s position as he had set it out in his statement of 30 June and responding to the discussions with the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace would be issued. If there was any leak about the process of communication with PIRA, his office would deny it.”

Documents show the Government took advice from experts on what way a statement could be worded so that the IRA would accept it.

A later telegram from the NIO said a statement had been read adding: “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.”

Communications between the Secretary of State’s office and the ICJP, including one on July 6, suggest the body believed a statement “together with clarifications received” encouraged it to continue its efforts, with the NIO saying it did not want the public to know yet about a letter to the ICJP, as “public knowledge of the fact that they have had a letter will bring immediate pressure on us and them to disclose the contents – just now this might not be helpful”. It added the ICJP had been told it would have to become public at some point, otherwise the Government would be accused of “secret deals” but that the timing and terms of the release would need to be agreed.

The clarifications included issues like association, prison work, remission and clothing.

Another document records a statement read to prisoners from the Secretary of State, who said no moves could be made under the duress of a hunger strike but “making sure that the protestors were aware of what was available”.

It said: “Little expansion of association was contemplated but the suggestion of association of adjacent wings (made by the ICJP) was taken on board. On clothing the ‘possibility of further development’ had not been ruled out. On work, no-one would be excluded but the commitment was given to add to the range of activities, including examination of the ICJP’s suggestions. No more than the existing 1/5 restoration of lost remission to ex-protestors was promised.”

It says there was no reaction shown from the prisoners though Michael Devine and Thomas McElwee asked if officials could come and discuss the document after they had read it.
It added: “The prisoners were given an opportunity to discuss the document among themselves and also saw McFarlane for a time. Lynch and Doherty – the 2 most determined strikers – said afterwards that there was nothing in it for them.”

The undated document carries details of an IRA statement said to have been smuggled from the prison on July 8, saying that Joe McDonnell need not have died and describing Mr Atkins’ statement that day as “ambiguous and self-gratifying”.

A telegram sent by Lord Carrington on July 15 said that Mr Atkins had given instructions that a NIO official should go to the Maze to explain the Government’s “ICRC” (International Committee of the Red Cross) initiative to the hunger-strikers, and answer any questions about Mr Atkins’ statement of July 8.

A note dated July 16, says that Mr (John) Blelloch had been in to see the hunger strikers on July 15: “All 8 were there. Doherty could not read but appeared to comprehend generally. The Governor delivered the statement. The strikers listened closely…

“The prisoners then asked to see McFarlane. The Governor agreed to a limited session. Mr Blelloch asked the prisoners if they had reflected on the SoS’s statement of 8 July. They said they had and had one or two points; but they didn’t pursue this and seemed much more interested in ICRC.

“The Governor and Mr Blelloch then left and McFarlane was fetched. The Governor’s ‘feel’ was that the atmosphere was one of ‘deathly calm’. They realized the seriousness of their situation but were unlikely to act without PSF orders. They would probably decide nothing that night but want to hear the radio and possibly receive “messages” via visitors.

“At 8.45pm Mr Blelloch phoned to say that McFarlane had returned to his cell and the hunger-strikers had dispersed without requesting a further meeting.”

Secret channel

Another (previously released) document shows that Margaret Thatcher wanted to make another approach to the IRA through the secret channel but changed her mind after it was put to her that there was a risk of the offer becoming public.

A letter dated July 18 from Downing Street to the NIO said that Philip Woodfield had come to brief the PM on the situation and that after the latest IRA statement Mr Atkins felt the need to respond either with a statement or by sending in an official to clarify the position again.

“The official would set out to the hunger strikers what would be on offer if they abandoned their protest. He would do so along the lines discussed with the Prime Minister last week. He would say that the prisoners would be allowed their own clothes, as was already the case in Armagh prison, provided these clothes were approved by the prison authorities. (This would apply in all prisons in Northern Ireland).

“He would set out the position on association; on parcels and letters; on remission; and on work. On this last point he would make it clear that the prisoners would, as before, have to do the basic work necessary to keep the prison going: there were tasks which the prison staff could in no circumstances be expected to do. But insofar as work in the prison shops was concerned, it would be implicit that the prisoners would be expected to do this but that if they refused to do it they would be punished by loss of remission, or some similar penalty, rather than more severely…

“The statement would be spelling out what had been implicit in the Government’s public statement and explicit in earlier communications.”

It said the PM agreed that one more effort should be made to explain the situation to the hunger strikers, but then, following further discussions “it was drawn to the Prime Minister’s attention that any approach of the kind outlined above to the hunger strikers would inevitably become public whether or not it succeeded, the Prime Minister reviewed the proposal on the telephone with the Secretary of State and decided the dangers in taking an initiative would be so great that she was not prepared to risk them.

“The official who went in to the prison could repeat the Government’s public position but could go no futher.”

Further documents show the “network of contacts” was being followed up.

There are two documents recording details of a visit by Mr Belloch and Mr Blackwell to the prison on July 20, a week after the death of Martin Hurson, the sixth of ten men to die.
Both said the visit was prompted by a call from Kevin Lynch’s priest who said Lynch and relatives of Kieran Doherty wanted an NIO official to visit the Maze to clarify the Government statement of July 19. Both hunger strikers denied asking for a visit but “were content for an official to see the group of hunger strikers”.

Mr Blelloch gave relatives an outline of the Government’s position. The assistant governor visited each of the hunger strikers to tell them of the presence of an NIO official but all said they would only meet him as a group and “all but Lynch had said that McFarlane must be present”.

It added: “Mr Blelloch first spoke to the families and explained the position with regard to McFarlane. He made clear that he would speak to the hunger strikers as individuals or as a group and in front of relatives or priests if they wished…We then visited each hunger striker in turn and Mr Blelloch explained that he was an official from the NIO and he was there to see if he could help. In each case the hunger striker’s response was the same – they would only see him in a group and McFarlane must be present. Even Lynch who had not previously mentioned McFarlane now did so…It was decided not to approach the other three hunger strikers in H.3 since that was McFarlane’s block and they were most unlikely to agree to a meeting without his presence.”

The other document on the visit backs this up, saying: “Lynch had said he would like an official to see him and the group and Doherty had said he would like an official to see him and the group and McFarlane.”

Mr Blelloch and Mr Blackwell arrived: “The prison officer said that all five hunger strikers in the prison hospital (except Lynch) were insisting on McFarlane being present.” However it said that when they spoke to Lynch, he now also insisted that McFarlane be present so no-one took up the offer of a meeting. Officials were told he and others were too weak and needed a spokesman.

It adds under the heading “Background briefing”: “The reason they did not wish to take up the offer was because they wished to insist on the presence of McFarlane who had made clear that all he was interested in was tearing up the Government’s statements and negotiating the ‘5 demands’.”

All 32 of the newly released documents will be published on the Sentinel’s website, www.londonderrysentinel.co.uk, as well as a number of those supplied to the Sentinel which had previously been disclosed.

Sourced from the Londonderry Sentinel

NIO documents released to Sentinel

Never-before-seen 1981 hunger strike documents disclosed
Published Date: 31 August 2010
Londonderry Sentinel

A FASCINATING insight into one of the most contentious periods of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ has been revealed by documents obtained by the Sentinel under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).

The hunger strike of 1981 in the Maze prison saw ten republican protestors die and caused mayhem on the streets of the country claiming the lives of civilians, Army, police and prison personnel.

Now after a 15 month tussle with the Northern Ireland Office the Sentinel has obtained 32 never before seen documents in relation to the era.

The FOI request was made by the Sentinel amid claims that the lives of several hunger strikers were sacrificed to boost the republican movement’s electoral strategy and that an acceptable offer was made to the hunger strikers but they were not informed by the IRA. INLA prisoners were also among those who died.

The papers now in the possession of the Sentinel cast new light on events and on moves to bring the hunger strike to an end.

Taken in conjunction with a small number of previously released documents, the papers, kept secret for almost 30 years, show the Government was working on a number of levels with many and varied organisations and reflects the differences in its public and private moves.

Tomorrow’s edition of the Londonderry Sentinel will reveal our analysis of some of the documents.

The documents will also be made available on the Sentinel’s website later in the week as will previously released documents that were also supplied by the NIO.

Sourced from the Londonderry Sentinel

NIO ordered to respond to Sentinel request

NIO ordered to respond to Sentinel request
Published Date: 24 February 2010

THE Northern Ireland Office has been ordered to give secret details of the 1981 hunger strike to the Sentinel – or to explain why it thinks doing so might damage international relations.

The NIO has delayed making a decision on whether to release the information requested under the Freedom of Information Act since last May – even though it was required to do so within 20 working days.

According to the Information Commissioner’s guidelines, the maximum time to be taken, in extraordinary circumstances, should be 40 working days. Despite that, the NIO is today still deciding on its response to the Freedom of Information request submitted on May 29, 2009.

The request was prompted by growing claims that a deal acceptable to the republican prisoners was offered before the fifth hunger striker died, but their wishes were over-ruled by republican sources outside the prison. It was claimed that this was done because it may have interfered with a forthcoming election, which marked the rise of Sinn Fein as a political force.

In its initial response to the request, the NIO invoked the section 27 exemption which exists, “to protect the United Kingdom’s international relations, its interests abroad and the United Kingdom’s ability to protect and promote those interests”.

Therefore, before deciding how to respond, the NIO must consider the public interest – and decide whether the public interest in providing the documents is outweighed by the damage or likely damage that would be caused by disclosure to the United Kingdom’s “international relations, its interests abroad or its ability to protect and promote those interests”.

It is understood that other countries’ views on what harm disclosure might cause are taken into consideration when the public interest test is applied in such cases. In this case, it is not known what other country is being considered in the deliberations, though contacts between the Government and the Irish government formed part of the Freedom of Information request.

Initially the NIO said some of the requested information was subject to the exemption under section 27, but when clarification was later sought, said that “all” of the information was subject to the exemption.

After a complaint was made to the Information Commissioner in October, saying the delay in making a decision was unreasonable, the NIO has now been told to specify the relevant sub-section of the exemption that explains “why disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice international relations”.

It must also say whether it has concluded that the public interest is best served by making the requested details public, or whether it’s best served in keeping them secret – or even if it no longer considers the exemption to apply.

The Information Commissioner’s Office found that the NIO breached a number of sections of the Freedom of Information Act. It failed to respond within 20 working days to say that all of the information requested was subject to an exemption; it did not specify the relevant sub-section; and adjusted its time frame on a number of occasions, leading to a finding that the delay in carrying out a public interest test was in breach of section 17 (3)(b) of the act.

It has 35 days to respond, though it also has the right to appeal against the decision notice issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The NIO failed to meet a number of deadlines even after the complaint was made to the Information Commissioner’s Office alleging that the delay in giving a substantive response was unreasonable.

According to the Information Commisioner’s decision notice, the NIO informed the Commissioner in correspondence on November 13 that the delay was regrettable but not unreasonable due to it “having a number of unusual aspects”. It detailed some of these, particularly the difficulty of consulting with the various interested stakeholders about the potential disclosure of information.

At that point, the NIO hoped a response could be provided by December 3 “but, in any event, by 4 January 2010”.

On January 5, the deadline was shifted to February 20, though that has now been extended as the decision notice requires a response within 35 working days.

In its decision notice, the Information Commissioner’s Office acknowledged the reasons given by the NIO to justify its delay, but added: “However, the Commissioner is of the view that the time now taken to weigh up the public interest test is unwarranted, being well in excess of the prescribed 40 working day limit.”

Sourced from Londonderry Sentinel

Excerpt from Adams interview with Irish News

Gerry Adams Interview with Diana Rusk: excerpt on 1981 Hunger Strike
The Irish News
11 February 2010

Diana Rusk: Turning to the Hunger Strike, there is a vocal minority that believe you turned down a possible deal with the British government after the fourth hunger striker died. What is your response to that?

Gerry Adams: It is not true.

Diana Rusk: It is not true that you turned down a possible deal?

Gerry Adams: It was never in our capacity to turn down or to accept. The rules which were set out by the prisoners meant it was over to them. It was they that decided so it’s not true.

Diana Rusk: Did you inform the IRA ‘army council’ of Brendan Duddy’s offer at the time?

Gerry Adams: There wasn’t a deal.

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

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

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

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

Irish News: Laurence McKeown

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

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

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

I still believe that.

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

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

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

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

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

So why bother?

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

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

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

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

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

They walk away with their tails between their legs.

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not rocket science.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: Deal with British government vetoed by IRA says FitzGerald

Deal with British government vetoed by IRA says FitzGerald
THE HUNGER STRIKE
By Seamus McKinney
28/09/09

Dr Garrett FitzGerald is convinced that, if the IRA had allowed them, the 1981 hunger strikers would have accepted either of two deals on offer to them in the days and hours before Joe McDonnell became the fifth man to die.

The former taoiseach bases this belief on, among other things, intelligence supplied to him by a heretofore-undisclosed Irish government source in the Maze prison in 1981.

Now 83 years old, Dr FitzGerald admits the 1981 Hunger Strike changed his view of relations with Northern Ireland in a way that ultimately led to the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985.

Elected to the Dail in 1969, the future taoiseach was already the intellectual driver of Fine Gael when he first took his seat.

His two major areas of expertise were the Irish economy and foreign affairs through which he had a special interest in the north.

He served two periods as taoiseach, leading coalition governments from July 1981 to February 1982 and later from December 1982 until March 1987.

On his first day as taoiseach he was thrown into the maelstrom of northern politics and one of the defining periods in Irish republicanism.

After receiving his seal of office from President Patrick Hillary on June 30 1981 Dr Fitzgerald and his Labour tanaiste Michael O’Leary were faced with the prospect of further hunger strike deaths.

At the time the Catholic Church’s Irish Justice and Peace Commission was working towards a possible solution to the standoff between republican prisoners in the Maze and the British government.

“Despite an IRA statement [describing a British response to an Irish government statement as arrogant] the prisoners wanted the commission to continue its involvement,” Dr FitzGerald said.

While there was contact between the British government and the republican movement, Dr FitzGerald is adamant that his government never spoke to the IRA.

“The only contact ever with the IRA was at the Europa hotel when one of the IRA stopped one of our officials and talked to him, looking for us to let them run free – they were having some negotiations about a ceasefire – to let them do what they want and not arrest them to which we paid no attention,” he said.

Dr FitzGerald believed it was a mistake by the British government to maintain contacts with the IRA.

He believed that any contact with government encouraged the IRA to believe that its campaign of violence would eventually lead to negotiations.

“Unless they were willing to have a settlement they should not have been involved,” he said.

On taking up the position of taoiseach Dr FitzGerald was briefed about the situation in the north.

He believed the efforts by the Irish Justice and Peace Commission (IJPC) would lead to a solution before the next death –  that of McDonnell.

At Dr FitzGerald’s request the IJPC was granted a meeting with NIO minister of state Michael Allison who gave the impression that he wished to be conciliatory.

Mr Allison cleared the way for the IJPC to visit the prisoners who afterwards issued a more conciliatory statement than the messages coming from Sinn Fein outside the prison.

The prisoners said they were not seeking special privileges over other inmates.

Dr FitzGerald said at this stage on July 3 he believed events were moving towards a solution to the Hunger Strike without any more loss of life.

Around this time Dr FitzGerald said Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was contacted by Britain’s MI6 and a deal parallel to the IJPC was worked out.

“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 on [access for prisoners to] the Open University which wasn’t in the IJPC offer,” he said.

Mr Adams contacted the IJPC to notify it of his talks and urge that it contact the NIO to cancel a planned meeting, clearing the way for him to continue negotiations. The commission refused to do this, believing they could achieve a protest-ending deal, Dr FitzGerald said.

“I felt that the deal which had been worked out [by the IJPC] we were talking about finishing – and which the prisoners accepted – that should go ahead and I kept on to the British about that,” he said.

“But [the British] had interfered with that and I didn’t trust the IRA about it.

“The fact was once the prisoners had a separate position from the IRA and were not pressing for the fulfilment of all five demands there was clearly a chance of moving.

“If the British had not intervened and brought the IRA back in again a deal could have been done.”

Even after the IJPC pulled out, the former taoiseach believed the prisoners were ready to accept the new deal if they had been allowed to do so by Sinn Fein.

“They were keen to accept that. We knew that. We had our sources within the prison,” he said.

“As well as from the commission, we knew something was happening in the prison from other sources.”

Dr FitzGeral added: “[Richard] O’Rawe’s account seems to me to be, within his framework of knowledge, honest and accurate.”

Dr FitzGerald said he would co-operate with any official inquiry although he felt it was pointless as he believed the leadership of the IRA would not provide an accurate account of what happened.

Following the death of McDonnell, Dr FitzGerald still believed a solution could be found because the prisoners had indicated a willingness to accept the ICJP deal.

For 10 days he pursued the ICJP deal with Britain but no agreement was reached. All negotiations over a possible solution ended and in total 10 men died before the Hunger Strike was ended.

 

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: INLA man’s son calls for inquiry

INLA man’s son calls for inquiry
Families of the strikers are divided over O’Rawe claim
By Seamus McKinney
28/09/09

MICHAEL Og Devine was just eight years old when his father, also Michael, became the final hunger striker to die on August 20 1981 after 60 days without food.

The INLA prisoner told Tommy McCourt, a friend who visited him just days before his death, that he could not come off the Hunger Strike.

Mr McCourt has recalled how the two men discussed Devine’s funeral arrangements.

His dying friend told him if he came off the Hunger Strike and thereby ended the protest his life would not be worth living in the H-blocks.

His son, Michael Og, recalls that although very young he was fully aware he was seeing his father for the final time during their last visit days before his death.

Had the British government’s offer to make a statement conceding some of the hunger strikers’ five demands been accepted by the Provisional IRA leadership and had the protest ended, Devine (26) would not even have gone on hunger strike.

He commenced the protest on June 22. But like his fellow INLA prisoner Kevin Lynch and the INLA leadership, he was never made aware of the negotiations prior to the death of Joe McDonnell on July 8.

Michael Og believes the version of the deal and events put forward by Willie Gallagher of the IRSP.

“I believe Willie would not tell me lies. He has been working on this for three years,” Mr Devine said.

As to whether his father would have declined to go on hunger strike if he had known a deal was offered and rejected, the Derry man says that is too difficult a question to answer.

“If there was a deal there, I don’t know how he would have reacted,” he said.

Following a private meeting between Hunger Strike families and Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams in Gulladuff a statement was issued saying most of the families, including the Devines, accepted the Sinn Fein version of events.

But the statement was signed on behalf of the Devine family by members of the hunger striker’s extended family.

However, Michael Og is adamant that he did not and does not support the statement.

He said he is not angry at present about the controversy but he believes all the facts should be revealed and that this can be done only through an independent inquiry.

 

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: Provos ‘kept rivals in dark’

Provos ‘kept rivals in dark’
Families of the strikers are divided over O’Rawe claim
By Seamus McKinney
28/09/09

Top from left, Michael Devine’s children Michael Og and Louise, former blanketman Dixie Elliott, Patsy O’Hara’s mother Peggy O’Hara and the hunger striker’s brother Tony O’Hara, Willie Gallagher of the IRSP, Richard O’Rawe and former hunger striker Gerard Hodgins.

Top from left, Michael Devine’s children Michael Og and Louise, former blanketman Dixie Elliott, Patsy O’Hara’s mother Peggy O’Hara and the hunger striker’s brother Tony O’Hara, Willie Gallagher of the IRSP, Richard O’Rawe and former hunger striker Gerard Hodgins.

TONY O’Hara last saw his brother Patsy alive two days before the Derry man died on the 61st day of his hunger strike on May 21 1981.

At the time O’Hara was an INLA prisoner at the Maze serving a sentence for possession of arms.

He died on the same day as IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh from Camlough, Co Armagh.

“For the entire duration of the 61 days I got to spend two hours and 15 minutes with Patsy. Even though I was in jail I was brought in handcuffs from H5 to the prison hospital – a short trip,” Mr O’Hara said.

Two days after seeing his brother Mr O’Hara, whose first cell mate was Bobby Sands, heard of his younger brother’s death on a crystal radio set smuggled into the jail.

“Another prisoner came to his window and shouted but I sort of knew. I was waiting for it when news came,” he said.

Mr O’Hara was given 12 hours compassionate parole to attend his brother’s funeral and just two months later he was released.

“When Patsy died I just felt numb. I remembered what it was like when Bobby Sands died,” he said.

“On the night he was elected there was elation. We just, everyone just, celebrated and cheered.

“But on the night he died there was just silence. The whole of Long Kesh went silent.”

Although any deal, real or not, would not have saved O’Hara’s life, the INLA man’s family is one of those demanding an inquiry into the Provisionals’ management of the Hunger Strike.

Mr O’Hara’s concern is that the Sinn Fein version of events has changed too often since Richard O’Rawe published his account of a possible deal in 2005.

He is also concerned that the INLA leadership was never told of the possible deal despite the fact that two of its members  – Kevin Lynch and Michael Devine – died after it was alleged to have been made.

“It could have been a propaganda coup for the blanketmen and we could have said the Brits reneged on a deal,” Mr O’Hara said.

He believes the Provos tried to manipulate the Hunger Strike to exclude the INLA as much as possible.

“Patsy was to be the second to go on strike after Bobby Sands but Francie Hughes created such a rumpus that he went second,” Mr O’Hara said.

He accepts there could be a number of reasons for the Sinn Fein leadership deciding not to accept the deal.

“There is a lot of speculation and I don’t know the reason but that is one of the big questions that must be asked,” Mr O’Hara said.

He disputes the various statements put forward by the Sinn Fein leadership in recent months, not least a claim that all prisoners were told of the deal in 1981.

Mr O’Hara is adamant that only a full inquiry, chaired by an international human rights figure, will get to the truth.

 

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: Deal allegations hurtful to family

Deal allegations hurtful to family
Families of the strikers are divided over O’Rawe claim
By Allison Morris
28/09/09

Kieran Doherty’s parents Alfie and Margaret with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

Kieran Doherty’s parents Alfie and Margaret with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

Kieran Doherty, known as ‘Big Doc’, was on hunger strike for 73 days before his death on August 2 1981, the longest of any of the 10 men who died.

He was 25 years old.

Elected as a TD to Cavan Monaghan in June 1981, for the last 16 days of his life members of the Doherty family kept a round-the-clock vigil by his bedside in the hospital wing of the Maze prison.

His mother Margaret, now 82, said until the very end he remained adamant that he was not to be taken off the protest until the five demands were not only achieved but copper fastened.

A convert to Catholicism, Margaret Doherty had moved from the staunchly Protestant Shankill Road to Andersonstown after marrying her now late husband Alfie.

She says that her son’s belief in what he was doing left the family with no option other than to give him their support.

“Kieran knew he was likely to die. He told us that from the start,” Mrs Doherty said.

“He was a great son, he had a very strong faith, he never missed his Mass no matter what.

“When he knew he was near the end he told his father not to worry. ‘It’s only a wee step over to the other side’, he said.

“And he made us give our word he wouldn’t be taken off unless the demands were met.

“Up until then you should have seen the way they were being treated. As a mother it just tore at your heart.

“Before the Hunger Strike started he had spent a week in hospital, he had been beaten so badly during a search.

“Kieran knew the Hunger Strike wasn’t going to benefit him because he was going to die. He did it for the other lads because they couldn’t have survived much longer in conditions they were living in.

“I feel him all around me every day. God love him, he’s always been there.”

Representatives of the Doherty family attended a recent meeting in Co Derry with Gerry Adams and Bik McFarland to discuss the controversy surrounding the Hunger Strike.

In a statement, they told The Irish News: “These totally untrue allegations have caused untold hurt and anguish to our family and we feel sully the proud memory of Kieran and his comrades.

“What hurts more is that the nasty and spiteful allegations come from people who should really know better – former comrades and people who claim to be republicans.

“We were at Kieran’s side throughout what was a traumatic time for our family.

“Kieran was determined to see the protest through until the five demands had been achieved. ‘Set in concrete,’ were his very words.

“Due to the position of Margaret Thatcher and the British government a deal was not secured, we knew that at the time and we know it now.

“We would like to state this is hurting our family, especially our elderly mother, and call on those responsible to stop pushing this agenda for whatever personal reasons they may have and allow Kieran to rest in peace.”

The other families

The families of Francis Hughes and Thomas McElwee (who were cousins) from Bellaghy declined to take part in this investigation. Following individual family discussions, they said they believed the issue had been dealt with.

The families of the five other hunger strikers who died were approached by The Irish News but also declined to take part.

 

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: Chain of events that led to deaths

Chain of events that led to deaths
THE HUNGER STRIKE
By Seamus McKinney
28/09/09

Between May 5 and August 20 1981 10 men died on hunger strike at the Maze prison in a protest which attracted worldwide media attention.

On the surface the Hunger Strike, and its 1980 predecessor, was in pursuit of five demands by republican prisoners.

However, it is accepted it was about much more than that. It was about a refusal by republican prisoners to allow the British government to officially criminalise them.

Prisoners started their protest for ‘special category status’ when it was removed in 1976.

Refusing to wear prison clothes, they wore blankets and fashioned blankets into clothing, earning approximately 350 inmates the title ‘blanketmen’.

In 1978 the protest was escalated after some prisoners were attacked when they left their cells to slop out.

Prisoners subsequently refused to leave their cells to wash and spread excrement on the cell walls in a dirty protest.

The IRA and INLA prisoners made five demands which they considered vital to re-establish their political status.

These were:

– the right not to wear prison uniforms

– the right not to do prison work

– the right of free association with other prisoners and to organise educational and recreational pursuits

– the right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week.

– full restoration of remission lost through the protest.

In 1980 seven prisoners went on hunger strike in pursuit of the demands.

The protest was called off after 53 days with Sean McKenna close to death.

The prisoners believed a British government document – which they had not seen – had conceded the essence of their demands.

However, when the 34-page document was studied the prisoners found it fell far short of their demands.

This was realised within days of the end of the hunger strike when prisoners were issued with civilian-style prison uniforms instead of their own clothes.

Some observers believe that the British government had genuinely thought it had dealt with the problem but that subsequent problem arose in its implementation by prison management and staff.

The second Hunger Strike began when former IRA prison OC Bobby Sands refused food on March 1 1981.

This time prisoners joined the Hunger Strike at staggered intervals.

In April 1981 Sands defeated Ulster Unionist candidate Harry West to win a seat as an MP in Fermanagh and South Tyrone following the death of sitting Independent MP Frank Maguire.

Despite Sands’s election causing a diplomatic crisis for Britain around the world then prime minister Margaret Thatcher refused to give in to the prisoners demands.

In a now famous speech, she said: “We are not prepared to consider special category status for certain groups of people serving sentences for crime. Crime is crime is crime. It is not political.”

Sands eventually died on May 5 after 66 days on hunger strike. In a huge protest by nationalist Ireland tens of thousands of people lined the route of his funeral.

In the next four months nine more men died while on hunger strike before the protest began to break down following interventions by hunger strikers’ families.

On October 3 1981 the Hunger Strike was officially ended.

Four days later, new Northern Ireland secretary of state Jim Prior conceded four of the five demands.

The final demand, the right not to do prison work, was conceded when the British government agreed to allow prisoners to undertake educational study during prison work time.

Blanketman’s deal claim

THE controversy over the 1981 Hunger Strike began in 2005 when former prisoner Richard O’Rawe, above right, published his book Blanketmen.

He alleged that a possible deal which could have ended the Hunger Strike was rejected by the Sinn Fein committee which was managing the protest outside the prison.

O’Rawe, a publicity officer for the prisoners, believed there could be a number of reasons for this, including a strategy to make political gain from the protest.

He said the deal was offered after the death of Patsy O’Hara and just two days before the death of Joe McDonnell.

He said then OC of the IRA prisoners, Brendan Bik McFarlane shouted “Tá go leor ann” (There’s enough there) to him when he heard the details.

Both McFarlane and the Sinn Fein leadership have denied this version of events. Former Sinn Fein publicity officer Danny Morrison initially denied that any deal at all was offered.

However, through Freedom of Information a number of documents have since emerged which appear to support a possible deal.

These documents indicate that then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was willing to give concessions on three and possibly four of the prisoners’ demands.

At the time the offer was released verbally to the IRA leadership by Derry businessman and go-between Brendan Duddy who was known by the code name The Mountain Climber. Nothing in writing was ever offered.

The offer was made after a statement by the prisoners in which they appeared willing drop the words ‘political status’ from their campaign while maintaining their five demands.

The Freedom of Information documents claim a draft statement was given to Sinn Fein to be released after the prisoners had called off thee Hunger Strike.

But Joe McDonnell died unexpectedly early and following serious rioting the Hunger Strike continued.

Sinn Fein claims a close reading of the documents shows the British were not willing to agree to a settlement favourable to the prisoners. The party says people should not confuse a deal with an offer.

Seamus McKinney

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: Violence of the year left 118 people dead

Violence of the year left 118 people dead
Was there a deal?
By Suzanne McGonagle
28/09/09

THE explosive events of 1981 saw violence erupt on the streets of Northern Ireland on a scale not seen since the early 1970s.

The year was regarded as a Troubles watershed with the Hunger Strike inflaming tensions outside the Maze Prison. In that year 118 people lost their lives.

Of those killed, civilians accounted for 54 of the deaths, with 21 RUC officers, 11 soldiers and 13 UDR members among the dead.

Sixteen republicans and three loyalists also died during 1981.

According to the book Lost Lives, republican activity resulted in 75 deaths.

Loyalists were responsible for 14, the British army for 13, the RUC for three and the UDR for one.

When Bobby Sands became the first hunger striker to lose his life, news of his death quickly led to violence and further death.

Just a day after he died a policeman, Philip Ellis (33), was killed at Duncairn Gardens in Belfast as officers tried to prevent rival factions from clashing following Sands’s death.

School children accounted for many of those who lost their lives during the turbulent year.

One of the first to die was Protestant teenager Desmond Guiney.

The 14-year-old from Rathcoole died after a mob stoned his father’s milk lorry on the New Lodge Road in north Belfast.

Missiles were thrown at the vehicle causing it to crash into a lamp-post. His father Eric died almost a week later from his injuries.

In the aftermath of the death of hunger striker Francis Hughes, another child became a victim of the spiralling violence.

Julie Livingstone (14), who was a Catholic and from the Lenadoon area of west Belfast, was hit by plastic bullet fired by British soldiers on the Stewartstown Road.

Another Catholic schoolgirl to lose her life during 1981 was Carol Ann Kelly (11) who was also killed by a plastic bullet fired by soldiers as she walked home in the Twinbrook area of Belfast.

Father-of-seven Henry Duffy from the Creggan area of Derry was also killed after being hit by a plastic bullet fired by soldiers on May 22 1981.

His death came during serious rioting throughout the Bogside following the death of Derry hunger striker Patsy O’Hara.

That year also saw the death of the first Northern Ireland MP to be killed during the Troubles.

The Rev Robert Bradford (40) was shot by IRA gunmen at a community centre in the Finaghy area of Belfast on November 14.

The IRA claimed he was “one of the key people responsible for winding up the loyalist paramilitary sectarian machine”.

His death triggered a security crisis and was followed by the killings of a number of Catholics including Stephen Murphy, Thomas McNulty and Peadar Fagan, who were killed in separate gun attacks.

INLA member James Power was also killed during 1981 when a bomb exploded prematurely as he attempted to disarm it.

The bomb had been intended to kill members of the security forces.

He remains the only INLA member to have been killed while handling explosives.

And on May 16 Patrick Martin – a Catholic father-of-one – was shot six times by the UDA/UFF while lying in bed at his home off the Crumlin Road in Belfast.

The UDA/UFF claimed he had been at the funeral of Bobby Sands.

Later in July 1981 John Dempsey, a member of the IRA’s Fianna youth wing was shot by soldiers at the Falls Road bus depot during disturbances.

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: THE HUNGER STRIKE: Special Investigation

THE HUNGER STRIKE: Special Investigation
By Staff Reporters
28/09/09

THE LIVES of six of the 10 1981 hunger strikers could have been saved in a deal which was acceptable to the prisoners, according to former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, left.

In an interview in today’s Irish News, the architect of the Anglo-Irish Agreement also reveals for the first time that the Irish government had a mole within the Maze prison.

The then Fine Gael leader says he believes a deal proposed by the British after the death of the fourth hunger striker in 1981 was vetoed by the Sinn Fein leadership – a claim rejected by Martin McGuinness.

“[The prisoners] were keen to accept [the deal] – we had our sources within the prison,” Dr FitzGerald says.

However, he did not elaborate on the status of the mole and whether he/she was a prisoner or a member of staff.

In today’s special investigation, Mr McGuinness also reveals for the first time that he was the conduit for the offer from the British government which he says was passed to him from the intermediary Brendan Duddy.

Mr McGuinness, who has never previously confirmed if he played a role during the hunger Strike, reveals that the message was then passed to Gerry Adams in a phone call and on to Danny Morrison who took it to the prisoners.

However, Mr McGuinness disputes claims that there was a deal on the table that was acceptable to the prisoners and accuses Sinn Fein’s political opponents of attempting to portray Margaret Thatcher as being someone who was anxious to solve the dispute when she was “a ruthless, hypocritical enemy”.

A bitter divide has developed within republicanism since the publication of the book Blanketmen by former IRA prisoner Richard O’Rawe, in which he suggested that the Sinn

Fein leadership blocked the deal for political reasons.

The strike resulted in not only the death of 10 IRA and INLA prisoners, but led to serious street violence which caused dozens of deaths.

 

Sourced from The Irish News

Sinn Fein spokesman: No evidence exists to prove ‘bogus claims’

SDLP and SF clash over H-Block GAA club event
GERRY MORIARTY, Northern Editor
Irish Times

Thu, Aug 20, 2009

THE SDLP and Sinn Féin have clashed over the holding of a H-Block commemoration on Sunday in the grounds of the Galbally GAA club in Co Tyrone.

SDLP deputy leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell accused Sinn Féin of “hijacking” the commemoration, while Sinn Féin accused him of attempting to demonise the memory of the 10 men who died in the 1981 hunger strikes.

Dr McDonnell made his criticism after he and a senior party delegation met top GAA officials yesterday. Holding such events on GAA grounds is against the rules of the organisation. Dr McDonnell said that “like thousands of fellow members of the GAA” he was angry the “Provos had hijacked a GAA premises to cynically deflect attention from Sinn Féin’s internal problems”.

He said it was also part of Sinn Féin’s attempt to divert attention away from Sinn Féin “allowing a number of the hunger strikers to die” to serve the party’s electoral ambitions in 1981.

“GAA grounds should not be prostituted or used politically,” he said. He added that he respected the rights of family and friends of the hunger strikers to commemorate them but that it should not be done in GAA grounds.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said that in relation to the hungers strikers that Dr McDonnell would not be able to “produce a shred of evidence to back up his bogus claims about the circumstances surrounding the men’s deaths as none exists”.

The Sinn Féin spokesman added, “republicans are justifiably proud of the hunger strikers and their families. We make no apology to McDonnell or anyone else for commemorating their sacrifice. The Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee event on Sunday saw up to 10,000 people gather to pay tribute and to remember. That is what the focus needs to remain on, rather than deliberately constructed arguments by anti-republican elements in the media and elsewhere aimed at taking away from the purpose of the day.”

When contacted GAA headquarters referred the matter of the commemoration at its ground in Galbally to the organisation’s Ulster Council which said it had no comment to make on the matter at this time.

GAA sources acknowledged, however, that holding the commemoration on its ground in Galbally is contrary to rule 7 (a) of the organisation.

A similar situation arose in 2006 when a major commemoration was held in Casement Park in Belfast on the 25th anniversary of the hunger strikes.

The instruction from Croke Park not to hold the commemoration in Casement Park was ignored. Subsequently, the GAA refused to make tickets available to senior Sinn Féin members for the 2006 hurling and football All-Ireland finals, a decision Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness described as “childish”.

In the past year or so the GAA has made a determined effort to engage in “outreach” with the unionist community and unionist politicians. In June DUP First Minister Peter Robinson and the GAA leadership broke new ground when they met at Stormont.

Sourced from the Irish Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sourced from The Andersonstown News

Jim Gibney on Brendan Duddy: Secret go-between shines a light on history makers

Secret go-between shines a light on history makers
By Jim Gibney, The Thursday Column (Irish News)
06/08/09

The names most publicly associated with the Irish peace process are Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, John Hume, Albert Reynolds, Bertie Ahern, Fr Alex Reid, David Trimble,

Ian Paisley, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.

The one name which does not readily come to mind is that of Derry man Brendan Duddy.

Yet Brendan Duddy, now 73 years old, is slowly emerging as another important name to add to that list from a period in time when the armed conflict here was at its bleakest.

For more than two hours last Saturday in St Mary’s College on Belfast’s Falls Road, gently nudged along by journalist and author Brian ‘Barney’ Rowan, Brendan Duddy shone a light into a world where history makers live – a world beyond the camera, the scribe and the media sound-bite.

Brendan Duddy was speaking at Belfast’s Féile an Phobail’s first of many debates. The event, ‘The Secret Peacemaker’ is an apt description of a man who kept his counsel about his role as a conduit between the British government and the leadership of the IRA and Sinn Fein for more than 20 years until he thought it appropriate to speak.

At first glance Brendan Duddy strikes you as a most unlikely person to perform the role of a go-between, which survived three British prime ministers – including Margaret Thatcher – and the various leadership changes within the IRA.

He is diminutive in stature, soft spoken and unassuming – not the sort of person to inhabit a world where spies from MI6 or MI5 knock on your door, metaphorically speaking, with a request that you contact the IRA leadership on behalf of their masters, the British government.

But on reflection Duddy is precisely the type of person to fulfil that role because he has the qualities required – discretion, dependability and trustworthiness.

Duddy, known to both sides as the ‘Mountain Climber’ (because he ran up and down mountains near his home to keep fit), knew and spoke with leading republicans such as Seamus Twomey, Ruairi O’Bradaigh, Dave O’Connell and Martin McGuinness over a 25-year period.

He did so after receiving occasional requests from a range of British intelligence operatives like Michael Oatley and his successors. These men he described as “servants” of the British government.

His first point of contact with the British crown forces was with a Catholic RUC man based in Derry, Frank Lagan. Duddy owned and ran a chip shop which he described as a “political salon”, frequented by John Hume, Bernadette McAliskey and Eamon McCann, leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

He described Lagan as a “networker” within the broad Catholic community.

Lagan’s first request was for Duddy to ask those organising the civil rights march, which became Bloody Sunday, not to march. He refused to do so.

The second request was to ask the IRA and Official IRA not to have guns on the march. This he did. Bloody Sunday was, he said, “premeditated murder”.

Lagan introduced him to Oatley in the early 1970s. Duddy came to view him as a “vehicle for change”. He told this to leading republicans and he told Oatley: “You have to talk to the IRA”.

He was involved in the background to the IRA’s ceasefire of 1974-75, which he described as “not having a chance because the time was not right”.

When Thatcher came into office Oatley told him: “Put on your long-johns, we are going into the ice-age.”

That ice-age thawed during the first and second hunger strikes of 1980-81 when he was involved in efforts through Oatley and another agent of the British government to secure an acceptable solution. At Saturday’s event he appealed for an end to the ongoing “damaging debate” about the hunger strikes.

British prime minister John Major reopened contact with him (a contact that survived British state violence and IRA attacks).

He accused the Tories of trying to destroy the early moves towards peace when they claimed that Martin McGuinness had sent a message asking for help to end the war.

He said Martin McGuinness was “psychologically incapable” of such a suggestion.

It was a fascinating discussion and in time the people of this country will rightly see Brendan Duddy as a ‘servant of peace’.

Sourced from the Irish News

Martina Anderson ‘disgusted’ by hunger strike row

Anderson ‘disgusted’ by hunger strike row
Derry Journal, 30 June 2009

sfardfheismartinaFoyle Sinn Féin MLA has said she is “disgusted” by what she described as republicans exploiting the grief of the families of the hunger strikers to attack her party.

Ms Anderson made her remarks during the annual Derry Volunteers Commemoration event in the City Cemetery on Sunday.

A crowd of up to 1,000 local republicans took part in the march from the Creggan shops to the republican monument in the City Cemetery.

Her comments come amid claims by former blanketman Richard O’Rawe that the deaths of six of the hunger strikers could have been prevented after a deal, which he claims was accepted by the IRA’s jail leadership was rejected by the organisation’s overall leadership.

The claim has been supported by the IRSP and several former prisoners who were in Long Kesh at the time but has been flatly rejected by Sinn Féin.

The families of most of the hunger strikers, including County Derry man, Kevin Lynch, issued a statement last week calling for an end to the controversy.

Speaking at Sunday’s commemoration, Ms Anderson said: “I am disgusted that so many republicans are exploiting the grief of the families to attack us.

“In doing so they have got into bed with the right wing press.

“They should be ashamed of themselves.

“If they have any honour at all they will call a halt to their shameful actions.”

Memory of the dead

The Foyle MLA also said Sinn Féin are continually motivated by the memory of dead IRA volunteers and added that the current political situation could not have been achieved without their efforts.

“Today republicans are wielding unprecedented political power in Ireland.

“It is the volunteer soldiers of the IRA who made all that possible,” she said.

At the commemoration, the Roll of Honour was read by Tiernan Heaney, nephew of IRA member Denis Heaney, and the Roll of Remembrance was read by Aoife McNaught of Ógra Shinn Féin. Wreaths were laid on behalf of Sinn Féin, the Republican Graves Association, Ógra Sinn Féin, and Óglaigh na h’Éireann.

The National Anthem was sung by Sara Griffin.

Sourced from The Derry Journal

SF to meet hunger strike families over deal ‘myth’

SF to meet hunger strike families over deal ‘myth’
By Seamus McKinney
Irish News
13/06/2009

The Sinn Fein leadership has organised a meeting with families of the 1981 hunger strikers to discuss recent controversy about the period.

Families of the 10 men who died were notified this week about the meeting at Gulladuff in south Derry on Wednesday.

It is understood Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and others connected to the 1981 protest will attend.

The discussion follows a number of claims in recent months about a possible deal which might have saved the lives of five or possibly six of the hunger strikers.

The meeting will be the first time the party leadership has held direct talks with the families since the controversy arose. It is being seen as a bid to stop the issue gaining further momentum.

Claims that a deal could have saved lives first arose in 2005 when Richard O’Rawe – who acted as publicity officer for the 1981 hunger strikers – published his account of the period.

In his book, Mr O’Rawe said a deal was sanctioned by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher hours before Joe McDonnell died.

However, Mr O’Rawe alleged it was rejected by the IRA leadership outside the prison because it wished to capitalise on political gains.

This was rejected by the Sinn Fein group which managed the hunger strike from outside the prison, insisting the deal was not guaranteed.

The dispute continued this year when a number of documents released under the Freedom of Information Act appeared to confirm details of a deal being offered to the IRA on July 8 1981.

Next week’s meeting has received a mixed response from families of the hunger strikers.

Tony O’Hara, whose brother Patsy died before the alleged deal, said his family and that of Michael Devine (both INLA hunger strikers) were considering whether to attend.

The IRSP claimed the meeting was “another attempt to mislead and confuse”.

Spokesman Martin McMonagle said a full inquiry into the issue – demanded recently by former hunger striker Gerard Hodgkins – was the only way forward.

“We have come to this conclusion because of the weight of evidence from wide-ranging sources who were directly involved which clearly contradicts the Sinn Fein version of events,” he said.

However, Oliver Hughes, a brother of Francis Hughes and a cousin of Thomas McElwee, supported the Sinn Fein leadership.

He said while he could not attend because of business commitments his family would be represented.

Mr Hughes said he was angry that the pain of the hunger strikes was being revisited on the families.

“I would question what the motive is for bringing this up again 28 years on,” he said.

“I support the leadership of the republican movement in arranging this meeting. I believe Adams and his colleagues feel they must make some reply.”

Sinn Fein last night confirmed that a “private meeting” had been organised.

A spokesman said the issue was raised a number of times during recent meetings organised by the party leadership.

“As a result of these meetings it was decided that we should organise a meeting for all the relatives of the hunger strikers to allow them to come together as a group and discuss issues both amongst themselves and with the Sinn Fein leadership,” he said.

Sourced from Fenian32

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


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