July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Irish News: Duddy ‘never given written statement’

Duddy ‘never given written statement’
By Staff Reporter

THE go-between working with the republican leadership during the Hunger Strike has revealed that he was never given a written copy of the statement which the British were prepared to release to the hunger strikers.

Brendan Duddy, who acted as go-between between Sinn Fein and the British government since the early 1970s, said information was always given by telephone because then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher had vowed never to talk to republicans.

Known to both sides by the code name ‘The Mountain Climber,’ he continued his work right through to the ongoing peace process.

Mr Duddy, a former member of the Policing Board, spoke about taking part at a meeting in Derry earlier this year where the families of hunger strikers had gathered.

At that meeting at the Gasyard Centre he was questioned at length by members of the audience – which included Richard O’Rawe and leading figures from the time.

The Derry man told the meeting the information he received from the British was always by telephone and never in written form.

He said this was because Mrs Thatcher had vowed never to talk to republicans.

Mr Duddy stressed that it was never his role to interpret or advise on the content of the information he received.

He told the meeting: “What I cannot do is speak for what the past or current leadership of the IRA, Sinn Fein or Provisionals did.”

Mr Duddy said negotiations about the prisoners’ demands continued from the end of the first hunger strike in December 1980 right up until they reached a climax in the days before Joe McDonnell died.

He was asked why he only gave details of the negotiations and possible deal to the IRA and did not pass them on to the INLA. He said his contact work had always been with the IRA.

“It was not a matter of not making the approach to the INLA. My contact was as a result of working with Ruairi O Bradaigh, Daithi O’Connell and Sean Keenan among others,” Mr Duddy said.

He confirmed to the meeting that the documents detailing the British statement as received through a Freedom of Information request was an accurate version apart from “one or two minor points”  of the statement he was given by the British. But he stressed no written form was given to him at the time.

He also confirmed that he supplied the response from the IRA to the British government that the statement was not enough and had to be “added to”. Mr Duddy said he could not recall anyone talking about the “tone” of the statement at any time.

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: Documents say Thatcher ‘would not risk initiative’

Documents say Thatcher ‘would not risk initiative’
By Staff Reporter

SUPPORT for Richard O’Rawe’s claim that a British government deal was on offer to the hunger strikers in July 1981 came through documents which emerged earlier this year.

The documents were obtained by The Sunday Times under a Freedom of Information request.

They include a letter from 10 Downing Street on July 8 to the Northern Ireland Office, an undated telegram, a further letter from Downing Street to the NIO on July 18, a letter from the NIO to Downing Street on July 21 and a British government document regarding the hunger strike.

The July 8 letter from Downing Street was issued during the last hours of hunger striker Joe McDonnell’s life.

In that letter details of a possible British government deal with the IRA were outlined.

“Your secretary of state said that the message which the prime minister had approved the previous evening had been communicated to the PIRA,” the letter stated.

“Their response indicated that they did not regard it as satisfactory and that they wanted a good deal more. That appeared to mark the end of this development and we had made this clear to the PIRA during the afternoon.

“This had produced a very rapid reaction which suggested that it was not the content of the message which they had objected to but only its tone.

“The question now for decision was whether we should respond on our side. He [the secretary of state] had concluded that we should communicate with the PIRA overnight 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.”

The letter dated July 18 further emphasised a possible deal with the IRA. The letter provided a discussion on whether or not a government official should be sent into the prison to tell prisoners what would be on offer if they came off hunger strike.

It said: “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 to wear their own clothes, as was already the case in Armagh prison, provided these clothes were approved by the prison authorities.

“He would set out the position on association; on parcels and letters; on remission and on work. On the 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.”

It said the official would not be empowered to negotiate.

“He would simply be making a statement about what was on offer to the hunger strikers if they abandoned the hunger strike,” it said.

The letter further said “there could be no guarantee that acting in this way would end the hunger strike”.

“However, there had been one or two indications that the hunger strikers were hoping to come off their strike,” the letter said.

But, apparently persuaded by the secretary of state, British prime minister Margaret Thatcher decided against this course of action.

The letter stated: “The prime minister decided that the dangers in taking an initiative would be so great in Northern Ireland that she was not prepared to risk them. The official who went into the prison could repeat the government’s public position but could go no further. The secretary of state agreed.”

Sourced from The Irish News

Irish News: Sinn Fein leaders didn’t want protest to end says ex-minister

Sinn Fein leaders didn’t want protest to end says ex-minister
By Bimpe Archer

SINN Fein’s leadership didn’t want the Hunger Strike to end, such was the political advantage from the deaths, a former SDLP government minister has claimed.

The comment comes following claims by former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald about a deal proposed by the British after the death of the fourth hunger striker which the prisoners, he says, “were keen to accept”.

There was no comment yesterday from Sinn Fein, which has always denied that an offer was accepted by the prisoners.

However, veteran politicians who watched the events unfold have spoken of their dismay at the new revelations.

Former SDLP agriculture minister Brid Rodgers said there was no reason for anyone to die after Bobby Sands.

“The leaders in Sinn Fein didn’t want the hunger strikes to end,” she claimed.

“It’s dreadful. You have to think what did all those people die for after Bobby Sands?

“A lot of people in the present younger generation probably don’t realise what it was for a young life to be snuffed out for nothing. Those people died and they can’t say what they would have said or done.

“I don’t think it will have an effect on the younger generation because the hunger strikes are being put up there as part of the myth of Sinn Fein and the wonderful things they did.

“I don’t think after Bobby Sands died anyone else should have died. They had all proved they were willing to give up their lives for what they believed.

“One has to ask now, what did they die for? It makes me sad every time I think about it.”

Mrs Rodgers said that only the Sinn Fein leadership emerged with anything positive from the period.

“It elevated Sinn Fein into a new plain of support because of public sympathy and public admiration,” she said.

“They gave their lives and a lot of people are benefiting now.”

Her view was echoed by DUP peer Maurice Morrow, who described Dr FitzGerald’s contentions as “a startling revelation”.

“Garret FitzGerald has told us that a number of lives could have been saved. This is quite horrendous that the republican leadership on the outside demanded that those people stay on hunger strike,” Lord Morrow said.

“The republican leadership – Adams, McGuinness and co – have some explaining to do, not only to the world at large, but to the families of those who died on hunger strike.

“It seems that the lust driving the political and republican agenda at that particular time was so forthright and determined that the message sent about that was: ‘You will have to die’.

“They didn’t need to die. There was an offer there that would have saved lives.”

UUP peer Ken Maginnis said he had been aware at the time that Sinn Fein leadership had thwarted attempts to call off the hunger strikes.

“It’s totally in line with what I would have gathered from my good friend Denis Faul, who gave me an impression that there was a battle between himself and those on the outside,” he said.

“He was shunned by Sinn Fein because he had tried to work with the parents of the various hunger strikers to get them to call the hunger strikes off. Everything that Garret says rings a bell with me.

“I was friendly with Denis Faul as a teacher before we ever got into the Troubles in the late sixties and right up until his death we would have been good friends.”

But Lord Maginnis said he did not expect there to be repercussions for Sinn Fein at this remove.

“I think that by and large we’re past that,” he said.

“The leaders at that time have moved away from violence and have in many ways pointed the way to others within that tradition.

“I don’t think it will suddenly mean a boost for dissidents.

“There’s no depth of support for dissident republicans.”

Danny McBrearty, speaking on behalf of the Republican Network for Unity (RNU), joined calls for an independent inquiry into the events.

“Few events in Irish history were as inspirational, as emotional, and as politically consequential for republicans as was the Hunger Strike in 1981,” he said.

Mr McBrearty said the families of hunger strikers Patsy O’Hara and Michael Devine had demanded an “independent republican inquiry” and were supported by a “growing number of former blanketmen, including at least one former hunger striker, Gerard Hodgins”.

“The questions first raised by Richard O’Rawe and now corroborated are too important to too many to be ignored or buried or relegated to alternative one-sided meetings,” he said.

“The facts and history of the Hunger Strike go well beyond any party interests or politics.

“Indeed many of those who now call for a full and open debate were themselves IRA prisoners and Richard O’Rawe was part of their trusted leadership in the H-blocks.

“The truth belongs to all republicans.”

Sourced from The Irish News


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A day-by-day account of the events of early July, 1981.

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