July 1981

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Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

The Public and the Private

The Public and the Private
Anthony McIntyre
The Pensive Quill

Richard O’Rawe has just published a new book. Its title is Afterlives and was launched in Belfast on Thursday evening. Due to last minute ‘ambushes’ I was dragged elsewhere and had to cancel my planned journey north. Much to my regret, because O’Rawe is a battler who has done much to protect free inquiry from book burners and censors. Each time I have tried to phone him since his line has been engaged. I somehow doubt if it was with callers telling him how upset they were at his new work. They would rather paint on walls.

I have still to get a copy but it is being said that Afterlives is a forensic destruction of the argument that that the then republican leadership has no case to answer over its management of the 1981 hunger strike. O’Rawe sets out his stall in relation to the heated debate generated in the wake of his first book Blanketmen. It was there over five years ago that he first publicly vented grave misgivings about the longevity of the strike, expressing the view that with better management six lives need not have been lost. What he said in Blanketmen he had already been saying in private for years. In fact it was through such claims that I ended up meeting him again after a gap of many years. Our paths for long enough simply had not crossed.

Brendan McFarlane the leader of the IRA prisoners during the 1981 hunger strike has reentered the fray against O’Rawe. McFarlane, while not silent on the issue previously, has not been to the fore of the debate to the extent that some might have expected. The prolix of others who have rejected the O’Rawe claims seems not to have done the trick. Turning up the volume and drowning all else out might have made things loud but certainly not clear. So McFarlane has stepped in to the breach to make up the deficit. No easy task given that O’Rawe in the public mind has taken on the persona of writer in residence in the hunger strike debate, his account the incumbent narrative which others must dislodge if they are to make progress of their own. The once dominant Sinn Fein perspective has been rocked and now struggles to stay on its feet and avoid the telling blows that have so far penetrated its guard.

In literary terms O’Rawe’s reversal of fortunes is akin to the Soviet obliteration of the German Operation Barbarossa. Hit by a seemingly unstoppable Blitzkrieg of ill will and hate salvoes from the minute it emerged out of its birth canal, O’Rawe’s challenging account had to withstand a battle a day. But gradually and against the odds, the besieged author carefully pulled his critics onto the punch and delivered body blows that pushed them back well behind their own lines.

It is with much regret that I have followed Brendan McFarlane’s recent contributions including that in today’s Irish News. He does not seem comfortable in the role. Earlier in the week in the Derry Journal he was adding new detail to the narrative which to have any bearing should have seen the light of day much earlier in the debate. Unlike O’Rawe’s revelations, they seem awkward and grafted on, constructed from the perspective of the present rather than as an accurate history of the past.

I have long regarded Brendan McFarlane as a person of immense integrity who led from the front in the violent crucible of the H-Blocks. His task was onerous and unenviable. I feel distinctly uncomfortable about the position this outpouring of critique has placed him in and have said as much to O’Rawe. Yet the chips fall where they do and the evidence lends itself to no conclusion other than that a deal was offered which was accepted by the prisoners. This acceptance was subsequently subverted by the leadership for whatever reason and the hunger strike carried on with the resulting loss of six more lives.

Today Brendan McFarlane revealed communications written by Richard O’Rawe in his capacity as jail PRO. McFarlane claims these show that O’Rawe while in the prison was not of the view that the British had made any substantive offer. But this is old hat, a repeat of the Danny Morrison venture to Dublin a few years ago to search archives for similar communications. Morrison returned to Belfast and revealed that what he had discovered in Dublin was … Dublin. Few took the Morrison ‘comms’ disclosure seriously, intuitively knowing that the public positions of the day were not what people believed privately. How otherwise could the ‘victory’ parade presumably organised by Morrison and others in the wake of the vanquished 1980 hunger strike have gone ahead? The organisers knew privately that no victory had been achieved but publicly ran with the victory parade anyway.

Brendan McFarlane is an important witness to history. He could do worse than take stock of his situation and render a version of events that, even if at odds with the interpretation of Richard O’Rawe, at least sounds credible. The current narrative he is defending is, as William Sydney Porter might have said, ‘beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.’

Sourced from The Pensive Quill

Former IRA prison leader releases O’Rawe ‘comms’

Brendan "Bik" McFarlane

Former IRA prison leader releases O’Rawe ‘comms’
by Barry McCaffrey
Irish News
Nov 6 2010

Former IRA prison leader Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane yesterday produced secret ‘comms’ (communications) which he claimed prove that republicans did not reject a British government deal to end the 1981 Hunger Strike.

Earlier this week Richard O’Rawe, who was the IRA press officer in the H-Blocks during the Hunger Strike, published his second book Afterlives: The Hunger Strike and the Secret Offer that Changed Irish History.

In it he argues that prisoners had been willing to accept an offer to end the protest but this was rejected by the IRA leadership outside the Maze.

He claims that as a result six hunger strikers died needlessly.

Mr McFarlane said yesterday he would break five years of silence by producing secret IRA comms written by Mr O’Rawe during the Hunger Strike in which he accused the British government of trying to prolong it.

In them he writes: “It is vital also that everyone realises that the ICJP [Irish Commission for Peace and Justice] have been victims of British perfidity and that the ambiguity which accompanies all British government statements is deliberate, so that at a later stage they can abdicate their responsibility.”

In another part of the communications sent between republicans in and outside of the jail, Mr O’Rawe comments on a Northern Ireland Office decision to send officials into the prison to speak to hunger strikers.

“Understand this development for it is an extension of the cunningness that has marked the Brits’ role in this issue, he writes.

“The Brits know our stand in relation to their July 8 statement but they saw the possibility of gaining in the propaganda field, so they sent two NIO men in on their publicity mission to explain a totally rejected statement.”

In another section he refers to the British government’s refusal to allow Mr McFarlane to attend a meeting between the NIO and hunger strikers.

“Again the British are engaged in a propaganda exercise… The fact is that if the Brits were genuinely disposed to seeking a solution such a meeting would be of benefit and we would welcome it as long as the strikers are adequately represented in the person of Brendan McFarlane,” Mr O’Rawe writes.

Mr McFarlane said he rejected Mr O’Rawe’s claims that the IRA had allowed six of the 10 hunger strikers to die needlessly.

“I have deliberately resisted engaging in personal attacks on Richard for the last five years,” he said.

“But I feel it is not time, once and for all, to show beyond doubt that what he is saying is totally untrue.

“These comms are written in Richard’s own handwriting and show quite clearly that he believed that the British had no interest in a deal.

“The idea that a deal came from Thatcher and was rejected by the outside leadership for political expediency is a total fallacy.

“His claims of an alleged conversation with me in which I said we’d agreed to a deal is a complete myth.

“Richard’s own comms show that the Brits were never serious about a deal.”

Mr McFarlane said his former comrade’s claims had cause major distress to hunger strikers’ families.

“I hope these comms will prove once and for all who is telling the truth,” Mr McFarlane said.

Responding to his former cellmate’s criticism, Mr O’Rawe said Mr McFarlane should “tell the truth about the Hunger Strike rather than regurgitate this nonsense once more.”

“Of necessity, these press statements had to be unyielding and hard-hitting in tone because they were being read not just by the man and woman on the street but by the British government.

“If they had contained the least hint of weakness, that would have been seen as a crack in our resolve and resulted in a corresponding steeling of the British government’s attitude.

“What is it about this that Bik doesn’t understand?

“Perhaps he should ask his colleagues in the Sinn Fein leadership what is the difference between public statements and private reality.

“After all, for years they told us that the IRA would never, ever decommission, yet in private preparations were being made to do just that.”

Sourced from the Irish News

Comms/Press Release

NOTE: These ‘comms’/press statements were previously referred to by Danny Morrison in 2006

Joe McDonnell’s Death: Expanded Timeline 29 June – 12 July 1981

UPDATED 25 Nov 2011 – Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes added; quote from John Blelloch
UPDATED 11 July 2009 – Excerpts from Biting at the Grave added

Merged Timeline – Joe McDonnell’s death

Please note this timeline is by no means definitive and is subject to revision as more sources are added and/or more evidence and information comes to light. This timeline is a verbatim compilation of various sources in a chronological order and is open to interpretation.

Sources: Danny Morrison, Garret Fitzgerald, Brendan Duddy, John Blelloch, British Government documents, Ten Men Dead, Before the Dawn, Biting at the Grave, INLA Deadly Divisions, Blanketmen, Irish News, Belfast Telegraph, eyewitness accounts.

KEY:

DM = Danny Morrison

GF = Garret Fitzgerald

Other sources are noted in text.

29 June

DM: Four hunger strikers have already died – Bobby Sands on day 66, Francis Hughes on day 59, Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O’Hara on day 61 of their hunger strike.

DM: Joe McDonnell is on day 52 without food. Secretary of State, Humphrey Atkins reaffirms that political status will not be granted and that implementing changes in the areas of work, clothing and association present ‘great difficulty’ and would only encourage the prisoners to believe that they could achieve status through “the so-called ‘five demands’”.

30 June

GF: “The IRA reaction, allegedly on behalf of the prisoners, had been to describe this response as ‘arrogant’. Nevertheless the Commission for Justice and Peace saw the British statement as encouraging – as did we – and sought further clarification. Our information from the prison was that, despite the IRA statement purporting to speak for them, the prisoners wanted the commission to continue its involvement. We were also aware that the relatives of the prisoners on hunger strike were becoming increasingly restive at the IRA’s intransigent approach.”

1 July

GF: “On 1 July Michael O’Leary and I communicated our view on these points to the British Ambassador and urged that the NIO meet the commission again and allow the commission to meet the prisoners. We also warned against any policy of brinkmanship, which – especially in the view of the nearness to death of one hunger striker, Joe McDonnell – could harden attitudes, including in particular the attitudes of the relatives, who had the power to influence developments. That night I rang Margaret Thatcher to make these points directly to her.”

3 July

DM: Irish Commission for Justice and Peace [ICJP] has eight-hour meeting with Michael Alison, prisons minister.

GF: Garret Fitzgerald meets with relatives of the prisoners/hunger strikers:

“This meeting on 3 July was, as I had expected, intensely distressing, but it enabled me to see for myself that while there were those among them who took a straight IRA line, most of them were indeed primarily concerned to end the hunger strike.”

4 July

DM: ICJP again meets Alison who gives its representatives permission to meet the eight hunger strikers in prison hospital. They are shocked at the condition of Joe McDonnell. Prisoners later issue statement saying British government could settle the hunger strike without any departure from ‘principle’ by extending prison reforms to the entire prison population. ICJP tells prisoners’ families that they are ‘hopeful’ but that prisoners deeply distrust the authorities.

DM: British government representative (codenamed ‘Mountain Climber’) secretly contacts republican leadership by ‘back channel’. Insists on strict confidentiality.

GF: “The Minister of State at the NIO, Michael Allison, met the commission again. He gave the impression that he wanted to be more conciliatory, but referred to ‘the lady behind the veil’, namely the Prime Minister. As we had proposed, he cleared a visit by the Commission for Justice and Peace to the prisoners, who then issued a statement that, as we had thought likely, was much more conciliatory than the one published by the IRA on their behalf three days earlier. They said they were not looking for any special privileges as against other prisoners, and that the British government could meet their requirements without any sacrifice of principle. It looked as if the commission would now be able to resolve the dispute with Michael Allison, who seemed close to accepting their proposals.”

GF: “Following the conciliatory statement by the prisoners, direct contact had been made with the IRA by an agent of the British government, through an intermediary. Disastrously, his proposals, while close to what the prisoners and Allison, through the commission, were near to agreeing, went further in one respect. Not unnaturally the IRA preferred this somewhat wider offer, and above all the opportunity to be directly involved in discussions with the British government.”

Padraig O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, pg 90-92: “Both sides met again on 4 July for what the Commission members felt was a pro-forma exercise. Within minutes of the meeting’s beginning, however, Alison did a complete about-face. If the hunger strikes were to end, he told the Commission, the government would not appear to be acting under duress, in which case all prisoners would be allowed to wear their own clothes. Own clothing as a right, not a privilege, Hugh Logue asked. Own clothing as a right, Alison replied.”

“After the meeting with Alison the Commission was given permission to go immediately to the Maze/Long Kesh prison. When they arrived, they were brought to the hospital wing […] The eight hunger strikers sat on one side of a table on which jugs of water had been placed; the five commissioners sat opposite them.”

“For the next two hours the two sides went over the proposals the Commission had hammered out with Alison and which it now thought were on offer. Prisoners would be allowed to wear their own clothes at all times as a matter of right, not privilege; association would be improved by allowing movement by all prisoners during daily exercise time between the yard blocks of every two adjacent wings within each block and between the recreation rooms of the two adjacent wings in each block during the daily recreational period; the definition of work would be expanded to ensure every prisoner the widest choice of activities – for example, prisoners with levels of expertise in crafts of the arts could teach these skills to other prisoners as part of their work schedules, prisoners would be allowed to perform work for a range of charitable or voluntary bodies, and such work could even include the building of a church “or equivalent facilities for religious worship within the prison”.”

5 July

Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes:

Send on 5 of July
Clothes = after lunch
Tomorrow
and before the the afternoon visit
as a man is given his clothes
He clears out his own cell pending the resolution of the work issue which will be worked out [garbled] as soon as the clothes are and no later than 1 month.
Visits = [garbled] on Tuesday. Hunger strikers + some others
H.S. to end 4 hrs after clothes + work has been resolved.

Padraig O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, pg 96:

“…Danny Morrison was allowed to go into the Maze/Long Kesh to see the hunger strikers on the morning of 5 July…to apprise them of what was going on, although he did not go into detail. Morrison says that he relayed information about the contact and impressed upon them the fact the ICJP could “make a mess of it, that they could be settling for less than what they had the potential for achieving.”

GF: “They were then allowed by the British authorities to send Danny Morrison secretly into the prison for discussions with the hunger strikers and with the IRA leader there, Brendan McFarlane. This visit was later described by the IRA as a test of the authority of the British government representative in touch with them to bypass the NIO.”

DM: After exchanges, Mountain Climber’s offer (concessions in relation to aspects of the five demands) goes further than ICJP’s understanding of government position. Sinn Fein’s Danny Morrison secretly visits hunger strikers. Separately, he meets prison OC Brendan McFarlane, explains what Mountain Climber is offering should hunger strike be terminated. McFarlane meets hunger strikers.

DM: Morrison is allowed to phone out from the doctor’s surgery. Tells Adams that prisoners will not take anything on trust, and prisoners want offers confirmed and seek to improve them. While waiting for McFarlane to return Morrison is ordered out of the prison by a governor [John Pepper].

Padraig O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, pg 92: On Sunday, 5 July, Bishop O’Mahony, Hugh Logue and Father Crilly went back to the Maze/Long Kesh to talk with McFarlane. They spent about four hours with him.

Sources various: McFarlane returns to block; sends O’Rawe a run-down of the offer from the Mountain Climber. McFarlane, as told to Brian Rowan: “And I said to Richard (O’Rawe) this is amazing, this is a huge opportunity and I feel there’s a potential here (in the Mountain Climber process) to end this.” O’Rawe and McFarlane agreed there was enough there to accept the offer: “We spoke in Irish so the screws could not understand,” Mr O’Rawe told the Irish News.“I said, ‘Ta go leor ann’ – There’s enough there. He said, ‘Aontaim leat, scriobhfaidh me chun taoibh amiugh agus cuirfidh me fhois orthu’ – I agree with you, I will write to the outside and let them know.” Conversation confirmed by prisoners on the wing.

DM: ICJP visits hunger strikers and offers themselves as mediators. Hunger strikers say they want NIO rep to talk directly to them. Request by hunger strikers to meet McFarlane with ICJP is refused by NIO. Mountain Climber is told that prisoners want any offer verified.

Padraig O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, pg 93: “That evening the commissioners met with the prisoners again for about two and a half hours. This time the conversation centred on the question of guarantees – although the hunger strikers had not indicated that they regarded what was being proposed as being fully acceptable. They would, they said, have to consult their colleagues. […] They wanted a senior official from the NIO to come into the prison and spell out to them what was on offer – they would have to hear it from the British themselves rather than take the Commission’s word for it. Nevertheless the focus on the question of guarantees led the commissioners to believe that what had been put on offer the day before had not been repudiated, even after overnight consideration.”

““On the last night,” says Logue, “they [the hunger strikers] were all saying that we had to square any settlement we had, even if it was acceptable to them, with Bik.” In short, what the prisoners appeared to be saying was that if the terms were acceptable to McFarlane, they were acceptable to them. McFarlane was down the corridor in his bed – he had been brought into the hospital wing that evening and provided with a bed there so he could stay over and be available for consultation with the commissioners if the need arose. O’Mahony and Logue went down to talk to him. “He listened to us for about two minutes,” says Logue, “and turned around and went back to sleep and Joe McDonnell was going to be dead within thirty-six hours and I never forgave him for that. He was not in the business of trying to get a solution.” Nevertheless, the commissioners left in a hopeful state. Before they left, Kieran Doherty spoke briefly in Gaelic to Oliver Crilly. Doherty, Crilly told Logue, had told him that if somebody came in and read the terms out to the hunger strikers, they would accept them.”

Comm to Brownie from Bik (6.7.81 11pm – referring to events of the 5th):

“….Anyway Pennies will have filled you in on main pointers. The Bean Uasal has a time table of meetings, OK. At them all the same line was pushed by the Commission. You should have the main points from Pennies. They have maintained to myself and hunger strikers that principle of five demands is contained within the stuff they are pushing and that Brits won’t come with anything else.”
“I spent yy [yesterday] outlining our position and pushing our Saturday document as the basis for a solution. I said parts of their offer were vague and much more clarification and confirmation was needed to establish exactly what the Brits were on about. I told them the only concrete aspect seemed to be clothes and no way was this good enough to satisfy us. I saw all the hunger strikers yesterday and briefed them on the situation. They seemed strong enough and can hold the line alright. They did so last night when Commission met them. There was nothing extra on offer – they just pushed their line and themselves as guarantors over any settlement. The hunger strikers pushed to have me present, but NIO refused this and Commission wouldn’t lean hard enough on NIO. The lads also asked for NIO representative to talk directly to them, but the Commission say this is not on at all as NIO won’t wear. During the session H. Logue suggested drafting a statement on behalf of the hunger strikers asking for Brits to come in and talk direct, but lads knocked him back. A couple of them went out and made a phone call to NIO on getting me access to meeting and on getting NIO rep. They didn’t really try for me, according to Lorny, because when asked they said they didn’t want to push too hard and had been put off by the Brit’s firm refusal. Meeting terminated about midnight and Bishop O’Mahoney and J. Connolly paid me a short visit just to let me know the crack. Since then I haven’t been to see anyone except Lorny and Mick Devine on the way back to the block this morning. Requests to see hunger strikers and O/Cs have not been answered at all…I’m instructing Lorny to tell hunger strikers (if they are called together) not to talk to anyone till they get their hands on me. OK? By the way Joe was unable to attend last night’s session.”

Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA, Deadly Divisions, page 179:

“Shortly before Joe McDonnell’s death, Councillor Flynn received a telephone call from a man in the Northern Ireland Office, who told him to go to Long Kesh. “There are developments,” was all he said. Even though it was late at night, Flynn went, accompanied by Seamus Ruddy. The NIO official, who refused to give his name, met him, and revealed that there had been discussions between Sinn Fein and the government and that it looked like they might settle. Flynn was given permission to go into the jail and speak to Lynch and Devine, who corroborated the NIO man’s assertion but said that the five demands were not being met, so whatever the Provisionals did, the INLA hunger strikers would not budge. Flynn could not get the official to reveal what was being offered. Later, when he confronted the Provisionals, they denied that they were engaged in any secret talks with the NIO.”

6 July

Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes:

The S.S. [Shop Stewards/Adams Committee] fully accept the posal — as stated by the Union MemBship [The Workers/Prison Leadership]
And that is the only Basis for a successful draft proposal by the Management. [British/Thatcher]
It is essential that a copy of the draft be in the S.S. hands Before it is made public.
To enable the S.S. to apr – up
or to point out any difficulty before publication
If it is pub. without prior sight and agreement the S.S. would have to disapprove it.
Monday Morning
July 6th.

Richard O’Rawe, Blanketmen, page 184:

“On the afternoon of 6 July, a comm came in from the Army Council saying that it did not think the Mountain Climber’s proposals provided the basis for a resolution and that more was needed. The message said that the right to free association was vital to an overall settlement and that its exclusion from the proposals, along with ambiguity on the issue of what constituted prison work, made the deal unacceptable. The Council was hopeful, though, that the Mountain Climber could be pushed into making further concessions. As usual, the comm had come from Gerry Adams, who had taken on the unenviable role of transmitting the Army Council’s views to the prison leadership.”

DM: Gerry Adams confides in ICJP about secret contact and the difference in the offers. Commission is stunned by disclosure. It confronts Alison and demands that a guarantor goes into the jail and confirm what is on offer. Alison checks with his superiors and states that a guarantor will go in at 9am the following morning, Tuesday, 7 July. Hunger strikers are told to expect an official from the NIO.

GF: “On Monday, 6 July at 3:30pm, according to the account given to me shortly after these events, Gerry Adams phoned the commission seeking a meeting, revealing that the British government had made contact with him. An hour and a half later two members of the commission met Adams and Morrison, who told them that this contact was ‘London based’ and had been in touch with them ‘last time round’, i.e. during the 1980 hunger strike. Adams demanded that the commission phone the NIO to cancel their meeting.”

GF: “Members of the commission, furious at this development, then met Allison and four of his officials. They asked him if he had been in communication with the hunger strikers or with those with authority over them. He said that no member of his office had been in contact, and, when pressed, repeated this line. They then discussed the Commission’s own proposals.”

GF: “When the commission contacted us immediately after this meeting, they told us nothing about the London contact with Adams and Morrison – understandably, given that this was a telephone call – which in any event still did not loom large in their eyes at that point beside the agreement they believed they had reached, which indeed seemed to them to have settled the dispute and to be about to end the hunger strike.”

GF: “The commission had produced to Allison the statement on which they had been working, which they described as ‘a true summary of the essential points of prison reform that had emerged.’ They told Allison that this statement was considered by the hunger strikers to be ‘the formation [sic] of a resolution of the hunger strike,’ provided that they received ‘satisfactory clarification of detail and confirmation by an NIO official to the prisoners personally of the commitment of the British Government to act according to the spirit and the letter’ of the statement.”

GF: “Although there was a difference of opinion on whether certain of the concessions were ‘illustrative’ or not, this does not seem to have been a problem for the British at the time, since Allison went out to make a phone call and then came back to say that he had approval. He proposed that an NIO official would see the prisoners with the governor by mid-morning the following day, Tuesday. When we received this information Demot Nally phoned the British Ambassador to urge that this confirmatory visit take place as soon as possible.”

GF: “Late that night, however, the commission was phoned by Danny Morrison seeking a meeting, which they refused; but half an hour later he arrived at the hotel, saying that the Sinn Fein-IRA contacts with the British were continuing through the night and that he needed to see the actual commission proposals. This request was refused, although he was given the general gist of them.”

Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes:

Reply 11:30 PM July 6

The British Gov. is preparing to issue a statement only if there is an immediate end to the hunger strike.
(A) Prison reg. in Armagh would become general in NI prison ie civian clothing
B Visits as for conforming prisons
C Re. as stated on June 30 by Sec of State

7 July

DM: Republican monitors await response from Mountain Climber.

DM: 11.40am: Bishop O’Mahoney [ICJP] telephones Alison asking where the guarantor is. Alison suggests he and the ICJP have another meeting. O’Mahoney tells him he is shocked, dismayed and amazed that the government should be continuing with its game of brinkmanship. He says: “I beg you to get someone into prison and get things started.”

DM: 12.18pm: ICJP decides to hold 1pm press conference outlining what had been agreed by the government and explain how the British had failed to honour it.

DM: 12.55pm: NIO phones ICJP and says that an official would meet the hunger strikers that afternoon.

DM: 1pm: ICJP calls off its press conference.

GF: “On Tuesday afternoon, Gerry Adams rang to say that the British had now made an offer but that it was not enough. Three members of the commission then met Adams and Morrison, who produced their version of the offer that they said had been made to them. The commission saw this as almost a replica of their own proposals but with an additional provision about access to Open University courses.”

Brendan Duddy’s Mountain Climber notes:

Freedom of Movement would be permitted within each wing. Prison officer would maintain the total control of supervision during these periods:

Prison work will vary between Cell and Block maintenance, educational, cultural subjects ie Open University, toy making for charities. Building projects, ie New Church.

FOI Document 1: “Extract from a letter dated 8 July 1981 from 10 Downing Street to the Northern Ireland Office”

“Your Secretary of State said that the message which the Prime Minister had approved the previous evening had been communicated to the PIRA. 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 the development, and we had made this clear to the PIRA during the afternoon.”

DM: “Late afternoon: Statement from PRO, H-Blocks, Richard O’Rawe: “We are very depressed at the fact that our comrade, Joe McDonnell, is virtually on the brink of death, especially when the solution to the issue is there for the taking. The urgency of the situation dictates that the British act on our statement of July 4 now.””

FOI Document 1: “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.”

GF: “Meanwhile the commission had spent an agonising day, for while London had been negotiating with the IRA, Allison and the NIO had prevaricated about the prison visit, repeatedly promising that the official was about to go to the prison.”

DM: 4pm: NIO tells ICJP that an official will be going in but that the document was still being drafted.

Padraig O’Malley: Biting at the Grave, pg 97: “At one point, David Wyatt, a senior NIO official who had sat in on most of the discussions, rang to explain the delay: a lot of redrafting was going on and it had to be cleared with London.”

DM: 5.55pm: ICJP phones Alison and expresses concern that no official has gone in.

DM: 7.15pm: ICJP phones Alison and again expresses concern.

FOI Document 1: “The question now for decision was whether we should respond on our side. He had concluded that we should communicate with the PIRA over night a draft statement enlarging upon the substance 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 the PIRA, his office would deny it.”

GF: “At 8:30pm, however, Morrison and a companion had come without warning to the hotel where the commission had its base. Their attitude was threatening. Morrison said their contact had been put in jeopardy as a result of the commission revealing its existence at its meeting with Allison; the officials present with Allison had not known of the contact. Despite this onslaught the commission refused to keep Morrison informed of their actions.”

DM: 8.50pm: NIO tells ICJP that the official will be going in shortly.

DM: 10pm: Alison tells ICJP that no one would be going in that night but would at 7.30 the next morning and claims that the delay would be to the benefit of the prisoners. Republican monitors still waiting confirmation from Mountain Climber that an NIO representative will meet the hunger strikers. The call does not come.

GF: “At ten o’clock that night Allison phoned to say that the official would not now be going to the prison until the following morning – adding, however, that this delay would be to the prisoners’ benefit.”

Padraig O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, pg 97: “Asked by Logue why no representative had been sent into the prison that morning, Logue says that Alison replied, “Frankly, I was not a sufficient plenipotentiary.””

FOI Document 2: “Extract from a Telegram from the Northern Ireland Office to the Cabinet Office”

PLEASE PASS FOLLOWING TO MR WOODFIELD
MIPT contains the text of a statement which SOSNI proposes to authorise should be released to the hunger-strikers/prisoners and publicly. The statement contains, except on clothing, nothing of substance which has not been said publicly, and the point on clothing was made privately to the provos on 5 July. The purpose of the statement is simply to give precise clarification to formulae which already exist. It also takes count of advice given to us over the last 12 hours on the kind of language which (while not a variance with any of our previous public statements) might make the statement acceptable to the provos.
The statement has now been read and we await provo reactions (we would be willing to allow them a sight of the document just before it is given to the prisoners and released to the press). It has been made clear (as the draft itself states) that it is not a basis for negotiation.”

FOI Document 1: “The meeting then considered the revised draft statement which was to be communicated to the PIRA. A number of amendments were made, primarily with a view to removing any suggestion at all the Government was in a negotiation. A copy of the agreed version of the statement is attached.”

“The Prime Minister, summing up the discussion, said that the statement should now be communicated to the PIRA as your Secretary of State proposed. If it did not produce a response leading to the end of the hunger strike, Mr Atkins should issue at once a statement reaffirming the Government’s existing position as he had set out on 30 June.”

10pm Comm to Brownie from Bik:

“…I don’t know if you’ve thought on this line, but I have been thinking that if we don’t pull this off and Joe dies then the RA are going to come under some bad stick from all quarters. Everyone is crying the place down that a settlement is there and those Commission chappies are convinced that they have breached Brit principles. Anyway we’ll sit tight and see what comes…”

8 July

DM: 4.50am Joe McDonnell dies on the 61st day of his hunger strike.

GF: “Just before 5:00am that night Joe McDonnell died. At 6:30 the governor, in the presence of an NIO official, read a statement to the prisoners that differed markedly from the one prepared by the commission, and, in their view, approved by Allison thirty-six hours earlier. Fifteen minutes later Adams rang the commission to say that at 5:30am the contact with London had been terminated without explanation.”

Gerry Adams, Before the Dawn, page 299:

“Very early one morning I and another member of our committee were in mid-discussion with the British in a living room in a house in Andersonstown when, all of a sudden, they cut the conversation, which we thought was quite strange. Then, later, when we turned on the first news broadcast of the morning, we heard that Joe McDonnell was dead. Obviously they had cut the conversation when they got the word. They had misjudged the timing of their negotiations, and Joe had died much earlier than they had anticipated.”

DM: 9am: An NIO official visits each hunger striker in his cell and reads out a statement which says that nothing has changed since Humphrey Atkins’ policy statement of 29 June, thus suggesting that there was no new document being drafted as claimed by the NIO at 4pm on 7 July.

John Blelloch: “[…] the problem as always was seeing whether we could find some fresh statement of the government’s position which respected all our, which abided by our principal objectives which we adhered to throughout the hunger strike but nevertheless constituted some sort of opportunity for the prisoners to come off it. As far as I remember the delay on that was actually getting final agreement to the text of what might be said, which was not easy, and in the event McDonnell died before that process could be completed and of course thereafter it collapsed.” – 1986 interview with author Padraig O’Malley

GF: “When we heard the news of Joe McDonnell’s death and of the last-minute hardening of the British position, we were shattered. We had been quite unprepared for this volte-face, for we, of course, had known nothing whatever of the disastrous British approach to Adams and Morrison. Nor had we known of the IRA’s attempts – regardless of the threat this posed to the lives of the prisoners, and especially to that of Joe McDonnell – to raise the ante by seeking concessions beyond what the prisoners had said they could accept. We had believed that the IRA had been in effect bypassed by the commission’s direct contact with the prisoners at the weekend, which we had helped to arrange.”

DM: ICJP holds press conference and condemns British government and NIO for failing to honour undertaking and for “clawing back” concessions.

GF: “That afternoon the Commission for Justice and Peace issued a statement setting out the discussions they had had with Allison leading to the agreement reached on Monday evening. I then issued a statement recalling that I had repeatedly said that a solution could be reached through a flexibility of approach that need not sacrifice any principle. While the onus to show this flexibility rested with both sides, the greater responsibility must, as always, rest on those with the greater power.”

10 July

DM: ICJP leaves Belfast.

10pm comm to Brownie from Bik:

“…No one will be talking to them [ICJP] unless I am present and then it will only be to tell them to skit OK. More than likely you lot have already done a fair job on them this evening. Sincerely hope so anyway. If we can render them ineffective now, then we leave the way clear for a direct approach without all the ballsing about. The reason we didn’t skite them in the first instance was because I was afraid of coming across as inflexible or even intransigent. Our softly softly approach with them has left the impression that we were taking their proposals as a settlement. I’m sorry not I didn’t tell them to go and get stuffed.”

Comm to An Bean Uasal from Bik, Fri. 10.7.81

“Comrade, got your comm today alright. Find here a statement attacking ICJP as requested.”

12 July

Comm to Brownie from Bik

“…Talking to Pat [McGeown] this morning and he reckons we should not have cut out the Commission. I explained the crack in full, but he’s one for covering all exits no matter what the score is. Just thought I’d mention that, OK?…”

GF: “I have given a full account of these events (some of them unknown to us at the time they took place) because in retrospect I think that the shock of learning that a solution seemed to have been sabotaged by yet another and, as it seemed to us, astonishingly ham-fisted approach on behalf of the British government to the IRA influenced the extent and intensity of the efforts I deployed in the weeks that followed, in the hope – vain, as it turned out – of bringing that government back to the point it had apparently reached on Monday 6 July.”

Sourced from:
Danny Morrison, Timeline: 2006 & 2009
Garret Fitzgerald, Excerpt from autobiography, All in a Life, 1991, pages 367-371
Brendan Duddy, Mountain Climber notes
Freedom of Information documents, Sunday Times website
Gerry Adams, Excerpt from autobiograpy, Before the Dawn, 1996, page 299
Padraig O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, 1990, page 90-98; interview with John Blelloch, 1986
Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA, Deadly Divisions, 1994, page 179
Richard O’Rawe, Blanketmen, 2005, page 284
David Beresford, comms from Ten Men Dead
Brian Rowan, interview with Brendan “Bik” McFarlane, 4 June, 2009
Steven McCaffrey, Irish News, Former comrades’ war of words over hunger strike, 12 March 2005

“Rusty Nail”: The Evolution Of Bik McFarlane’s Memory

Thursday, June 04, 2009

“This is a huge opportunity and I feel there’s a potential here to end this”
Rusty Nail at Slugger O’Toole

Inch by inch, the truth is coming out. In a major concession, now that Richard O’Rawe’s account of the July Thatcher offer and prison leadership acceptance has been vindicated, Bik McFarlane has changed his story. Suddenly regaining his memory, he recalls a conversation with O’Rawe and comes up with never-before-revealed details of a conversation he held with the hunger strikers. 

This is a major about-face from where he started, going from “That conversation did not take place, there was no deal, there was no offer, there was no rejection, it didn’t happen” to “Something was going down, this is amazing, this is a huge opportunity and I feel there’s a potential here to end this.”

Coming on the heels of Danny Morrison’s admission in last week’s Slugger discussion that the conversation between O’Rawe and McFarlane did in fact take place, and that the prison leadership did accept the British offer, this morsel of truth from McFarlane is to be applauded, however much it contradicts what Morrison has claimed elsewhere. McFarlane is a bit of a wild card like that for the Morrison narrative, not knowing when to agree there was no offer or deal, or exactly why the prisoners are to blame for the July offer rejection. More of it however, please, Bik and Danny. We’ll get the full truth out of yis yet.

In the meantime, let’s look at the remarkable recovery of McFarlane’s memory.

Evolution of McFarlane’s memory:

28 February 2005

UTV interview with Fearghal McKinney: “There was no offer whatsoever.”

11 March 2005

“He [Richard O’Rawe] uses me to give credence to his argument. It’s ‘Bik and Richard this’, and ‘Richard and Bik that’. And it’s totally erroneous, totally and absolutely erroneous,”

“Danny Morrison and myself had a visit together. He informed me that that morning the British had opened a line of communication to the republican movement in relation to the jail hunger strikes. My eyes widened.

“And he said to me ‘I am instructed to inform you, do not under any circumstances build up your hopes’.

“Danny then went and briefed the hunger strikers. I was able to go in and talk to them [and] went back to the block later that afternoon.

“I went back to the block, wrote out a quick note, passed it up to Richard, informed him that the British had opened up a line of communication.

“We were not to spread the word. I told him and I think I told one other member of camp staff. I told him again that we need to see what’s going to happen here.”

“There was no concrete proposals whatsoever in relation to a deal.

“According to Richard he has a deal done. Richard then says that he shouted down to me that ‘that looks good’. ‘I agreed’ and that I would write out to the army council and say that we would accept the deal.

“That is totally fictitious. That conversation did not happen.

“I did not write to the army council and tell them that we were accepting [a deal]. I couldn’t have. I couldn’t have accepted something that didn’t exist.

“He then says that the conversation continued at the window in Irish to confuse the prison guards so they wouldn’t hear. But there’s 44 guys on that wing who have Gaelic.”

“Not only did I not tell him. That conversation didn’t take place.

“No way did I agree with Richard O’Rawe that a deal was offered and that we should accept it and that I would write to the army council and say that ‘that is a good deal we’re accepting it’.

“And one thousand per cent, the army council did not write in and say ‘do not accept the deal’.”

London, weekend of 17th May 2009

REPUBLICAN hunger strike prisoners who died in the Maze prison in 1981 were never offered any ‘deal’ from the Margaret Thatcher-led Government, according to Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane.

“There was never any deal,” he said

“The whole thrust of this is coming from information that certain journalists requested from the British Government. But the Government and the journalists didn’t release it all — so we’ve actually asked them to publish the whole lot because you will see, through an outline of their own documentation, that they did not have any deal.”

“The British opened the conduit,” said McFarlane. “They said it was to bring about a resolution. But they had to go in with a piece of paper to the hunger strikers and say have a read of it, and ask whether we wanted to accept what they were offering — be it one or two concessions or whatever. But the British never came in because no deal existed and it didn’t happen.”

Today, 4 June, 2009

“Something was going down,” McFarlane said. “And I said to Richard (O’Rawe) this is amazing, this is a huge opportunity and I feel there’s a potential here (in the Mountain Climber process) to end this.”

[The British had to] “expand the offer, and they need to go into the prison hospital”.

“They (the hunger strikers) were at pains to say the Brits need to come forward,” 

“They need to expand on it (the offer), and stand over it and it needed to be underwritten in whatever shape, form or fashion the British chose to do that. It needed to be confirmed.” 

“We went through it step by step. The hunger strikers themselves said: OK the Brits are prepared to do business — possibly, but what is detailed, or what has been outlined here isn’t enough to conclude the hunger strike.

“And they said to me, what do I think?

“And I said I concur with your analysis — fair enough — but you need to make your minds up.” 

“Something had to be written down. Something had to be produced to the hunger strikers, even to the extent that the Brits were saying, there it is, nothing more, take it or leave it, and that’s the way the lads wanted clarity on this.

“We were never given a piece of paper.”

As we know now from the Gasyard meeting in Derry, a very concrete set of proposals went in to the prison. We also know that the conversation between O’Rawe and McFarlane accepting the offer took place because prisoners are coming forward confirming this. So the lie has shifted from complete denial to one of claiming to have given the hunger strikers in the hospital the full brief of the offer and it being rejected by them. This lie does not work because of a number of reasons.

First and foremost, it was after speaking with the hunger strikers in the hospital that McFarlane and O’Rawe agreed to accept the offer. As McFarlane himself now says today, “This is a huge opportunity and I feel there’s a potential here to end this”.

In addition, the hunger strikers were not told the details of the Mountain Climber offer. As Laurence McKeown wrote in 2005, “Whether it was the ‘Mountain Climber’ or the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, we wanted definite confirmation, not vague promises of ‘regime change’.” Had the hunger strikers been presented with the offer as confirmed by Duddy they would have been told more than “vague promises of regime change”. This is backed up by Danny Morrison’s own interview for Padraig O’Malley’s Biting at the Grave, page 96:

“…Danny Morrison was allowed to go into the Maze/Long Kesh to see the hunger strikers on the morning of 5 July…to apprise them of what was going on, although he did not go into detail. Morrison says that he relayed information about the contact and impressed upon them the fact the ICJP could “make a mess of it, that they could be settling for less than what they had the potential for achieving.”

Bik’s own comm to Gerry Adams on 6 July, 1981,  which was sent after receiving a comm that afternoon from the Adams cadre rejecting the prison leadership’s acceptance, also confirms this: “I spent yy [yesterday] outlining our position and pushing our Saturday document as the basis for a solution. I said parts of their offer were vague and much more clarification and confirmation was needed to establish exactly what the Brits were on about. I told them the only concrete aspect seemed to be clothes and no way was this good enough to satisfy us. I saw all the hunger strikers yesterday and briefed them on the situation. They seemed strong enough and can hold the line alright.”

In the same comm, a suggestion to request the British to come in and detail their offer to the hunger strikers – albeit the ICJP offer – is rejected by the hunger strikers themselves: “During the session, H. Logue suggested drafting a statement on behalf of the hunger strikers asking for the Brits to come in and talk direct, but the lads knocked him back.”

So how can the hunger strikers on the one hand, according to Bik today, reject the offer from the British because they wanted the British to come in to explain it to them in person, while in 1981 he was telling Gerry Adams that the hunger strikers rejected asking the Brits to come in and talk to them directly? How can Bik today claim that he went through the offer with the hunger strikers step by step, yet in 1981 he clearly says he told them that the offer was vague, and the only concrete aspect was on clothes? We know now that the offer was much more substantial than that. We also know Danny Morrison “did not go into detail” with the hunger strikers during his visit to the hospital on 5 July. Laurence McKeown is on record saying the offer was “vague promises of ‘regime change’” – which means he was told nothing about the true nature of the offer. This is also supported by Jake Jackson’s claim in Biting at the Grave (pg 96) that the hunger strikers didn’t know about the Mountain Climber initiative at that point – nevermind being told the full details of the offer that had come in via the link. Subsequent hunger strikers were also told nothing of the offer or rejection.

These people, Morrison and those supporting his narrative, are like a toddler who refuses to go to bed, in the way they begrudgingly give up bits of the truth a little at a time, while still clinging desperately to the shards of the lie. The toddler thinks he just may be able to stop going to bed if he resists and only moves an inch forward when told it is time. He thinks he is being clever, as he gets to stay up longer, and he is complying a little bit, so he rides the two horses, and just may be able keep riding the one he wants. The problem is, no matter what he does, he’s going to end up in bed anyway. By refusing to budge, he just makes things harder for himself and still ends up in bed. This is the same for Morrison, McFarlane, and all those who are mitigating the lie each time more of it is exposed. The truth is coming out, whether they admit to it or not. The more lies they continue to tell, the worse they make it for themselves. They are passing the point where they could have made it easy by admitting to the mistake made – and soon they are going to be thrown over the shoulder and carried to bed by their grassroots who will harbour a great resentment and anger towards them for not telling the truth in the first place when asked.

 

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

British ‘had no intention of resolving the hunger strike’

British ‘had no intention of resolving the hunger strike’
Brian Rowan reports
Belfast Telegraph, Thursday, 4 June 2009

The IRA jail leader during the 1981 hunger strike today said the British Government never had any intention of resolving the notorious prison dispute in which 10 men starved to death.

Brendan ‘Bic’ McFarlane accused the then Thatcher Government of trying to resolve the prison protest “on their terms” while attempting to “wreck” the IRA in the process.

McFarlane, speaking in an exclusive interview for the Belfast Telegraph, again dismissed claims that he accepted an offer secretly communicated by the British that summer, but was overruled by the Army Council on the outside.

The suggestion first emerged in the controversial book Blanketmen — written by former prisoner Richard O’Rawe, who was part of the IRA jail leadership in 1981.

A British offer on the prisoners’ demands was communicated in the summer of that year through a secret contact channel which was codenamed Mountain Climber.

And, on Sunday, July 5, the senior republican Danny Morrison was allowed into the Maze to separately brief McFarlane and the hunger strikers.

“Something was going down,” McFarlane said.

“And I said to Richard (O’Rawe) this is amazing, this is a huge opportunity and I feel there’s a potential here (in the Mountain Climber process) to end this.”

But he said he also made clear that more was needed — that the British had to “expand the offer, and they need to go into the prison hospital”.

McFarlane said this was key — that the Government detail its offer directly to the hunger strikers.

“They (the hunger strikers) were at pains to say the Brits need to come forward,” he said.

“They need to expand on it (the offer),” he continued, “and stand over it and it needed to be underwritten in whatever shape, form or fashion the British chose to do that. It needed to be confirmed,” he said.

McFarlane said at the time this had also been made clear to the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace.

“They (the Commission) went directly to the British and urged them to send someone in,” McFarlane continued.

“The British indicated clearly that they were sending someone in and it didn’t happen.

Looking back at the events of 1981, McFarlane said: “It seems very clear that they didn’t have an intention to resolve it to an acceptable degree — that we felt was acceptable.

“They were going to resolve it on their terms and wreck us in the process,” he said.

My crucial discussion with the Maze strikers

When Brendan McFarlane met Danny Morrison in the jail that Sunday afternoon in July 1981, four hunger strikers were dead and another Joe McDonnell “was in an appalling state”.

The jail leader knew that Morrison’s presence meant something was happening.

For months — since the first hunger strike of 1980 — he had been banned from the jail, and, now, on a Sunday when there were no visits the prison gates had opened for him.

The man from the outside was allowed in to explain the Mountain Climber contacts and the offer the British had communicated.

And the fact that the British were in contact — albeit through a conduit now known to be the Derry businessman Brendan Duddy — was progress.

After meeting Morrison, McFarlane met the hunger strikers.

“We went through it step by step,” he said. “The hunger strikers themselves said: OK the Brits are prepared to do business — possibly, but what is detailed, or what has been outlined here isn’t enough to conclude the hunger strike.

“And they said to me, what do I think?

“And I said I concur with your analysis — fair enough — but you need to make your minds up,” he continued.

The hunger strikers, according to both McFarlane and Morrison wanted the British to send someone into the prison.

McFarlane continued: “Something had to be written down. Something had to be produced to the hunger strikers, even to the extent that the Brits were saying, there it is, nothing more, take it or leave it, and that’s the way the lads wanted clarity on this.

“We were never given a piece of paper,” he added.

bik

McFarlane: Key Dates

1951 – born Belfast.

1968 – left Belfast to train as a priest.

1970 – left seminary in Wales and later joined IRA.

1976 – life sentence for gun and bomb attack on Bayardo Bar in Belfast (August 1975, five killed).

1981 – IRA jail leader during hunger strike. Ten men died (7 IRA, 3 INLA).

1983 – he escaped from the Maze in IRA breakout.

1986 – re-arrested in Amsterdam, extradited and returned to Maze Prison.

1998 – release papers signed January 5.

Now – Sinn Fein party activist based in north Belfast

Sourced from the Belfast Telegraph

‘There was never any deal offered’

‘There was never any deal offered’
Irish Post

REPUBLICAN hunger strike prisoners who died in the Maze prison in 1981 were never offered any ‘deal’ from the Margaret Thatcher-led Government, according to Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane.

McFarlane succeeded Bobby Sands as leader of the political prisoners in the H-Blocks and has vehemently denied suggestions that a strikebreaking deal was put in place by the then-British Government that might have saved the lives of Republican prisoners.

A total of 10 men died on the strike and the story that a deal was rejected by the IRA was widely reported in the media in recent weeks.

The former Officer Commanding (OC) believes that the information is being deliberately fed to discredit Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin.

“There was never any deal,” he said, when speaking to The Irish Post in London over the weekend. “All this information is specifically being used to target Gerry Adams and discredit both him and Sinn Féin. “What it’s actually doing is accusing him of killing the hunger strikers, which is absolutely preposterous.”

He added: “The whole thrust of this is coming from information that certain journalists requested from the British Government. “But the Government and the journalists didn’t release it all — so we’ve actually asked them to publish the whole lot because you will see, through an outline of their own documentation, that they did not have any deal.”

The assertion that there was a deal on the table in 1981 was made by former Republican prisoner Richard O’Raw who was held in the H-Blocks (Maze/Long Kesh) during the hunger strikes.

But leading Republicans have long denounced the testimony contained in his book Blanket Men.

“The British opened the conduit,” said McFarlane. “They said it was to bring about a resolution. But they had to go in with a piece of paper to the hunger strikers and say have a read of it, and ask whether we wanted to accept what they were offering — be it one or two concessions or whatever. “But the British never came in because no deal existed and it didn’t happen.

Sourced from the Irish Post

An Phoblacht: Interview with Bik McFarlane

An Phoblacht, Top Stories: “The Hunger Strike will never, ever leave me”
Remembering 1981: Former H-Block O/C Brendan McFarlane

Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane was Officer Commanding (O/C) the H-Block prisoners during the 1981 Hunger Strike. Last Friday, 5 May, on the 25th anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands, McFarlane spoke to An Phoblacht’s ELLA O’DWYER about the journey that brought him to undertake one of the most difficult challenges ever faced by an Irish republican.

A noticeable feature of Brendan McFarlane’s personality is the comprehensive way in which he looks at things. Observant and lateral thinking, he sees the bigger picture. In terms of awareness, he has an edge. This awareness carried him through his prison sentence and, no doubt, impacted on his selection as O/C during the 1981 Hunger Strike.
Read the rest of this entry »

Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane: “It did not happen” (2005)

Former comrades’ war of words over hunger strike

(Steven McCaffrey, Irish News)

The man who led IRA prisoners inside the Maze jail during the 1981 hunger strike has dismissed a controversial new book on the period as fictitious.

Brendan McFarlane speaks to Steven McCaffrey about a period that still stirs deeply held emotions among republicans.

In his book, Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike, Richard O’Rawe fondly re-calls his former republican comrade Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane.

Describing him as “six feet tall and full of bonhomie”, a “striking character” and a “great singer”, the author writes that both men were avid fans of Gaelic football and that they “whiled away the time dreaming of the day when the Antrim football team would grace Croke Park in an all-Ireland final”.
Read the rest of this entry »

McFarlane denies Hunger Strike deal was struck (2005)

McFarlane denies Hunger Strike deal was struck

(Irelandclick.com)

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

The North Belfast man said the claims in Richard O’Rawe’s book entitled Blanketmen: The Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike had caused distress among the families of the hunger strikers.

In his book O’Rawe claims the final six men to die were sacrificed for political reasons and to help the election of Owen Carron to Bobby Sands’ Westminster seat.

“All of us, particularly the families of the men who died, carry the tragedy and trauma of the hunger strikes with us every day of our lives.

“It was an emotional and deeply distressing time for those of us who were in the H-Blocks and close to the hunger strikers,” said Brendan McFarlane.

“However, as the Officer Commanding in the prison at the time, I can say categorically that there was no outside intervention to prevent a deal.
Read the rest of this entry »

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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.