July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Derry Journal: Seeking the ‘facts’ on the hunger strike

Seeking the ‘facts’ on the hunger strike

Derry Journal
Published Date: 10 July 2009

A chara,

In his most recent letter (Tuesday Journal, 7/7) Donncha McNiallais dismissed my questions as being opinions, rumours and speculation while pushing what he claimed to have occurred as facts.

He tried to push the line that the Brits reneged on an offer made during the first Hunger Strike, going as far as to state; “Secondly, when the first hunger strike was nearing its climax with Sean McKenna close to death, the British made an ‘offer’ through the Mountain Climber. Apparently, this offer amounted to three-and-a-half of the five demands, which sounds familiar.”

How could the Brits renege on an offer never completed? The hunger strike was called off before the offer could be made into a deal.

What actually happened was, at the same time as Brendan Hughes was calling off the hunger strike in order to save Sean McKenna, Father Meagher was delivering a document to Gerry Adams and others at Clonard Monastery from the British government. Adams and the others weren’t happy with what the document contained but they were arranging to have it sent into the prison when they got word that the hunger strike had ended.

When Bobby and the Dark (Hughes] eventually got to see the document after they received it from Father Meagher, it didn’t contain what Donncha stated was ‘apparently three-and-a-half of the five demands’, but stated “The prisoners would have to wear ‘prison-issue clothing’ during week-days, when they were engaged in prison work.” This didn’t even meet the bottom line as far as the five demands went and would have never been enough to end the hunger strike had Brendan Hughes chose to let Sean McKenna die and continue. In fact, Bobby said to Father Meagher, “It wasn’t what we wanted.”

Not only that, but republicans in Clonard with Adams said of the document, “It’s as full of holes as a sieve.” Even Adams said “it wasn’t a document I would have negotiated for.”

Donncha quoted from Denis O’Hearn’s book, yet all of this is in pages 295 to 302 of that book and it can also be found in page 44 of Ten Men Dead; anyone can check this for themselves. I’m surprised Donncha seemingly failed to read the above-mentioned pages as he would’ve seen that all of this meant that the so-called offer from the Brits wasn’t worth the document it was printed on as it contained nothing. How could the Brits renege on nothing, with the hunger strike ended?

There was a major difference between the first hunger strike and the second one at the time of the July 5th offer. Firstly, four men had died and others were following them on hunger strike. Secondly, Bobby had been elected as a MP, while Kieran Doherty and Paddy Agnew had been elected as TDs, thus effectively smashing Thatcher’s criminalisation policy. Then there was the July 4th conciliatory statement from Richard O’Rawe on behalf of the prisoners which pulled back from Political Status and stated that all prisoners could avail of the five demands. It was following this statement that the British government made an offer on July 5th via the Mountain Climber to the IRA.

Since Richard O’Rawe first made his claims, complete denials of any offers changed to ‘no concrete offers’; now with this too totally refuted, especially by Brendan Duddy’s admission that he took a offer to the IRA which they rejected, the guff has all changed to not trusting the Brits! Which of course is true, you can’t trust the Brits; however men were dying and Joe was at death’s door. So why not hold them to their word while making it clear that as soon as the hunger strike ended, if the promised immediate statement from the British was not forthcoming, then those men waiting in line would resume the Hunger Strike within 24 hours?

Of course, there would have been no need for this, as according to Bik in a comm to Adams dated 6.7.81, the ICJP the previous day had told the hunger strikers that they were willing to act as guarantors over any settlement. That was July 5th, the same day the Brits made their offer via the Mountain Climber. The ICJP were unaware of this offer; the following day July 6th Gerry Adams called the ICJP to a safe house in Belfast and told Father Crilly and Hugh Logue about the contact with the British government and that they had been offering them more than had been offered to the ICJP. This was an attempt to encourage the Commission to withdraw.

Surely Adams should have been encouraging them to ensure that the Brits kept their word over any agreed settlement instead of trying to remove them? Why remove those willing to act as guarantors?

Mise le meas,
Thomas Dixie Elliott

Sourced from the Derry Journal

IRSP reject Anderson criticism

IRSP reject Anderson criticism

Derry Journal
Published Date: 08 July 2009

The IRSP have described Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson’s attack on those republicans calling for an inquiry to be held into the events of the 1981 hunger strike as “arrogant.”

Strabane man Willie Gallagher, a member of the IRSP’s ruling executive, was speaking after the Sinn Féin MLA called for an end to the current controversary over the hunger strike.
Read the rest of this entry »

Derry Journal: Richard O’Rawe statement

O’Rawe and inquiry

Derry Journal
Published Date: 03 July 2009


Following a call from the families of Patsy O’Hara and Micky Devine to Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison, Bik McFarlane and myself to support an independent inquiry into the 1981 hunger strike (Journal, 30th June), I wish it to be known that I pledge my full backing for such an inquiry.

I am prepared to give evidence, and submit myself to cross-examination, in order to hopefully get to the full facts of what happened during the hunger strike.

It is my fervent hope that the other three republicans mentioned by the O’Hara and Devine families pledge their support also.

Richard O’Rawe

Sourced from the Derry Journal

Derry Journal: You won’t bury the truth

You won’t bury the truth

Derry Journal
Published Date: 07 July 2009

A chara,

Martina Anderson used the recent Volunteers’ commemoration to make an attack on those of us who are seeking to find the truth about what actually happened on and after July 5th 1981 during the H-Block Hunger Strikes.

She accused us of exploiting the grief of the families to attack her party.

We have never used the families to attack anyone. As former Blanket men, we were only asking for answers, so how is this exploiting the families?

However, Martina seemingly oblivious to the families request to call a halt to the controversy, has no problem in continuing to go ahead and throw mud.

Therefore I feel I am fully entitled to reply to Martina’s only attempt to answer any of the questions I posed in my recent letter to this paper.

Of course she, like Donncha before her, can only throw up the old anti-Republican journalists, those right wing press bogeymen, in reply to the questions posed.

I for one would like to know what lies between the right-wing press and what Martin calls ‘dissident journalists’ so that we are on ‘safe’ ground in regards the members of the press?


Martina talks about exploitation yet she and other members of her party have no problem claiming that IRA Volunteers who died for a 32 County Socialist Republic did so for what is basically a photocopy of the Sunningdale Agreement.

It might have a new name but it is no different.

That is the reason I today am totally against the use of armed struggle.

Attempts to smear those of us who resisted the beatings and everything the prison system threw at us and who watched as our ten comrades walked from the wings for the last time will no longer wash.

No amount of mud-slinging can bury the truth.

Is mise le meas,
Thomas Dixie Elliott

Sourced from the Derry Journal

Derry Journal: Hunger-strike – look at the facts

Hunger-strike – look at the facts

Derry Journal
Published Date: 07 July 2009

A chara,

Please allow me to respond to the letters from Willie Gallagher and Dixie Elliott.

Let me start with a few facts rather the opinions, rumours and speculation that have charactarised correspondence to date.

Both Willie and Dixie will be aware that Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiach and Bishop Edward Daly were involved in protracted discussions with the British Government during 1980. When these talks ended in failure in September, Brendan Hughes announced that seven men would commence a hunger strike on 27th October 1980.

On 24th October Ó Fiach and Daly announced that they had won a major concession from the British Government: from now on all prisoners would be able to wear their own clothes. However, when the British released a press statement on the issue, they stated this would be ‘civilian-type uniform’. Either the two clergymen had misinterpreted what was on offer or the British had deliberately misled them. Most republicans and nationalists believed the latter.

The key point is that you could not trust the British.

Secondly, when the first hunger strike was nearing its climax with Sean McKenna close to death, the British made an ‘offer’ through the Mountain Climber. Apparently, this offer amounted to three-and-a-half of the five demands, which sounds familiar. While Brendan Hughes and the other hunger strikers waited on written confirmation of exactly what was on offer, Brendan decided to end the hunger strike. Bobby Sands was cut out of the negotiations.

The proposals finally produced by the British were a rehash of the 1st December document, open to all sorts of interpretation. As we know, the British interpreted them rigidly and reportedly told Bobby Sands that they would give us a number of weeks to build up our muscles before sending us to work. Indeed, it is stated in Denis Ahearn’s book that Bobby Sands wanted to immediately re-commence the Hunger Strike. It is reported that the republican leadership persuaded Bobby to ‘test’ the Brits’ willingness to be flexible.

At Mass that Sunday I witnessed heated exchanges in the canteen between Bobby and other prisoners, notably Pat Mullan from Tyrone, who apparently wanted to start a hunger strike there and then. Brendan McFarland would have been acutely aware of the danger of a split among prisoners if a satisfactory settlement was not achieved. Again, this emphasised the danger of taking the Brits’ word rather than arriving at a clear, unambiguous and negotiated settlement.

Thirdly, when the second hunger strike commenced in March 1981, it was decided that each hunger striker would be their own OC and would make their own decisions on whether to proceed to the death in the absence of a settlement. The Camp OC, Brendan McFarland, would decide whether or not we had a settlement.

These are all facts which I am sure neither Willie nor Dixie will dispute. I mention them to set the context in which any contact with, or ‘offer’ from, the British Government would be viewed – with caution and suspicion.

I am also aware of a ‘rumour’ that went around the blocks after the first four hunger strikers had died that the leadership on the outside felt that if the British withstood the pressure up to then, they would withstand further pressure and that the hunger strike should end. The prison leadership rejected this saying that to end the hunger strike at that stage would be a betrayal of our dead comrades. I don’t know if this is true but I do know that there was a mood among the prisoners that we could not end the hunger strike unilaterally. It is my opinion that at that time, the end of May 1981, nothing less than the five demands would have been acceptable and anything less might have resulted in a third hunger strike.

I stated in my previous correspondence on this issue that I would have accepted concessions the ICJP claimed to have wrested from the British. Fortunately, I had the luxury of not having to make the hard decisions that people like Brendan McFarland had to take.

Finally, in relation to Bloody Sunday, the organisers of the meeting in the Gasyard Centre invited a journalist, Liam Clarke, to be part of the panel. This is the same journalist who promoted Paddy Ward, who gave evidence to the Enquiry about his one-man fight with the entire British Army on Bloody Sunday and who together with Liam Clarke tried to place the blame or part of the blame for what happened at the door of the republican leadership. In that context, I think it is relevant to what he, Liam Clarke, along with others, is trying to do now – place the blame or part of the blame for the deaths of hunger strikers at the door of the republican leadership instead of where it really lies: with the British Government.

Is mise, le meas
Donncha Mac Niallais

Sourced from Derry Journal

Families back inquiry into 1981 events

Families back inquiry into 1981 events
Derry Journal, 30 June 2009


We, the families of hunger-strikers, Patsy O’Hara and Michael Devine, support the call by former hunger-striker, Gerard Hodkins, for an independent republican inquiry into the 1981 hunger-strike.

We cannot understand why any republican would have anything to fear from such an inquiry, or why they would not support it.

The Gulladuff meeting between the Sinn Fein leadership and eight of the hunger strikers’ families was very emotional, and we were not unaffected.

However, at that meeting, the Sinn Fein delegation refused our request for an independent inquiry. Why?
Read the rest of this entry »

Oliver Hughes letter in Derry Journal

Propaganda on hunger-strike
Derry Journal, 30 June 2009
See also Bobby Sands Trust: Hunger Strikers’ Families Speak Out


The recent meeting between familes of the hunger-strikers and Gerry Adams was a very emotional and difficult occasion for all of us, particularly in light of the allegations coming from Richard O’Rawe and the IRSP. All of the family members who spoke, with the exception of Tony O’Hara, expressed deep anger and frustration at the ongoing allegations created by O’Rawe.

Tony O’Hara’s suggestion that we should meet with Richard O’Rawe and Willie Gallagher got no support and we asked Tony to express to Richard O’Rawe and Willie Gallagher our wish for them to stop what they are doing and to give us peace of mind.
Read the rest of this entry »

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

Derry Journal: Former Blanketman Donncha Mac Niallais

Derry Journal: O’Rawe and Greg Harkin

1981 hunger strike – an offer, a deal or what?
Published Date: 18 April 2008

Richard O’Rawe has made a number of complaints regarding the assertion by Colm Scullion in the Journal two weeks ago that no deal was made with the hunger strikers before Joe McDonnell died in July 1981.

Among other things Mr O’Rawe states the Journal should know “that Bik McFarlane, who was OC of IRA prisoners during the hunger strike, has always denied that any offer of any sort was ever made by the British at any point (see UTV Live, 1 March 2005,
in reply to question from reporter Fearghal McKinney).”
Read the rest of this entry »

Derry Journal: ‘There was no offer to end hunger strike’– ex-prisoner

‘There was no offer to end hunger strike’– ex-prisoner
Date: 08 April 2008
By Staff reporter

A CLAIM that the lives of six IRA Hunger Strikers including Derry men Michael Devine and Dungiven’s Kevin Lynch could have been saved by a British deal has finally been dispelled.

A former blanket man from County Derry has hit out at claims in Belfast newspapers in recent weeks claiming that he was witness to a deal six weeks after the death of another Derry hunger striker Patsy O’Hara.
Read the rest of this entry »


Use this link to access all contents

New to Archive

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.