July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

The Sile Darragh letter

Disputed events during hunger strike
Tue, Apr 21, 2009

Madam, – Richard O’Rawe (April 10th) claims that Brendan “Bik” McFarlane denies there was an offer to end the 1981 hunger strike, and other people, including spokespersons for the IRSP, have said that it knew nothing of an offer until Richard O’Rawe published his book in 2005.

I have before me, David Beresford’s book Ten Men Dead which was published in 1987 and which presumably Richard O’Rawe has read. Here are some quotes from 1981: “The Foreign Office, in its first offer . . .” (p293); “a vague offer” p294; “parts of their offer were vague” – Brendan McFarlane (p295); “nothing extra on offer” (p295); “what was on offer” (p297); “he [Gerry Adams] told the two men [Fr Crilly and Hugh Logue of the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace] what the Government had been offering” (p297). On p294 and p302 it reports that Danny Morrison in the prison hospital told the hunger strikers (Joe McDonnell, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Tom McElwee and Mickey Devine) the details of what the British appeared to be offering. So much for Mr O’Rawe claiming they were kept in the dark.

Mr O’Rawe didn’t speak to the hunger strikers, didn’t visit the prison hospital or meet the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace.

This whole matter will be put to rest when he grasps the difference between an offer and a deal (which the British refused to stand over). – Yours, etc,


Ex-Armagh Gaol POW,
Strand Walk, Belfast.



Sourced from the Irish Times

Irish Times: SF denies claims on hunger strike deaths

SF denies claims on hunger strike deaths
GERRY MORIARTY, Northern Editor, Irish Times

Mon, Apr 06, 2009

SINN FÉIN has rejected the latest claims that the IRA leadership prevented a deal that possibly could have saved the lives of six of the 10 republicans who died in the 1981 H-Block hunger strikes.

These claims follow on repeated allegations that the IRA and Sinn Féin leaderships in 1981 refused to countenance ending the strike in July in order to facilitate the election of hunger strike candidate Owen Carron in August 1981. The election of Mr Carron as MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone, which followed the election of Bobby Sands who died in May of that year, marked the rise of Sinn Féin as a political force.

The Sunday Times reported yesterday that it had seen documents that showed the then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, despite publicly being opposed to the prisoners’ demands, privately was prepared to make critical concessions.

These reported concessions, including a key demand that prisoners be allowed wear their own clothes, were made in July at a time when Bobby Sands and three other prisoners had died. By the time the hunger strike began to peter out in late August, six more prisoners had died. The last of the hunger strikers to die was INLA member Michael Devine, who passed away on August 20th, the day Mr Carron was elected MP.

The allegation that the republican leadership, driven by Gerry Adams, was prepared to prolong the strike in order to see Mr Carron elected, has been raging for a number of years now.

Four years ago former IRA prisoner Richard O’Rawe, in his book Blanketmen , said the IRA army council blocked a deal that possibly could have saved the lives of six of the hunger strikers. The Sunday Times report quoting documents it received under freedom of information legislation effectively supports Mr O’Rawe’s account of events.

Mr O’Rawe said that in July 1981, when four prisoners had died, the prisoners’ leadership accepted a deal to end the strike but that this was over-ruled by the IRA army council. Mr O’Rawe wrote that a British intermediary effectively conceded most of the prisoners’ five demands. In his book, Mr O’Rawe said that he and Brendan McFarlane, the IRA commanding officer in the Maze Prison at the time, agreed the offer should be accepted.

Both Mr McFarlane and Mr Morrison have repeatedly insisted the claims by Mr O’Rawe and others are wrong.

A Sinn Féin spokesman also said yesterday that the allegations were untrue. He said they emanated from British military intelligence “and ignore completely the actual timeline of events”.

© 2009 The Irish Times


Sourced from The Irish Times

Morrison: Hunger strikers wanted more than vague promises (2005)

Hunger strikers wanted more than vague promises

(by Danny Morrison, Irish Times)

The claim that the IRA’s army council was responsible for prolonging the hunger strikes is wrong, writes Danny Morrison.

Your columnist Fintan O’Toole (March 1st) readily accepts Richard O’Rawe’s claim in his new book Blanketmen that the IRA army council was to blame for six of the 10 hunger-strike deaths by refusing a deal from the British government.

The 1981 hunger strike was a direct result of the 1980 hunger strike. The British government had said that it would not act under duress but would respond with a progressive and liberal prison regime once it ended. The prisoners called off the fast to save the life of Seán McKenna.

However, the British immediately reneged on their promises. Because of this duplicity the hunger strikers of 1981 were adamant that any deal must be copperfastened.
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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.