July 1981

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Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

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

Thatcher’s ‘offer to hunger strikers’

Thatcher’s ‘offer to hunger strikers’
Former priest reveals how IRA spurned PM’s compromise deal to save prisoners’ lives in 1981

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
The Observer, Sunday 30 April 2006

Margaret Thatcher offered a compromise deal that would have ended the 1981 hunger strike early and saved six of the remaining prisoners who went on to die, according to the man who maintained a secret link between successive British governments and the Provisionals.

DenisBradley2Denis Bradley, the link in Derry for more than two decades between MI5 and the IRA, claims that the IRA leadership had been handed a deal in early July 1981 – which eventually the prisoners did accept, but only after six more of their comrades had starved to death. Bradley’s account contradicts claims by loyal supporters of Gerry Adams that there had been no offer on the table in July that could have ended the hunger strike after four prisoners died.
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Thatcher’s dealings with IRA go back to hunger strikes (1999)

ThatcherRexNilsJorgensen460
Thatcher’s dealings with IRA go back to hunger strikes
(by Henry McDonald, The Observer)
See also: Thatcher’s ‘offer to hunger strikers’ (2006)

MARGARET Thatcher – who vowed in public never to negotiate with terrorists – used the secret “back channel” between the IRA and MI5 as far back as the 1981 hunger strike to offer republicans a deal to end the prison fast.

The link between MI5 and the IRA, the former Derry priest Denis Bradley, confirmed yesterday that Lady Thatcher also approved of the clandestine talks which led to the Northern Ireland peace process in early 1990.

Bradley said Lady Thatcher knew that a senior MI5 officer, Robert McLarnon, had been holding talks with him and the IRA leadership during the hunger strike. According to Bradley these contacts were resumed with the former Prime Minister’s full knowledge before she was deposed as Tory party leader in November 1990.
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Thatcher’s Secret Channel & Deal to End Hunger Strike (1999)

No headline or by-line. Dated 17 Oct 1999

Margaret Thatcher – who vowed never to negotiate with terrorists – used a secret channel between the IRA and MI5 as far back as the 1981 hunger strike to offer republicans a deal to end the prison fast.

The link between MI5 and the IRA, the former Derry priest Denis Bradley, confirmed yesterday that Thatcher also approved of clandestine talks which led to the Northern Ireland peace process in early 1990.

Bradley said she knew that a senior MI5 officer, Robert McLarnon, had been holding talks with him and the IRA leadership during the hunger strike. According to Bradley, these contacts were resumed with Thatcher’s knowledge before she was deposed as Tory leader in November 1990.

Bradley said yesterday: ‘I was actually in the room with Robert McLarnon and IRA leaders when a phone call came from a European summit during the hunger strike. Thatcher was at a European summit but kept in contact with us by phone.

‘An offer was made to republicans to end the hunger strike; it was actually a better deal than the one they eventually settled for. At the time the republican movement was not in control, it was the prisoners who were in control.

‘As far as I remember the offer was made after the second hunger striker, Francis Hughes, died. What we were being told was that this was the Prime Minister’s last offer on the hunger strike.’

On the 1990 talks, Bradley said Lady Thatcher was aware that the channel had been activated to explore whether the IRA wanted to end their violence.

Sourced from the Guardian website

Thatcher gave approval to talks with IRA (1999)

Thatcher gave approval to talks with IRA

Northern Ireland: special report
Premier who ‘never talked to terrorists’ allowed minister to contact leaders through secret channel
Nicholas Watt, Political Correspondent
The Guardian, Saturday 16 October 1999 03.17 BST

Margaret Thatcher gave her personal approval to secret talks between government officials and the IRA leadership in 1990, setting in a train a dialogue which led to the Northern Ireland peace process which she now regularly denounces.

In one of her final acts before she was deposed as prime minister, Lady Thatcher allowed her Northern Ireland secretary, Peter Brooke, to talk to republicans through a secret “back channel” after MI5 advised the government that the IRA was looking at ways of ending its terrorist campaign.

The disclosure of her involvement will embarrass the former prime minister who has always insisted she never talked to terrorists. Lady Thatcher, who was nearly murdered by the IRA in the 1984 Brighton bomb attack, also gave the go-ahead to the talks in the same year that republicans murdered her friend and close colleague, Ian Gow.
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Solution Sabotaged – Garret FitzGerald (1991)

garretfitzExtract from former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald’s  1991 autobigography, All in a Life, 1991; pages 367 – 371.

This section of Fitzgerald’s autobiography is a detailed account that deals specifically with the events during the hunger strike of 1 – 8 July.

It sheds particular light on the Adams-Morrison negotiations with the British and its impact on the ICJP’s efforts.

 

Compare with Danny Morrison’s timelines: 2006 and 2009

 During these three traumatic weeks of July, however, I had to give much of my attention to the evolution of the hunger strike crisis. Our position on this was that, in accordance with the traditional policy of Irish Governments on such strikes within their own jurisdiction, we would not press the British government to concede to paramilitary prisoners the political status demanded by the IRA. We had, however, noted proposals made by the Commission of Justice and Peace of the Roman Catholic hierarchy on 3 June. The commission had suggested the extension to male prisoners in the Maze Prison of the arrangement for the use of their own clothes that applied to women prisoners in Armagh Jail, as well as greater freedom of association, not involving military type activities, an orientation of work towards cultural and educational activities. Even those these proposals did not meet their five demands, the prisoners had expressed appreciation of the commission’s proposals; this sounded hopeful.

Immediately before the Dáil reassembled Charles Haughey had called in the British Ambassador and had issued a statement saying that the time to find a solution to prevent further deaths was now. The British government had responded to this with a long statement saying that there was scope for development in the prison regime but that this process of improvement could not proceed further under the duress of a hunger strike.

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.

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.

At this point the relatives of the hunger strikers asked to see me. Despite the fact that I believe it generally undesirable in an issue of this kind to become involved in potentially emotional situations with the relatives of those concerned, I agreed to see them, in view of their crucial role and the fact that almost all of them were known to want a settlement – as indeed, it seemed, did most of the prisoners at that point. 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.

Both that day and the next 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.

Several days were to elapse before we learnt what happened next. 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. 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.

The commission, unaware of all this, was preparing its document, which was to be the basis for an agreement involving the ending of the hunger strike. 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.

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. 

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. 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. 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.

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.

Twelve hours later, 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.

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. But 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

During these weeks in July and early August I may also have been influenced more than I realised at the time by the frustration I felt at having to deal thereafter with the British government while I had, in a sense, one hand tied behind my back. For I would naturally have liked to confront them with — and would have liked even more to be able to make public — my knowledge of the furtive contacts on their behalf with the IRA, which seemed to have proved fatal to the resolution of the problem. But careful reflection led me to conclude that any revelation to the British of our knowledge of these activities would be likely to render a solution less rather than more likely. Disclosure of this knowledge could have drive the British government, and the Prime Minister in particular, into a state of embarrassed intransigence. This might have been accompanied by denials, which — if we had refused to accept them, as in honesty we would have had to do — would have made impossible the development of any kind of reasonable relationship between that government and ourselves. The fact moreover that our information, while absolutely convincing in its detail, was necessarily second-hand (it was what a member of the commission had told us Adams and Morrison had said to them) reinforced the need for caution.
 

  • Sourced from Garret FitzGerald – All in a Life, An Autobiography, 1991; pages 367 – 371.
  • See also Danny Morrison’s timelines: 2006 and 2009

1981: 5th IRA Hunger Striker Dies Before Settlement Reached

July 8, 1981, Wednesday, Final Edition

5th IRA Hunger Striker Dies Before Settlement Reached
BYLINE: By Leonard Downie, Jr., Washington Post Foreign Service
DATELINE: LONDON, July 8, 1981 (Wednesday)

Convicted Irish Republican Army terrorist Joe McDonnell died this morning after refusing food for 61 days after it appeared that mediators were near achieving a settlement to stop the four-month-old hunger strike that has now claimed five lives.

Britain’s Northern Ireland Office announced the death in a terse statement that said McDonnell, 30, “took his own life by refusing food and medical attention for 61 days” at 5:11 a.m. (12:11 a.m. EDT). The announcement came more than two hours after McDonnell’s death.

McDonnell, who is survived by a wife and two children, was serving a 14-year sentence for illegal weapons possession.

The death came after sources close to negotiations to end the protest by IRA prisoners in British-ruled Northern Ireland said the British government had decided to send an official into the Maze Prison outside Belfast to read a statement outlining changes the government has agreed to make in the prison regime.

This appeared to break a deadlock over which side would move first to implement a settlement worked out by the five mediators from the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace of the Roman Catholic Church in the Republic of Ireland to the south of Ulster.

The British official still had not gone into the Maze when McDonnell’s death was announced, and it was not unclear why not. In a statement to reporters shortly before midnight last night, the chairman of the Irish church commission, Brian Gallagher, said that the settlement was a race against time with McDonnell near death.

The prisoners had insisted that an official appear in the prison to guarantee that the government would make the promised changes in prison conditions. Government officials had said yesterday that nothing more could be done until the prisoners first ended their fast.

This sticking point, according to sources, had prevented the mediators from making a statement of their own this afternoon in Belfast outlining what the government had proposed, and the prisoners were reported to have accepted. The dispute over whether or not a government official would go into the Maze to talk to the prisoners followed a final meeting between the mediators and government officials in Belfast Monday night.

British sources confirmed yesterday that at the four-hour meeting the mediators presented a draft statement for settling the hunger strike to the British officials, headed by Michael Allison, the minister in charge of prisons in Northern Ireland.

British officials have contended that the prisoners could trust the government to make the discussed changes because it has carried out numerous other steps to liberalize the prison regime in Northern Ireland during the last two years. Only continuation of the hunger strike, British sources said, was stopping the government from beginning immediately to make more improvements.

Sources said the proposed changes include allowing prisoners to wear their own clothes at all times, to visit each other during leisure hours for longer periods in larger numbers, and to substitute education programs, vocational training projects, handiwork for charity and construction of additional prison facilities for traditional industrial prison work. Prisoners ending their protest also would be eligible for expanded mail and visitor privileges and restoration of some of the lost time off for good behavior, according to the sources.

These proposals have been generally accepted by the hunger strikers, the more than 400 other convicted nationalist terrorists in the Maze and other militants, sources said.

1981: British and IRA Prisoners Appear Ready To Move Toward Agreement

July 5, 1981, Sunday, Final Edition

Break Seen In Ulster Jail Crisis;
British and Ira Prisoners Appear Ready To Move Toward Agreement;

British, Prisoners Modify Conditions For Settling Dispute
BYLINE: By Leonard Downie Jr., Washington Post Foreign Service
DATELINE: LONDON, July 4, 1981

Both the British government and imprisoned Irish nationalist hunger strikers in British-ruled Northern Ireland appeared ready today to give ground in their impasse over prison rules in an effort to head off further starvation deaths among inmates.

A Roman Catholic group in the Republic of Ireland, the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, met with British officials and the hunger strikers amid signs that both sides had modified their positions in response to the commission’s intervention. The commission is a group of clergy and lay people affiliated with the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

British officials said the government is willing to make further modifications in prison conditions in Northern Ireland if the hunger strike is ended. They suggested the European Human Rights Commission as an arbitrator of prisoners’ complaints.

A statement made on behalf of the prisoners, markedly more consiliatory than earlier statements, said that there is no need for either side to lose a point of principle and that there is still plenty of room for maneuver.

The statement reiterated the prisoners’ original five demands, but dropped language in previous statements also demanding treatment as political rather than criminal prisoners. Instead, the statement said the prisoners were seeking changes for all prisoners in Northern Ireland.

Time is running short, however. After an interval of six weeks since the deaths of the first four hunger strikers, Joe McDonnell, 30, a member of the outlawed Provisional Irish Republican Army serving a 14-year sentence for illegal possession of arms, lies near death after refusing food for 57 days. He is reported to be having extreme difficulty hearing and seeing. He was given last rites of the Catholic Church Thursday.

Seven other hunger strikers are expected to die at one- or two-week intervals in the next two months if the protest does not end.

Until recent days, there had been little sign of movement away from the longstanding deadlock between the demands of convicted Irish nationalist terrorists in Northern Ireland for changes in prison conditions, including their insistence that they be treated as political prisoners, and the refusal by the British government to grant them that status or give up any of its control of the prison.

British sources said Michael Allison, a government minister responsible for Northern Ireland, told members of the Irish church commission today that the government still would not negotiate with the prisoners and must remain in control of the prison regime.

But the sources also emphasized the government’s willingness to make some changes, particularly if suggested by the European Human Rights Commission, if the prisoners end their hunger strike.

“We are not left with a great deal of room for maneuver,” said one source, “but we wish to get it settled.”

Some of the hunger strikers and their relatives also have been reported to be more receptive to compromise now, although suspicious of promises. A bigger question is the attitude of leaders of other convicted Irish nationalist terrorists inside the prison and their supporters outside, who have remained publicly hostile to settlement for anything less than the prisoners’ original demands.

Efforts to reach a settlement, begun by suggestions for compromise by the Irish church commission last month, intensified with a day-long meeting yesterday between commission members and British officials headed by Allison at Hillsborough Castle, three miles from the Maze Prison outside Belfast where relatives, priests, lawyers and representatives of the commission have been in contact with the hunger strikers.

At the same time, relatives of the hunger strikers met for three hours in Dublin with the new Irish prime minister, Garret FitzGerald, who also consulted on the problem with both the Irish church commission and the British ambassador to Ireland. The commission then met with British officials and the hunger strikers today.

The five specific demands made by the prisoners are that they be allowed to wear their own clothes at all times, be exempted from required prison work, be allowed to associate freely with other prisoners, receive more mail and visitors, and regain the time off for good behavior that they have lost during their protest.

The Irish church commission suggested publicly last month that a compromise settlement be built on allowing the prisoners to wear their own clothes, increasing opportunities for freer association while not allowing paramilitary groupings or training, and reviewing the question of prison work to “ensure that the work is of the greatest possible cultural and educational value and that no work of a demeaning nature is demanded.”

The commission also called on the prisoners “to contribute towards the resolution of this issue by making it clear that the proposals on clothing, association and work which we have outlined would, if implemented, provide the avenue for a solution.”

British officials first criticized the suggestion as being unlikely to resolve the prisoners’ overriding desire to be treated as political rather than criminal prisoners. Informed sources said the government also was concerned about the reaction of Protestant loyalists to a compromise, at a time of high tension in Northern Ireland, and about possible erosion of the government’s authority inside the prison.

But this week, Britain’s Northern Ireland secretary, Humphrey Atkins, made public a long statement detailing steps taken in the past to liberalize conditions for all prisoners in Northern Ireland and indicating areas where modifications could be made or considered in the future.

Atkins reiterated that mail and visitor privileges for conforming prisoners already are more generous that what the protestants have demanded, some remission time has been restored to other prisoners who ended their protests, prisoners may wear their own clothes in leisure time and prison-issued civilian clothes during work hours, supervised association among groups of prisoners already exists, and prisoners have some choice, with the final decision made by the authorities, among various kinds of industrial work, housekeeping chores and educational and training progrms.

He added that greater flexibility could be introduced in the choice of “prison activity” and in rules for group association. But he said control of these would have to remain ultimately with the authorities and no group of prisoners could be treated differently from others.

Atkins was silent about the possibility of any further changes on clothing. Outsiders have contended that this issue should be the easiest to resolve because the prisoners already wear their own clothes much of the time. But it has been a symbol for prison authorities of maintaining control.

Atkins contended that “the Northern Ireland prison regime is generous, and has and will be administered flexibly by the authorities” and added that “there is scope for yet further development.” But he said this would take time and “cannot proceed further while the hunger strike places the authorities under duress.”

An answer purportedly smuggled out of the Maze from leaders of the Irish nationalist prisoners said they would not “submit to such an ambiguous and distorting statement . . . vaguely guaranteeing unspecified further development of the prison regime at some unspecified time in the future.”

A lengthy statement on behalf of the hunger strikers today said they were not seeking special treatment and would not be sacrificing principle if the changes they demand were made for all prisoners.

They said they were willing to perform maintenance work in their cell blocks, for example, and to confine their association with other prisoners to their own cell blocks, under supervision. They said they were not asking to be allowed to do as they pleased in prison.

They said these changes would not erode any of the authorities’ control of the prison and had not been completely understood by British officials. However, they continued to request direct negotiations with the government. Officials made clear today that no such negotiations would occur.

They suggested that some of the hunger strikers and their relatives also had indicated willingness to compromise, but that militant Irish nationalists outside the prison, particularly the Provisional Irish Republican Army, were resisting it. The British have contended that the hunger strike and sympathy it has aroused is an important propaganda and recruiting tool for the IRA.

This has been denied by the hunger strikers’ supporters, organized as “H-Block” committees, named for the shape of Maze Prison cell buildings. Gerry Adams, a leader of Provisional Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Provisional IRA, said the British were acting, “on the false premise that the hunger strikers are in some way manipulated from the outside.”

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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.