July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

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

SF to meet hunger strike families over deal ‘myth’

SF to meet hunger strike families over deal ‘myth’
By Seamus McKinney
Irish News

The Sinn Fein leadership has organised a meeting with families of the 1981 hunger strikers to discuss recent controversy about the period.

Families of the 10 men who died were notified this week about the meeting at Gulladuff in south Derry on Wednesday.

It is understood Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and others connected to the 1981 protest will attend.

The discussion follows a number of claims in recent months about a possible deal which might have saved the lives of five or possibly six of the hunger strikers.

The meeting will be the first time the party leadership has held direct talks with the families since the controversy arose. It is being seen as a bid to stop the issue gaining further momentum.

Claims that a deal could have saved lives first arose in 2005 when Richard O’Rawe – who acted as publicity officer for the 1981 hunger strikers – published his account of the period.

In his book, Mr O’Rawe said a deal was sanctioned by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher hours before Joe McDonnell died.

However, Mr O’Rawe alleged it was rejected by the IRA leadership outside the prison because it wished to capitalise on political gains.

This was rejected by the Sinn Fein group which managed the hunger strike from outside the prison, insisting the deal was not guaranteed.

The dispute continued this year when a number of documents released under the Freedom of Information Act appeared to confirm details of a deal being offered to the IRA on July 8 1981.

Next week’s meeting has received a mixed response from families of the hunger strikers.

Tony O’Hara, whose brother Patsy died before the alleged deal, said his family and that of Michael Devine (both INLA hunger strikers) were considering whether to attend.

The IRSP claimed the meeting was “another attempt to mislead and confuse”.

Spokesman Martin McMonagle said a full inquiry into the issue – demanded recently by former hunger striker Gerard Hodgkins – was the only way forward.

“We have come to this conclusion because of the weight of evidence from wide-ranging sources who were directly involved which clearly contradicts the Sinn Fein version of events,” he said.

However, Oliver Hughes, a brother of Francis Hughes and a cousin of Thomas McElwee, supported the Sinn Fein leadership.

He said while he could not attend because of business commitments his family would be represented.

Mr Hughes said he was angry that the pain of the hunger strikes was being revisited on the families.

“I would question what the motive is for bringing this up again 28 years on,” he said.

“I support the leadership of the republican movement in arranging this meeting. I believe Adams and his colleagues feel they must make some reply.”

Sinn Fein last night confirmed that a “private meeting” had been organised.

A spokesman said the issue was raised a number of times during recent meetings organised by the party leadership.

“As a result of these meetings it was decided that we should organise a meeting for all the relatives of the hunger strikers to allow them to come together as a group and discuss issues both amongst themselves and with the Sinn Fein leadership,” he said.

Sourced from Fenian32

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.


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

A fresh glimpse into the untold story of the hunger strike

A fresh glimpse into the untold story of the hunger strike
The hunger strike still divides opinion after almost 30 years. Brian Rowan believes a conference in Londonderry on Saturday may hold some of the answers
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The source who spoke to the Belfast Telegraph has considerable knowledge of the Mountain Climber initiative in the summer of 1981 — an initiative linked to the republican hunger strike.

It was a secret contact channel between the Government and the republican leadership through which a verbal and private offer on the prisoners’ demands was communicated.

The source does not talk about a deal back then, but describes a situation that is “dramatically complex” and says whether there could have been a deal “becomes an opinion ? how you interpret it”.

The answers that some are looking for do not exist, he told me.

“There is no new knowledge — no new facts. (David) Beresford in (the hunger strike book) Ten Men Dead wrote where it was at. Nothing was ever communicated on paper to the IRA.”

The source describes the period as the Thatcher era — long before the British and the IRA began to think and talk about peace.

“Thatcher wasn’t thinking about the Good Friday Agreement. Thatcher was thinking about hammering them (the IRA).”

And he has another observation — “a lack of experience (on the republican side) in terms of how a Government worked”.

The prisoners’ demand back in 1981 for the Government to send someone into the jail to explain A, B, C, D and E in terms of their offer represented, in the source’s opinion, “a complete non-understanding of Government”.

“A representative of the NIO going in to negotiate with McFarlane (the IRA jail leader Brendan McFarlane) — not on,” the source said.

There are those who think that Brendan Duddy may be able to help with some of the answers, and this Saturday he will speak in a hunger strike debate in his home city of Derry.

He was the key link in the Mountain Climber chain and he believes the continuing row over the hunger strike is being fought outside all the emotion and the complexities and the doubts of 1981.

Duddy is on the record saying he spent every hour of every day trying to save the lives of the hunger strikers.

One of his daughters, Shauna Duddy, described to me seeing her father, shoulders slumped, a cup of tea in his hand, looking out the window with “tears running down his neck”.

This, in one house, is just one of the memories of that period.

You have to understand the bigger picture to understand Duddy.

He is a lifelong pacifist who wanted the deaths within the prison to stop and the killings outside the prison to stop.

His mission — even back then — was to develop a peace process and achieve a dialogue between the British and Irish.

During the Mountain Climber initiative Duddy was speaking to a representative of the British Government.

Some believe it was the MI6 officer Michael Oatley, but my understanding is it was not.

So what was Duddy’s role in 1981? Was it to make a deal?

He will tell you that was a decision for others — “people at the coalface” — British and republican, the same republicans who felt conned at the end of the first hunger strike in 1980 and feared “they were going to be conned again”. Duddy believes this played into their thinking in the summer of the following year.

And he agrees with those, including a former woman prisoner in Armagh Jail who recently wrote to a Belfast newspaper to highlight the difference between an offer and a deal.

“Sile Darragh got it spot on,” he said.

Ten men died in the prison battle. Could things have been different? Almost 30 years on the argument continues.

“The real question is should they (the republican leadership) have settled,” the Mountain Climber source said. It’s a matter of opinion.

“Were people at death’s door (the hunger strikers) capable of making a judgment?”

Almost three decades later the story of the hunger strike has not faded. It is still being debated and argued and fought over by some who were part of it and others who were not.

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

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

Irish News: Hunger Strike Deal Must Be Disclosed

Hunger Strike Deal Must Be Disclosed
Seamus McKinney, Irish News

TRUTH: The 10 republican hunger strikers – pictured on the first day of each of their individual protests at the Maze Prison – and the dates on which they died PICTURE: Alan Lewis/Photopress

The first IRA hunger striker to speak about a possible deal which could have saved the lives of five or possibly six of his colleagues has called for the full facts of the initiative to be made public.
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Sunday Times: Was Gerry Adams complicit over hunger strikers?

From The Sunday Times April 5, 2009

Was Gerry Adams complicit over hunger strikers?
Papers suggest IRA snubbed a conciliatory offer from Margaret Thatcher to ensure Sinn Fein by-election win to Westminster

Liam Clarke
Read the documents here

Did five, or even six, of the republican prisoners who were on hunger strike in the Maze prison in 1981 die to advance the political strategy of Sinn Fein?

Did Gerry Adams and other members of the IRA kitchen cabinet snub a conciliatory offer from Margaret Thatcher, then the British prime minister, which met the substance of the prisoners’ demands, just to ensure that Sinn Fein would win a crucial by-election to Westminster?

These are the explosive questions raised for Sinn Fein by papers released to The Sunday Times under the Freedom of Information Act.
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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).”
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“Rusty Nail” – Hunger Strike Controversy Has Not Gone Away, You Know

Hunger Strike Controversy Has Not Gone Away, You Know
April 17, 2008

Eamon McCann’s Belfast Telegraph article and Radio Free Eireann interview about Richard O’Rawe’s account of the prisoner acceptance of a deal which would have saved the lives of six hunger strikers has created more questions than answers. McCann’s pieces were firm in his conviction that “Richard O’Rawe is telling the truth”, based on confirmations he had from the “Mountain Climber”, former prisoners on the same wing and Richard’s cellmate. Richard’s cellmate, Colm Scullion, was then quoted by the Derry Journal – in a confused piece, which, for example, referred to the Derry based INLA hunger strikers as being IRA, and also ran without a by-line – saying there was no deal but agreeing there was an offer. This was followed by a letter from Scullion to the Irish News, which Richard O’Rawe has answered today.
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Eamon McCann – “Richard isn’t a liar. He told the truth in his book.” (2008)

Will IRA ever admit truth over hunger strike?

Eamon McCann, Belfast Telegraph,
Thursday, 27 March 2008

New light has been shed on reported republican reaction to a British offer which might have ended the 1981 hunger strike after four deaths. Ten men were to die before the strike ended.

Evidence which has now become available helps clarify a dispute sparked three years ago by the assertion of former IRA prisoner Richard O’Rawe that terms for ending the strike, accepted by the prisoners’ leadership in the Maze/Long Kesh, were rejected by IRA commanders outside. The implication is that the lives of six of the hunger strikers might have been saved if the prisoners hadn’t been overruled.
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Danny Morrison: Hunger strike deal didn’t exist + Timeline (2006)

* See also Expanded Timeline 29 June – 12 July 1981

Morrison: Hunger strike deal didn’t exist
Daily Ireland

Danny Morrison

In a forthcoming BBC documentary Richard O’Rawe once again will be claiming that the republican leadership rejected a deal from the British government shortly before the death of Joe McDonnell on July 8th 1981. Richard is a former blanket man and PRO in the H-Blocks. Whilst in jail Richard never raised his claims with the leadership in prison or the leadership outside. After Richard’s release he worked with me in the Republican Press Centre for a year and never mentioned the allegations he now makes.
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Dramas out of crises

Dramas out of crises
Two new books offer compelling material to potential dramatists
Henry McDonald
The Observer, Sunday 1 May 2005 02.33 BST

Two hundred and ninety-two years separate the Siege of Derry from the second hunger strike in the Maze. Books out this year concerning these two key events not only shed new light on our history but also provide a challenge for screenwriters and television producers.

Carlo Gebler’s The Siege of Derry is a masterful and meticulously structured account of the 105-day struggle against the besieging Jacobite armies in 1689, while Richard O’Rawe’s Blanketmen gives a painfully honest insider’s view of the 1981 death fast. The one thing the two works have in common is the dramatic tension contained in the narratives, which are full of tragedy, sacrifice, endurance and political opportunism.
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A bizarre tale with a ring of authenticity

Thursday, April 07, 2005

A bizarre tale with a ring of authenticity

By Richard O’Rawe
New Island Books • £Sterling 9.99

Reviewed by John Cooney
Western People

During the 1981 hunger strikes in the H-Block of the Maze Prison a regular visitor was the Dungannon priest, Father Denis Faul, whom the prisoners nick-named “Denis the Menace” because of his campaign with the prisoners’ families to end their fast.

Recalling their ordeal in one of the most gruesome episodes of the Troubles some 24 years later, Fr Faul, then chaplain to the prisoners, says that he felt at the time that there was “a political dimension” that made his humanitarian campaign more difficult.
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Dead Men Talking …

Dead Men Talking …

By Richard O’Rawe
New Island, stg£9.99

Book Review

Maurice Hayes

This is a really gripping book, and an important one too for an understanding of the dynamics both of the 1981 Hunger Strikes and of the rise of Sinn Fein as a political force. It is the first account written by an insider, and it is as near as you will get to hearing dead men talking about their concerns, their dreams and the relentless loyalty to a cause that drives them to their deaths.

Ricky O Rawe was the Communications Officer in the H-Block, and one of only two people in the prison to be fully in the loop between the IRA command and the hunger strikers as they faced death, one after another. The story is told with a stark honesty, which discloses the author’s mental agony at the moral dilemmas he faced then and which have clearly stayed with him since.
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Hunger strike revisited

Hunger strike revisited

Book Review

Daily Ireland

Think you know the story of the 1981 hunger strikes? Think again. We’ve all seen Bobby Sands’ emaciated body, the footage of people honking car horns in glee at his election, that priest comparing conditions to an open sewer in Calcutta. You might even say that Richard O’Rawe’s Blanketmen (New Island), is – whisper it – old news.

All this is playing in the shallow end of a powerful tale. O’Rawe pulls the reader into the deep water till they’re gulping for air.

Rather than the ‘skin and bones’ Bobby Sands, the 2-D icon for a thousand murals, you meet a “man for all seasons”; softly spoken with a flair for sing-songs.
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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”.
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McFarlane denies Hunger Strike deal was struck (2005)

McFarlane denies Hunger Strike deal was struck


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.
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Hunger strike claims rile H-block veterans (2005)

Hunger strike claims rile H-block veterans
Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 4 March 2005 12.20 GMT

To nationalists it was one of the most emotive episodes of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, the event that gave birth to the electoral force that is modern Sinn Féin.

But the death of 10 republican hunger strikers in the Maze prison in 1981 became the subject of a furious row in Belfast this week after a former prisoner claimed that Gerry Adams and the IRA army council had blocked a deal to end the protest, possibly sacrificing the last six of the hunger strikers for electoral gain.

Richard O’Rawe, 51, who acted as public relations officer for the hunger strikers while he was serving a sentence for robbery, said that a deal was offered in July 1981 which addressed most of the prisoners’ demands for political status.
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Hunger strikers’ lives not sacrificed — family (2005)

Hunger strikers’ lives not sacrificed — family

(Barry McCaffrey, Irish News)

The family of a dead hunger striker last night (Tuesday) hit out at claims that the IRA sacrificed the lives of republican prisoners in negotiations with the British government during the 1981 dispute.

The family of Francis Hughes last night rejected the claims from former IRA prisoner Richard O’Rawe, who earlier this week stated that the British government had been prepared to agree to four of five prisoner demands during the 1981 hunger strike.

However Mr O’Rawe claimed that while IRA leaders in the prison were prepared to accept the deal, they were overruled by the army council on the outside.

Six other hunger strikers died before the end of the protest in October 1981.
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‘Dying wasn’t their decision’

‘Dying wasn’t their decision’

Controversy persisted last night (Tuesday) over allegations in a book that the IRA army council may have allowed some hunger strikers to die. Former IRA prisoner Richard O’Rawe has claimed the paramilitary leadership blocked an acceptable deal from the British government to end the 1981 protest before six of the 10 men had died.

The allegation has been dismissed by former IRA jail leader Brendan Bik McFarlane.

Mr McFarlane insisted “no deal was offered to the hunger strikers whereby they could say it was acceptable”.

However, a woman connected to one hunger striker, who did not want to be named but said she had attended family meetings surrounding the hunger strike, last night backed Mr O’Rawe’s claims.
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Allegations of a rejected deal spark fury among republicans

Allegations of a rejected deal spark fury among republicans

(Catherine Morrison, Irish News)

Senior republicans last night (Monday) rejected controversial claims in a new book that Sinn Féin and the IRA blocked a deal which could have saved the lives of six hunger strikers.

Richard O’Rawe, spokesman for the Provisional IRA in the Maze prison during the hunger strikes, said he accepted a British government deal just days before the fifth hunger striker, Joe McDonnell, died in July 1981.

In Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike, Mr O’Rawe claims fellow prisoners’ leader Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane had shared details of a “substantial” offer from Margaret Thatcher’s government, conceding four of the five IRA demands.

The only point the British had refused to concede was the free association of prisoners on the IRA wing.

Mr O’Rawe, who was serving eight years for robbery, claimed both men agreed that the offer, which was tabled by a mysterious middleman called the Mountain Climber, was sufficient to call off the hunger strike.
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Monsignor Faul regrets his ‘late intervention’ (2005)

Monsignor Faul regrets his ‘late intervention’

(Catherine Morrison, Irish News)

A key player in the 1981 hunger strikes last night (Monday) said he regretted not intervening earlier in the protest.

Monsignor Denis Faul, was a regular visitor at the Maze prison at the time and a supporter of the prisoners’ families.

Mgr Faul described how, by the end of June 1981, he believed the strikes were all but over.

Four prisoners had died agonising slow deaths from starvation, but unbeknownst to Mgr Faul at the time, six more would die before the protest was brought to an end.
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Was my father’s death PR exercise? (2005)

Was my father’s death PR exercise?

(Seamus McKinney and Catherine Morrison, Irish News)

The son of a Derry hunger striker has voiced concerns over claims that the republican leadership could have allowed his father to die for political gain.

Michael Devine, whose father Mickey was the last of the 10 men to die in the 1981 protest, was speaking after publication of Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-block Hunger Strike.

The book’s author, Richard O’Rawe, was a public relations officer for the hunger strikers in the Maze. Along with IRA prisoners’ ‘OC’ Brendan Bik McFarlane, he was closely in-volved in the day-to-day events of the hunger strike.
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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.