July 1981


Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

Derry Journal: Richard O’Rawe statement

O’Rawe and inquiry

Derry Journal
Published Date: 03 July 2009


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

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

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

Richard O’Rawe

Sourced from the Derry Journal

Richard O’Rawe: Let’s have the whole truth about the Hunger Strike

Let’s have the whole truth about the Hunger Strike

It is encouraging to read (April 7) that Danny Morrison welcomed the newly-released Freedom of Information documents which show that the British government made an offer to end the hunger strike on July 5 1981, three days before hunger striker Joe McDonnell died.

However, the news of this offer reflects badly on the 1981 prison OC, ‘Bik’ McFarlane, who has consistently said that there was ‘no offer whatsoever’.

Whatever possessed Bik to say that in the first place is beyond me as Danny has always admitted the existence of the offer.

This debilitating fracture, which runs right down the spine of the conventional hunger strike story, can only but cast grave doubts on anything Bik McFarlane has said in the past while adding considerable weight to my assertion that he and I accepted the offer and that the outside leadership rejected our acceptance.

In the Freedom of Information documents, it is confirmed that Thatcher approved the offer from No10 Downing Street, but ?they [the PIRA] did not regard it as satisfactory and that they wanted a good deal more?.

As well as that, the documents state that the republican negotiators, Gerry Adams and Danny Morrison, changed their minds when the British warned that they were going to pull the plug on the process, and that this threat: ?produced a very rapid reaction which suggested that it was not the content of the message which they had objected to but only the tone?.

This begs some questions which Adams and Morrison must answer:

– Do they agree with this interpretation?

– If they do, why did they not inform the prison leadership, the hunger strikers, their families, and the Blanketmen about this enormous volte-face?

– If only a Parius softer’ tone stood between hunger strikers living or dying, why did they not make the most strenuous efforts to agree language with the British?

– How is it that the last six hunger strikers died – if there was no fundamental disagreement between them and the British on what constituted a settlement?

Perhaps Adams and Morrison do not agree with the British interpretation of events, as shown in the documents.

If this is the case, why then would Danny ‘welcome’ the documents and say that they ‘corroborated’ his account of events?

– Why are the NIO still blocking the release of information about the hunger strike?

– Is Gerry Adams ever going to break his silence about all this, and give republicans his version of events?

I call on the British to release all documents which they appear to have withheld, including the communications between themselves and Adams and Morrison.

Richard O’Rawe
Irish News, letters, 09/04/2009

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

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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Anthony McIntyre interviews Richard O’Rawe (2006)

‘The Blanket’ meets ‘Blanketmen’

All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident
– Arthur Schopenhauer

Anthony McIntyre speaks with Richard O’Rawe • 16 May 2006

Q: This month marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands, Frank Hughes, Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O’Hara. How has it been for you emotionally?

A: Terrible. It has been terrible.

Q: Can you elaborate?

A: Bob has been in my thoughts all the time. He left from our wing. The others were in different blocks. And I just get this vision of him. I see him in the wing canteen for mass just before he went up to the prison hospital. He was smiling at me. He knew he was going up there to die. I knew it too. It was just so unbelievably heartrending and it has never left me. That smile has been with me for over a week; that smile of pathos. I went over to his grave and just looked around me. There was Joe and big Doc, Bryson and our Mundo, wee Paddy Mul, Todler and all the dead volunteers. It was just horrific.
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O’Rawe responds to Gibney (2006)

Former Blanketman Speaks Out Against ‘Vitriolic Attack’

Richard O’Rawe, Irish News • 15 May 2006

A fellow republican said to me last week that over the period of Bobby Sands’ anniversary, the republican movement had done everything except paint the Star of David on my windows and daub Juden Raus on my front door.

I laughed when he made that analogy but when I had time to think about it, I don’t think he was too wide off the mark.

The recent attempts to demonise me from on high, the vitriol, raw hatred and the ferocious endeavours to destroy my integrity have, in terms of sheer viciousness, been unprecedented within the republican family.

The same republican pointed out that Freddie Scappaticci had not received such a ‘battering.’

Sinn Fein’s silence on the question of this super-tout contrasted sharply with their crazed attacks on my character. An agent, it seems, is better thought of than a blanketman. Scap apparently had both the republican movement’s blessing and its promise of ‘omerta’ as he made haste from Dodge, his saddlebags full of Brit money.
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Hugh Logue: For the cause or caucus (2005 Book Review)

For the cause or caucus
Saturday, 19 March 2005

blanketmenRichard O’Rawe’s book which claims that the six H-Block hunger strikers were allowed to die purely for political expediency is reviewed by Hugh Logue who was part of the team that negotiated to end the hunger strikes

by Richard O’Rawe
New Island, €13.99

The old adage that troubles come in three will have credence in Sinn Féin. Just when they had hoped that they were emerging from the Robert Mc Cartney murder and the Northern Bank raid, along comes Richard O’Rawe’s Blanketmen to unsettle that holy of holies, the 1981 H-Block hunger strike, during which 10 hunger strikers died. For republicans that is the shrine from which all popular support has flowed in the last twenty years. Prior to it, Sinn Féin was a political fig leaf on a military movement, extremely cynical of electoral participation. O’Rawe’s assertion that six of the hunger strikers were allowed to die to secure the electoral success of Owen Carron in Fermanagh South Tyrone is as unwelcome to Sinn Féin as it will be unsettling for the families of the hunger strikers.

Blanketmen is an important, interesting yet intriguing book. Intriguing, in that in this well written and readable book, there is no acknowledgement of assistance in editing, researching or proofing of the text.
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H-Block Hypocrisy (2005)

H-Block hypocrisy
Saturday, 12 March 2005

Richard O’Rawe saw ten of his fellow hunger strikers die in the H-Blocks in 1981. In a new book, he claims that the IRA leadership rejected a British offer that could have ended the hunger strikes. Suzanne Breen reports

West Belfast is a small world packed with big emotions. Richard O’Rawe lives just across the road from Milltown Cemetery where three of the hunger strikers are buried.

Most mornings, he visits the republican plot where Bobby Sands, Joe McDonnell and Kieran Doherty lie. “It’s desperate, just desperate,” he says. “I don’t need to go there to remember them because they never go away.”

Gerry Adams lives in the next street from O’Rawe, Danny Morrison is just around the corner. Three men, all living in the shadow of Milltown and the hunger strike.

Until recently, republicans were united on the 1981 fast. The official – and unanimously accepted – line was that a callous British government allowed ten men to die and nothing, apart from calling-off the protest in humiliation, could have saved them.
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Hunger strikers’ deaths must be fully explained, says author (2005)

Hunger strikers’ deaths must be fully explained, says author

(Irish News)

Richard O’Rawe, author of Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike, replies here to a letter printed yesterday from Magherafelt councillor Oliver Hughes and criticism by other republicans of his claims that the IRA may have blocked a deal to end the 1981 protest before six of the 10 men died.

Mr Hughes is right when he says that the IRA strenuously opposed the hunger strikes when they were first suggested, but can he be sure that attitude didn’t change when Bobby Sands won the Fermanagh/South Tyrone by-election and the opportunity came to enter electoral politics if that seat could be retained after Bobby’s death?

He is correct when he says the hunger strikers were not forced unto the strike.

It was a voluntary process and those courageous men that came forward are worthy of the utmost respect.

Mr Hughes is also right when he says that volunteer Francis Hughes (his brother) remained a dignified and courageous Irishman. He was a giant in every sense of the word.

But he is wrong in almost everything else he says about my book.
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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.