July 1981

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Uncovering the Truth About the 1981 Hunger Strike

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

Seeking the ‘facts’ on the hunger strike

Derry Journal
Published Date: 10 July 2009

A chara,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mise le meas,
Thomas Dixie Elliott

Sourced from the Derry Journal

IRSP reject Anderson criticism

IRSP reject Anderson criticism

Derry Journal
Published Date: 08 July 2009

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

Strabane man Willie Gallagher, a member of the IRSP’s ruling executive, was speaking after the Sinn Féin MLA called for an end to the current controversary over the hunger strike.
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Derry Journal: Richard O’Rawe statement

O’Rawe and inquiry

Derry Journal
Published Date: 03 July 2009

Sir,

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.

Yours,
Richard O’Rawe

Sourced from the Derry Journal

Derry Journal: You won’t bury the truth

You won’t bury the truth

Derry Journal
Published Date: 07 July 2009

A chara,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exploitation

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

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

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

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

No amount of mud-slinging can bury the truth.

Is mise le meas,
Thomas Dixie Elliott

Sourced from the Derry Journal

Derry Journal: Hunger-strike – look at the facts

Hunger-strike – look at the facts

Derry Journal
Published Date: 07 July 2009

A chara,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is mise, le meas
Donncha Mac Niallais

Sourced from Derry Journal

Families back inquiry into 1981 events

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

Sir,

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

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

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

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

Oliver Hughes letter in Derry Journal

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

Sir,

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

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

Patsy O’Hara Memorial Attacked

30 June 2009
Irish Republican Socialist Party (Derry)

Patsy O’Hara Memorial Attacked

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The Irish Republican Socialist Party condemns the attack on the Patsy O’Hara memorial in Bishop Street (Derry) which occurred we believe on
Monday morning at or around 3.30am.

IRSP spokesperson Martin McMonagle described the attack as pointless but sinister.

“Presently we do not know who carried out the attack on the memorial and we would appeal for anyone who seen anyone in that area at that
time to get in touch with the IRSP.

“This attack was carried out by cowards under the cover of darkness. To attack a memorial to one of our hunger strikers is absolutely deplorable. Members of our party have already spoken to residents in Bishop Street and there is a very real feeling of anger at this attack on the memorial.

“This is the second time that this area has come under similar attack. Last year the accompanying mural nearby was paint bombed.

“Patsy O’Hara was and is held in the highest regard by the people of Bishop Street and the entire city and as such we would view this attack on the memorial as an attack on the entire republican community of Derry. Anyone with any information can contact the IRSP on 71353090 or derryirsp@gmail.com.”

 

Sourced from Republican Socialist News

An Phoblacht: Hunger Strikers’ families challenge false claims over deaths

An Phoblacht, Top Stories: Hunger Strikers’ families challenge false claims over deaths

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THE families of the majority of the men who died during the 1981 Hunger Strike have rejected as “false” the claims being made about the fast and the deaths of six of the H-Block prisoners.

The families are particularly incensed at the claims – raised by former H-Block prisoner Richard O’Rawe and repeated by the British media  – that Margaret Thatcher’s government offered the protesting prisoners a deal and that this was rejected by the leadership of the Republican Movement out of political expediency.
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AOH on Hunger Strike Families Meeting with Sinn Fein

AOH on Hunger Strike Families Meeting with Sinn Fein

TO: PEC Committee Members
RE: Hunger Strike Families Meet with Sinn Fein
FR: National PEC Co Chairmen Joe Roche and Ned McGinley
DA: June 22, 2009

Historical Note:

The Ancient Order of Hibernians in America in 1982 passed a Resolution in memory of the Ten Hunger Strikers both IRA and INLA Volunteers in who were martyred in 1981 on Hunger Strike, paying the ultimate price for their ideals.

Ten of those resolutions, now framed, were then carried to Belfast by a Committee lead by National President Joseph Roche to be presented to the Ten grieving Hunger Strike families.

Every family, bar none, sent a member to receive those framed resolutions from the hand of the National President of the A.O.H. in America including Mickey Devine and Patsy O’Hara’s families.

There have been rumors and urban legends regarding the British Government and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher giving in to the “Five Demands” of the Hunger Strikers, which the Hunger Strike Committee received, not telling anyone, and that those ten brave heroes died in vain.

For anyone who remembers or lived in those times believes that Margaret Thatcher, who demanded that the Republican Volunteers be criminalized, would have wilted and given in to the demands I have a bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn on the East River to sell them.

Patsy O’Hara, Kevin Lynch, and Mickey Devine (the last to die) were all INLA volunteers, very brave men, who put themselves forward for Martydom.

The Five Demands:

The right not to wear a prison uniform;
The right not to do prison work;
The right of free association with other prisoners, and to organize educational and recreational pursuits;
The right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;
Full restoration of remission lost through the protest.

Participants who died on hunger strike

Over the summer, ten hunger strikers had died. Their names, paramilitary affiliation, dates of death, and length of hunger strike are as follows:

Name; Paramilitary affiliation; Home Town;
Strike started; Date of death; Length of strike

  • Bobby Sands, IRA, Newtownabbey,
    1 March, 5 May, 66 days.
  • Francis Hughes, IRA, Bellaghy, County Londonderry,
    15 March, 12 May, 59 days.
  • Raymond McCreesh, IRA, Carnlough, County Armagh,
    22 March, 21 May, 61 days.
  • Patsy O’Hara, INLA, Derry City,
    22 March, 21 May, 61 days.
  • Joe McDonnell, IRA, Belfast,
    8 May, 8 July, 61 days.
  • Martin Hurson, IRA, Cappagh, County Tyrone,
    28 May, 13 July, 46 days.
  • Kevin Lynch, INLA, Dungiven, County Londonderry,
    23 May, 1 August, 71 days.
  • Kieran Doherty, IRA, Belfast,
    22 May, 2 August, 73 days.
  • Thomas McElwee, IRA, Bellaghy, County Londonderry,
    8 June, 8 August, 62 days.
  • Michael Devine, INLA, Derry City,
    22 June, 20 August, 60 days.

We cannot allow the IRSP’s Richard O’Rawe to sully the great bravery of these men.

Their families know better and there can be little doubt that the election of Bobby Sands, while on Hunger Strike, and the deaths of these 10 brave men led to the political strength of the nationalist/republican cause today and will lead to a United Ireland by peaceful means in the future.

They did not die in vain we will have a United Ireland and the A.O.H. will be there as they were in Belfast in 1982.

 

 

Note: AOH = Ancient Order of Hibernians; PEC = The AOH’s Political Education Committee.
Sourced from Irish Aires All

Bobby Sands Trust: Hunger Strikers’ Families Speak Out

Hunger Strikers’ Families Speak Out
June 21, 2009 · Bobby Sands Trust

Families of those IRA and INLA Volunteers who died during the 1981 hunger strike have issued a statement condemning those who have relentlessly hurt them by making false allegations that their loved ones died needlessly.

The families privately met with Sinn Fein and a representative of the Bobby Sands Trust last Wednesday, 17th June, at the invitation of the party’s president Gerry Adams. Those present included relatives of Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Patsy O’Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kieran Doherty, Tom McElwee and Mickey Devine (his nieces and his son Mickey óg). Bridie Lynch, sister of Kevin Lynch, was unable to attend but sent Gerry Adams a note expressing her support. The Hughes’ family were represented by two nephews of Francis. Francis’s brother, Oliver, who was unable to attend, sent a letter to be read out. The meeting took place in Gulladuff, South Derry.
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Sinn Fein issue statement on behalf of families

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Statement from families of 1981 Hunger Strikers
June 19, 2009

In response to media queries, Sinn Féin have today been asked by the majority of the Hunger Strikers’ families to issue, through our press office, a statement written by them in the wake of recent lies and false allegations made surrounding the events of 1981, and misrepresentation in the media and elsewhere of this week’s meeting between the families and the Sinn Fein leadership.

On Wednesday evening June 17th the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams met with 8 of the 10 families of the hunger strikers who died in 1981. The meeting was held in Gulladuff, South Derry.
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Irish News: Former Blanketman Joe McNulty

blanketmanSinn Fein talked tactics while hunger strikers died

Joe McNulty, Dungannon
18/06/09

The revelation that Brendan Duddy confirmed a document from the British conceding demands on clothes, remission, work and other areas in early July 1981 (before Joe McDonnell and Martin Hurson died) came as a total shock to me as a blanket man (The Irish News article May 25).

As a prisoner in H-block 3 I was never asked what my opinion was on these concessions and, in fact, I never knew that the document ever existed.

Why were the blanket men not consulted as a complete group about this critical development?

The contents and concessions in this paper would have been sufficient to have ended the hunger strike successfully and, in my estimation, 90 per cent of blanket men I was in contact with would have accepted this.

The accusation that the leadership let the hunger strike continue for political gain, is a huge charge without producing firm evidence.

So I reread a lot of books on the hunger strike.

On page 334 of David Beresford’s book Ten Men Dead, I came across the following communication from BIK (Brendan McFarlane) to Brownie (Gerry Adams).

‘‘The climate now is ripe to make significant progress and establish a firm base down there (free state) which is a necessity for future development and success in the final analysis. To allow opportunities to slip by (opportunities which may not present themselves again) would be a grave mistake’’.

This comm was dated July 26 1981 and at this date six hunger strikers were already dead.

These two leaders were discussing a new electoral strategy and plan, in the middle of the hunger strike (six had already died).

Tragically Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Tom Mc Elwee, and Micky Devine were to die in the coming weeks.

So the hunger strike was seen as an ‘opportunity’ which it would be a ‘grave mistake’ not to take advantage of.

To be discussing electoral tactics while hunger strikers were dead – and dying – was callous in the extreme.

I rest my case with anger and a sad and heavy heart.

Joe McNulty, Dungannon

Statement: Call for an Inquiry

The families of hunger strikers Patsy O’Hara and Mickey Devine have issued a statement calling for a public inquiry:

“We, the O Hara and Devine families, would also wish to put on public record our full support for an independent Republican Inquiry, which was first called for by ex-Hunger Striker Gerard Hodgins, into the controversial claims surrounding the events of the 1981 Hunger Strike.

At a recent meeting in the Gasyard, Derry City, which we attended, compelling and disturbing evidence revealing that an offer made by the British which conceded four of the five demands, was accepted by the prison IRA leadership and rejected by elements of the outside IRA leadership.
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“Rusty Nail”: Gerry Adams to meet Hunger Strikers Families; Inquiry Sought

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Gerry Adams to meet Hunger Strikers Families; Inquiry Sought
Rusty Nail at Slugger O’Toole

This week in South Derry, bowing to pressure from recent revelations that have reduced aspects of the standard Provisional narrative of the 1981 hunger strike to self-serving propaganda, Gerry Adams and members of the 1981 PIRA sub-committee for the Hunger Strike will meet privately with members of hunger strikers’ families. This comes as a former hunger striker and other Blanketmen, and the families of hunger strikers Patsy O’Hara and Mickey Devine, have made public calls for a full inquiry into the events of July, 1981.  It has been established an offer, approved by Thatcher, which met 4 of the 5 demands, was conveyed through the Mountain Climber link via Brendan Duddy, to Martin McGuinness in Derry, who in turn brought it to Gerry Adams, Jim Gibney, Tom Hartley and Danny Morrison in Belfast. Danny Morrison gave details of the offer to prison OC Bik McFarlane, who then discussed it with PRO for the Hunger Strikers, Richard O’Rawe. They both agreed there was enough there in the offer to end the hunger strike; Bik McFarlane said he would send word out of the acceptance. This conversation was overhead by a number of nearby prisoners who have come forward corroborating it. Brendan Duddy has confirmed that the response he got from the Adams committee was rejection: “More was needed.” Six hunger strikers subsequently died. The British had the prison authorities implement the substance of the July offer three days after the hunger strike finally ended in October, 1981.
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Statement: IRSP Support for Inquiry

The IRSP wish to put on public record our support for an open independent republican inquiry into the truth behind the 1981 hunger strike as called for by the O Hara and Devine families and also by former IRA hunger striker Gerard Hodgkins.

Given the contradictory statements emanating from various spokespeople from Sinn Fein on this matter and the refusal of these people to partake in the recent discussion held in the Gasyard center in Derry we are firmly of the opinion that such an inquiry is the only course of action open to the republican community. 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 and which furthermore suggests that the lives of the last six hungerstrikers may have been saved.

The forthcoming Sinn Fein closed meeting with the families of the ten hunger strikers is purely another attempt to mislead and confuse events surrounding the 1981 hunger strike.

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Statement: Former Blanketman Thomas ‘Dixie’ Elliott

Statement by former Blanketman Thomas ‘Dixie’ Elliott

I feel I must respond to Donncha Mac Niallais who in his recent letter to the Derry Journal ‘defied’ any prisoner who was in the blocks at the time to deny that if a shouted conversation between Bik McFarlane and Richard O’Rawe happened it wouldn’t have been repeated at mass and on visits. Well I in turn wish to put my recollection on record just as I already did in the Gasyard debate.

blanketmanI was in that wing with Bik and Richard at the time and I had previously shared a cell with Bobby Sands in the wing. As anyone who was on the protest would know I also shared a cell in H4 with Tom McElwee and we remained close friends. Tom gave me his rosary beads before he went on Hunger Strike and I still have them today. As I said at the Gasyard debate I did not hear the acceptance conversation between Bik and Richard as I was at the other end of the wing and I wasn’t going to lie about it. What I do remember is that there was a rumour at the time that the Brits had made an offer and Joe McDonnell wouldn’t have to die. I spoke to at least two other former blanket men from Derry recently and they too remembered the rumours. However rumours don’t prove anything neither does Donncha’s claims that he spoke to someone from Bik’s wing and he said that person didn’t mention an alternative offer direct from the British. How could that person know that the IRA were negotiating with the British Government if the ICJP didn’t know until told by Gerry Adams on the 6th July?

But lets get to the facts……When Richard O’Rawe first made these claims he stood alone against everything that Sinn Fein threw at him. At the Gasyard debate people were pushing to get in the doors. On the panel besides Liam Clarke and Brendan Duddy there were Willie Gallagher, Tommy Gorman, and Richard O’Rawe himself, all former Blanket Men; and someone who was actually on that Hunger Strike, Gerard Hodgins. A document was produced that was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act which outlined what the British were offering: four of the five demands. Brendan Duddy the Mountain Climber confirmed that this was indeed the offer he passed to the IRA and which they rejected. Gerard ‘Cleeky’ Clarke then came forward and admitted that he was in a cell beside Bik and Richard and that he had heard the acceptance conversation between the two, which was always denied by Bik. The whole Gasyard debate was filmed and is online if anyone wants to view it for themselves.

From the outset Bik said there never was an offer what-so-ever, then no concrete offers and he also said that the conversation between himself and Richard never took place. He actually said, “Not only did I not tell him. That conversation didn’t take place.” However Cleeky Clarke stood up and stated that it did indeed take place and Brendan Duddy confirmed that he took an offer containing four of the five demands to the IRA. Therefore this left a question mark over the claims of no concrete offers etc. Now after all this we now have Bik coming out and admitting that a conversation did take place and his comment was, “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.”

This leaves us with the question, why weren’t the Hunger Strikers themselves fully informed of these developments? In a comm to Gerry Adams [which is reproduced in the book Ten Men Dead] dated 7.7.81, Bik said that he told the Hunger Strikers that parts of their offer was vague and the only concrete aspect seemed to be clothes and in no way was this good enough to satisfy us. Surely four of the fives demands amounted to a lot more than a vague offer and contained a lot more than just clothes? Not only that, the INLA members who were on Hunger Strike and their representatives stated they were never made aware of any offers from the British that contained what amounted to four demands. Gerard Hodgins, who was also on Hunger Strike and a member of the IRA, also publicly stated this. As well as all this, Bik told the Hunger Strikers on Tuesday 28.7.81 that “I could have accepted half measures before Joe died, but I didn’t then and wouldn’t now.” What he failed to say was that these half measures contained four of the five demands, as I’ve already pointed out.

The Hunger Strike eventually fell apart after the families started taking the men off the Hunger Strikes when they lapsed into unconsciousness, yet three days after it ended James Prior implemented four of the five demands.

During an RTE Hunger Strike documentary which was aired in 2006, Gerry Adams stated that he was unaware of the Mountain Climber initiative until after the Hunger Strikes had ended; surely as everyone who was part of the Prison protest or who even read the comms from Ten Men Dead would know this is untrue?

The whole argument has now gone from the Prison Leadership accepting what was on offer on July 5th to its rejection from outside and just why was it rejected. The families are entitled to these answers as are the friends and comrades of the men who died. What we don’t need is the usual attempt to smear those who ask these questions as ‘cheerleaders of an anti-republican journalist’, nor do we need Bloody Sunday brought into the debate. Those asking these questions are former Blanket Men with no agenda only the truth. I myself am not a member of any group nor party and I am now firmly opposed to the use of Armed Struggle as I saw too many give their lives for what was effectively on the table in 1973. We need closure in this and I feel that both sides need to come together in a debate open to all so that answers can be obtained.

Derry Journal: Former Blanketman Donncha Mac Niallais

Statement: Former Hunger Striker Gerard Hodgins

Time For An Inquiry says former hunger striker Gerard Hodgins

In 1976 the British introduced the criminalisation policy which decreed that captured Republican volunteer soldiers would henceforth be treated as criminals, being forced to wear a criminal uniform and having no recognition whatsoever as political prisoners. This led to the Blanket Protest and subsequent hunger strikes which convulsed our society, but which did open a window of opportunity to develop a political alternative to armed struggle.

Those of us who were intimately involved in those dark days still carry with us each and every day a reminder of what that all entailed. The horrors of the H-Blocks leap into our consciousness at some point of each and every day; memories of Bobby, Francie, Raymey, Patsy, Joe, Martin, Kevin, Kieran, Tom and Red Mick and their horrific deaths through starvation are a constant. It is an indelible mark upon our lives and one we endured through a comforting prism that our ten friends and comrades were part of a greater struggle to achieve independence and freedom against an intransigent enemy who would not buckle and instead seemed to gloat in the deaths of Irishmen in British prisons on Irish soil.

The comforting narrative ran that the combined intelligence and commitment of the Republican Movement could not bend the Iron Lady, but won honour and political legitimacy through our combined efforts at resisting and exposing criminalisation as the fallacy that it was. The cost was high: five years held naked in extreme conditions of brutality and sensory deprivation culminating in two hunger strikes which claimed ten of our friends, fellow Blanket Men.

That narrative has been seriously challenged in recent years with stories of deals being offered by the British and accepted by the prison O/C, only to be overturned by the Leadership on the outside, thus prolonging the hunger strike and creating a question mark over the deaths of the last six hunger strikers to die.

Events surrounding those dark days were examined at a meeting in Derry recently, organised under the auspices of The Republican Network for Unity. Unfortunately Gerry Adams and the Provisional leadership of the day refused to attend or send a representative to contribute to the proceedings. I find it ironic Gerry can run to meetings in New York and San Francisco to discuss Irish unity with the diaspora yet cannot find the time or courtesy to attend a meeting in his own back yard with ex-Blanket Men and other interested parties of the day, about an issue so crucial to those of us who endured the Blanket protests and hunger strikes.

Recent revelations have pointed to the need for clarity, full disclosure and honesty on the part of all who were involved in those secret negotiations/discussions. I would appeal for all these people, for the sake of our memories and in the service of truth, to agree to co-operate with an inquiry into all aspects associated with this traumatic time in our history which has been thrown into such question with the reports and evidence that a deal could have been secured before Joe McDonnell died.

A genie has been let out of the bottle and thrown the perceived narrative of the horrors of 1981 into question. One thing is certain of those days and which no question mark hangs over: the Blanket Men fought courageously and the hunger strikers died martyrs and their commitment and sacrifice can never be sullied, questioned or diminished in any way.

The final piece of the jigsaw which has remained hidden from view to this day is the actions and reasons for those actions on behalf of the leadership who guided us. It is time for answers and explanations to be offered.

I am not a member or supporter of any political party, grouping or organisation. I am a supporter of peace and politics and don’t advocate any sort of return to the days of war: I am not on a Sinn Fein bashing exercise and have tried to be measured with my words. I am an ex-Blanket Man who was there and would welcome some insight into the secrets of 28 years ago.

Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration speech

Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration speech

The Chicago cumann of the Irish Freedom Committee and the Irish Republican Socialist Committees of North America joined together for the second time since 2005 under the banner of the Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee (CHSCC), to host the June 6th commemoration. Event attendees came from across the United States from as far as Washington State, Missouri, Minnesota, downstate Illinois and New York.

CHSCC Chairman, Colm Mistéil’s Address:

colm_speechA chairde agus a chomrádaí,

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir as teacht an tráthnóna seo, chun chuimhnigh ar cothrom an lá ocht mbliain is fiche ó lá an Stailc Ocrais sna H-blocanna.

Thank you all for joining us this afternoon to remember the 28th anniversary of the Hunger Strike.

Today the Charlie Kerins cumann of the Cumann na Saoirse / the Irish Freedom Committee, and the Irish Republican Socialist Committees of North America come together in unity under the banner of the Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee. We see, as the hunger strikers saw, unity as the way forward. Inside the H-Blocks of Long Kesh seven volunteers of the Irish Republican Army, and three of the Irish National Liberation Army starved to death and gave their lives for their comrades. They were guilty of no crime, but were imprisoned for their unwavering dedication to the cause of Irish Freedom, and for the establishment of a 32 county Irish Workers’ Republic.

For about the last four years, a controversy has surrounded the events of 1981, one that our former comrades in Provisional Sinn Féin wish would disappear. In 2005 Richard O’Rawe, H-Block Public Relations Officer during the hunger strike, published his book Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike in which he offers us a version of the events of 1981 that we never heard before. He reveals to us that on July 5th an offer was made by the British Government and delivered to Republicans through a Derry businessman who served as a go between, codenamed by the IRA as ‘the Mountain climber.’ The prison leadership of Bik McFarlane as O/C (officer commanding) and Richard O’Rawe as Public Relations Officer thought that the offer was enough to end the Hunger Strike as it would have granted 4 of the 5 demands. They sent their answer to the outside Provisional leadership, who turned down the offer. At this time four men had died, and 8 were on hunger strike with Joe McDonnell only days away from death. It all could have been over then, and 6 young men would not have lost their lives. I will not go into the reasons why the outside Provisional leadership turned down the offer, but suggest that you read Richard O’Rawe’s book.

Since the book was published O’Rawe has faced vicious condemnation from those in Provisional Sinn Féin. Bik has said no offers were made, and has denied that the acceptance conversation ever took place. But Richard O’Rawe has stuck to his story and continues to demand the truth. The provos’ story keeps changing, but O’Rawe’s has remained the same. At first, I did not believe him, and thought he was a liar; but more and more evidence has come out to vindicate O’Rawe. One of the main charges against him was if the acceptance conversation took place, then someone on the wing must have heard it. For four years no one had come forward, that is until two weeks ago. At a talk held in Derry titled “What is the Truth Behind the Hunger Strike?” a former blanketman, Gerard Clarke, who was on the same wing in H3 as Bik and O’Rawe confirmed O’Rawe’s claim that the acceptance conversation took place. I now have no doubt what so ever that Richard O’Rawe’s account of the Hunger Strike is accurate and the lives of six young men could have been saved. We in the Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee join with our Republican comrades back home in demanding that Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison, and Bik McFarlane come clean and give us the truth once and for all.

Keeping the Hunger Strikers in mind, we must also remember current Irish Republican POWs, of which there are nearly 100, many of whom still fight for the political status that the hunger strikers gave their lives for. There are some who like to think that there are no more Republican Prisoners, they were all let out in 2000 when Long Kesh was closed. I think the children of Terry McCafferty, who haven’t spent a Christmas with their father in over 6 years, would tell them differently. There are others who would like to think the war is over and there is now peace in the North of Ireland, the brave actions of the Real IRA and Continuity IRA of early March have shown the words of Pádraig Pearse ring true, “Ireland unfree, shall never be at peace.” While there is a one British soldier on Irish soil, and while one Irish worker is exploited by his capitalist oppressor, the war for the Irish Workers’ Republic will continue.

Now is the time for Republicans to unite together to make the next phase of the struggle the last one. We should not waste time condemning our former comrades in the Provisional Movement; we need to demand the truth from them on the hunger strike, otherwise we should just forget about them and move forward. Our numbers may be small, but we must remember the words of Terence MacSwiney “If only a few are faithful found they must be all the more steadfast for being but a few.” We must do all we can to help our comrades in Ireland to finally see the Irish Workers’ Republic become a reality.

Beir Bua!

Sourced from saoreire.com

“Rusty Nail”: The Evolution Of Bik McFarlane’s Memory

Thursday, June 04, 2009

“This is a huge opportunity and I feel there’s a potential here to end this”
Rusty Nail at Slugger O’Toole

Inch by inch, the truth is coming out. In a major concession, now that Richard O’Rawe’s account of the July Thatcher offer and prison leadership acceptance has been vindicated, Bik McFarlane has changed his story. Suddenly regaining his memory, he recalls a conversation with O’Rawe and comes up with never-before-revealed details of a conversation he held with the hunger strikers. 

This is a major about-face from where he started, going from “That conversation did not take place, there was no deal, there was no offer, there was no rejection, it didn’t happen” to “Something was going down, this is amazing, this is a huge opportunity and I feel there’s a potential here to end this.”

Coming on the heels of Danny Morrison’s admission in last week’s Slugger discussion that the conversation between O’Rawe and McFarlane did in fact take place, and that the prison leadership did accept the British offer, this morsel of truth from McFarlane is to be applauded, however much it contradicts what Morrison has claimed elsewhere. McFarlane is a bit of a wild card like that for the Morrison narrative, not knowing when to agree there was no offer or deal, or exactly why the prisoners are to blame for the July offer rejection. More of it however, please, Bik and Danny. We’ll get the full truth out of yis yet.

In the meantime, let’s look at the remarkable recovery of McFarlane’s memory.

Evolution of McFarlane’s memory:

28 February 2005

UTV interview with Fearghal McKinney: “There was no offer whatsoever.”

11 March 2005

“He [Richard O’Rawe] uses me to give credence to his argument. It’s ‘Bik and Richard this’, and ‘Richard and Bik that’. And it’s totally erroneous, totally and absolutely erroneous,”

“Danny Morrison and myself had a visit together. He informed me that that morning the British had opened a line of communication to the republican movement in relation to the jail hunger strikes. My eyes widened.

“And he said to me ‘I am instructed to inform you, do not under any circumstances build up your hopes’.

“Danny then went and briefed the hunger strikers. I was able to go in and talk to them [and] went back to the block later that afternoon.

“I went back to the block, wrote out a quick note, passed it up to Richard, informed him that the British had opened up a line of communication.

“We were not to spread the word. I told him and I think I told one other member of camp staff. I told him again that we need to see what’s going to happen here.”

“There was no concrete proposals whatsoever in relation to a deal.

“According to Richard he has a deal done. Richard then says that he shouted down to me that ‘that looks good’. ‘I agreed’ and that I would write out to the army council and say that we would accept the deal.

“That is totally fictitious. That conversation did not happen.

“I did not write to the army council and tell them that we were accepting [a deal]. I couldn’t have. I couldn’t have accepted something that didn’t exist.

“He then says that the conversation continued at the window in Irish to confuse the prison guards so they wouldn’t hear. But there’s 44 guys on that wing who have Gaelic.”

“Not only did I not tell him. That conversation didn’t take place.

“No way did I agree with Richard O’Rawe that a deal was offered and that we should accept it and that I would write to the army council and say that ‘that is a good deal we’re accepting it’.

“And one thousand per cent, the army council did not write in and say ‘do not accept the deal’.”

London, weekend of 17th May 2009

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.

“There was never any deal,” he said

“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 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.”

Today, 4 June, 2009

“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.”

[The British had to] “expand the offer, and they need to go into the prison hospital”.

“They (the hunger strikers) were at pains to say the Brits need to come forward,” 

“They need to expand on it (the offer), 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.” 

“We went through it step by step. 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.” 

“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.”

As we know now from the Gasyard meeting in Derry, a very concrete set of proposals went in to the prison. We also know that the conversation between O’Rawe and McFarlane accepting the offer took place because prisoners are coming forward confirming this. So the lie has shifted from complete denial to one of claiming to have given the hunger strikers in the hospital the full brief of the offer and it being rejected by them. This lie does not work because of a number of reasons.

First and foremost, it was after speaking with the hunger strikers in the hospital that McFarlane and O’Rawe agreed to accept the offer. As McFarlane himself now says today, “This is a huge opportunity and I feel there’s a potential here to end this”.

In addition, the hunger strikers were not told the details of the Mountain Climber offer. As Laurence McKeown wrote in 2005, “Whether it was the ‘Mountain Climber’ or the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, we wanted definite confirmation, not vague promises of ‘regime change’.” Had the hunger strikers been presented with the offer as confirmed by Duddy they would have been told more than “vague promises of regime change”. This is backed up by Danny Morrison’s own interview for Padraig O’Malley’s Biting at the Grave, page 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.”

Bik’s own comm to Gerry Adams on 6 July, 1981,  which was sent after receiving a comm that afternoon from the Adams cadre rejecting the prison leadership’s acceptance, also confirms this: “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.”

In the same comm, a suggestion to request the British to come in and detail their offer to the hunger strikers – albeit the ICJP offer – is rejected by the hunger strikers themselves: “During the session, H. Logue suggested drafting a statement on behalf of the hunger strikers asking for the Brits to come in and talk direct, but the lads knocked him back.”

So how can the hunger strikers on the one hand, according to Bik today, reject the offer from the British because they wanted the British to come in to explain it to them in person, while in 1981 he was telling Gerry Adams that the hunger strikers rejected asking the Brits to come in and talk to them directly? How can Bik today claim that he went through the offer with the hunger strikers step by step, yet in 1981 he clearly says he told them that the offer was vague, and the only concrete aspect was on clothes? We know now that the offer was much more substantial than that. We also know Danny Morrison “did not go into detail” with the hunger strikers during his visit to the hospital on 5 July. Laurence McKeown is on record saying the offer was “vague promises of ‘regime change’” – which means he was told nothing about the true nature of the offer. This is also supported by Jake Jackson’s claim in Biting at the Grave (pg 96) that the hunger strikers didn’t know about the Mountain Climber initiative at that point – nevermind being told the full details of the offer that had come in via the link. Subsequent hunger strikers were also told nothing of the offer or rejection.

These people, Morrison and those supporting his narrative, are like a toddler who refuses to go to bed, in the way they begrudgingly give up bits of the truth a little at a time, while still clinging desperately to the shards of the lie. The toddler thinks he just may be able to stop going to bed if he resists and only moves an inch forward when told it is time. He thinks he is being clever, as he gets to stay up longer, and he is complying a little bit, so he rides the two horses, and just may be able keep riding the one he wants. The problem is, no matter what he does, he’s going to end up in bed anyway. By refusing to budge, he just makes things harder for himself and still ends up in bed. This is the same for Morrison, McFarlane, and all those who are mitigating the lie each time more of it is exposed. The truth is coming out, whether they admit to it or not. The more lies they continue to tell, the worse they make it for themselves. They are passing the point where they could have made it easy by admitting to the mistake made – and soon they are going to be thrown over the shoulder and carried to bed by their grassroots who will harbour a great resentment and anger towards them for not telling the truth in the first place when asked.

 

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

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.

bik

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

Key points from “Rusty Nail” discussion: End of 1st Hunger Strike

Excerpt from Slugger O’Toole comment section discussion, referring to the end of the 1980 hunger strike:

This is not how the first hunger strike ended. If you take a look at page 299 of Denis O’Hearn’s biography of Bobby Sands, Nothing But an Unfinished Song:

“The movement had sent comms to let him (Sands) know that the British government was sending a courier with a document that might be a solution. But Bobby never got the comms until the next day because “the lad had to swallow them”. It would not have made any difference because the authorities refused to let Sands go to the hospital, where the drama of the negotiations and pressures on Brendan Hughes was unfolding…”

“The next thing he knew, he was taken to the prison hospital at 6:45 in the evening. What he found there shocked him.

I saw Index (Father Toner) and Silvertop (Father Murphy) in the corridor as I walked down the wing. There were three cartons of eggs sitting in a doorway. My heart jumped. Dorcha (Brendan Hughes) came out of Tommy McKearney’s room and went into Tom (McFeeley)’s room in front of me. Tom was in bed. Raymond and Nixie were sitting beside the bed. They were all shattered. Dorcha said, “Did you hear the sceal (news)?” I said, “No.” He said it again. I thought Sean was dead. Then he said, “We’ve got nothing, I called it off.” The MO was banging an injection into Tommy. Sean was en route to the hospital. Tom had been against it, wanting to wait to see what Atkins was going to say in the Commons. Dorcha was under the impression that Sean had only twelve hours to live.”

And also look Adams’ description of the end of the first hunger strike as he writes of it in A Farther Shore, pages 12-13:

But with the commencement of the hunger strike, the British government opened up contact with republicans. Through this contact in the British Foreign Office – code-named “Mountain Climber” – a channel of communication which had been used during the 1974 IRA-British government truce was reactivated. Father Reid’s role had been filled by another Redemptorist priest, Father Brendan Meagher. The British said they wanted a settlement of the issues underpinning the protest and committed to setting out the details in a document to be presented to all of the prisoners formally and publicly after they came off their hunger strike.

Mountain Climber brought the document to Father Meagher, who delivered it to Clonard Monastery where I and a few people who were assisting the prisoners were waiting for him. As he was briefing us, Tom Hartley, the head of our POW department, burst into the room where we were meeting to tell us the hunger strike was over in the blocks.”

See also pages 108-109 of Richard O’Rawe’s Blanketmen:

By 18 December the hunger strikers had not eaten for over seven weeks. Bobby was summoned to the camp hospital about ten o’clock that night. (We later found out that while there, he had met Father Meagher, who presented him with a document from the British government on prison procedures.) You could feel the tension on the wing as Bobby got ready to leave for the hospital. Everyone knew this was an important meeting, because reports had been circulating that Sean McKenna was in a critical condition. After an hour and a half, Bobby returned with the news that the hunger strike was over. My immediate reaction was one of huge relief, but this was tempered when Bobby said, “Ní fhuaireamar faic.” (‘We didn’t get anything.’)

Brendan Hughes had made a commitment to Sean McKenna that he would not let him die, and when he was close to death, he kept his word and called the strike off, before any British documents came in or any deal could be done.

As he wrote in a letter to the Irish News, 13 July 2006, “Risking the lives of volunteers is not the IRA way”:

In a recent BBC documentary Bernadette McAliskey said she would have let Sean McKenna die during the 1980 hunger strike in order to outmanoeuvre British brinkmanship.
Implicit in her comments was a criticism of those senior republicans who decided against pursuing the option favoured by Bernadette.
As the IRA leader in charge of that Hunger Strike I had given Sean McKenna a guarantee that were he to lapse into a coma I would not permit him to die.
When the awful moment arrived I kept my word to him.
Having made that promise, to renege on it once Sean had reached a point where he was no longer capable of making a decision for himself, I would have been guilty of his murder.
Whatever the strategic merits of Bernadette’s favoured option, they are vastly outweighed by ethical considerations.
Terrible things happen in the course of any war and those of us who feel obliged to fight wars must take responsibility for the terrible consequences of actions we initiate.
I can live with that – in war we kill enemies and expect to be killed by them.
I can stand over the military decisions I made during our war against the British.
But there are no circumstances in which I was prepared to make a cynical decision that would have manipulated events to the point where a republican comrade would forfeit his life.
Twenty-five years on, I have no reason to change my mind that the decision I made to save the life of Sean McKenna was the proper one.
Faced with similar circumstances I would do the same again.
History may judge my actions differently but preventing Sean McKenna from becoming history rather than my own place in history was my prevailing concern.
Brendan Hughes, Belfast.

At the meeting in Derry, this was discussed and former blanketmen Gerard Hodgins, Tommy Gorman, Dixie Elliott and Gerard Clarke, and Richard O’Rawe, were all very clear that there was no deal for the British to renege on, and that those inside the prison at the time knew this. They had decided to save face, however, and claim that was what ended the hunger strike in order to keep the pressure on the British. This discussion should be available in the You Tube videos and when I have time I will find it for you later, if you have not already viewed them.

So the idea that the rejection of the British offer in July during the second hunger strike was based on the prisoners’ fear of the British ‘dirty joeing’ them again is a nonsense. The Brits could not renege on a deal that had not been struck. It is propaganda, nothing more.

Rusty Nail at Slugger O’Toole, comments 20 & 21

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

“Rusty Nail”: 1981 Hunger Strike Truth Commission

Monday, May 25, 2009

1981 Hunger Strike Truth Commission
Rusty Nail at Slugger O’Toole

Saturday evening’s meeting in Derry could be described as a grassroots Truth Commission – clearly, the public’s desire for truth and expanded knowledge of the events of the Troubles is overwhelming, enough so that people are not waiting for officialdom to create yet another useless quango in order to get to it. They are, despite all the odds stacked against them, doing it for themselves.  They aren’t seeking compensation or appointed positions: they merely want those who were there to stand up in public and tell the truth of what they know. Brendan Duddy to his credit in Derry made quite clear that was the only thing he was interested in, noting that he was in his seventies and that he had no interest or need to keep anything back. He was there on the night to tell the truth as he knew it. Gerard Clarke, likewise, made a point to put say in public what he knew, for the simple reason that it is the truth, and the it is truth being asked for.

It is understood that Gerry Adams has today sent a letter to some of the families of the hunger strikers.

One of the key points of the meeting was the presentation of the British offer that went into the prison, as read by Liam Clarke, the Sunday Times journalist who has been following the 1981 Hunger Strike story and making Freedom of Information requests for documents relating to British government activity in regards to the prison protests. This document was confirmed by Brendan Duddy, the link between the British government and the Adams committee, as the offer he ferried in early July. This was also confirmed by Richard O’Rawe as the offer Bik McFarlane outlined to him, which they agreed to accept; that conversation was corraborated as taking place by Gerard Clarke, who overheard it at the time, and also by testimony from Willie Gallagher of the IRSP who are in possession of transcripts of a recording where another former prisoner also confirms the conversation took place. Videos of the meeting are currently on YouTube and the IRSP and RNU’s recordings of the public discussion will also be available online shortly. In the meantime, Slugger presents the offer the British made, and a transcript of Willie Gallagher’s opening speech.

Liam Clarke gives the background to the British document*:
“The NIO has several drafts of this document on file, which differ only in minor detail. This was one which Thatcher authorised to be sent to the IRA on July 8th 1981. The letter from Downing Street to the NIO sent on that date (and on the Sunday Times website) describes it as as “a draft statement enlarging upon the message of the previous evening but in no way departing from its substance” It went on “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 the statement would not be put out.” At the meeting in Derry Brendan Duddy said this draft statement set out the offer which he had sent to the IRA on 5th and which, he said, was rejected by the IRA.

In the NIO documents, for a letter from Downing Street to the NIO on July 18, it is made clear that the offer on clothes is “that the prisoners would be allowed to wear their own clothes, as was already the case in Armagh prison, provided these clothes were approved by the prison authorities.””

*You can also watch his presentation at the meeting online: Liam Clarke (Part 2) speaks at the truth behind the hunger strike debate (relevant part starts @2mins in)

Statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

1. In the light of discussions which Mr Michael Alison has had recently with the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, during which a statement was issued on 4 July on behalf of the protesting prisoners in the Maze Prison, HMG have come to the following conclusions.

2. When the hunger strike and the protest is brought to an end (and not before), the Government will:

I. extend to all male prisoners in Northern Ireland the clothing regime at present available to female prisoners in Armagh Prison (i.e. subject to the prison governor’s approval);

II. make available to all prisoners in Northern Ireland the allowance of letters, parcels and visits at present available to conforming prisoners;

III. allow the restoration of forfeited remission at the discretion of the responsible disciplinary authority, as indicated in my statement of 30 June, which hitherto has meant the restoration of up to one-fifth of remission lost subject to a satisfactory period of good behaviour;

IV. ensure that a substantial part of the work will consist of domestic tasks inside and outside the wings necessary for servicing of the prison (such as cleaning and in the laundries and kitchens), constructive work, e.g. on building projects or making toys for charitable bodies, and study for Open University or other courses. The prison authorities will be responsible for supervision. The aim of the authorities will be that prisoners should do the kinds of work for which they are suited, but this will not always be possible and the authorities will retain responsibility for decisions about allocation.

3. Little advance is possible on association. It will be permitted within each wing, under supervision of the prison staff.

4. Protesting prisoners have been segregated from the rest. Other prisoners are not segregated by religious or any other affiliation. If there were no protest the only reason for segregating some prisoners from others would be the judgment of the prison authorities, not the prisoners, that this was the best way to avoid trouble between groups.

5. This statement is not a negotiating position. But it is further evidence of the Government’s desire to maintain and where possible to improve a humanitarian regime in the prisons. The Government earnestly hopes that the hunger strikers and the other protesters will cease their protest.

Transcript of Willie Gallagher’s opening speech, appended with post-meeting observations:

“What is the truth behind the Hunger Strike 23-05-09-The Gasyard in Derry”

In early 2005 Richard O Rawe’s book ‘Blanketmen-An untold story of the H-Block hunger strike’ was published. In that book he made an explosive and controversial claim that he and Bik, on behalf of the jail IRA leadership, accepted a British offer made on 5th July 1981 to end the hunger strike. He claimed that four of the five demands were in effect conceded and that these were passed to him by Bik, who received them from Danny Morrison. He claimed he studied the comm for a number of hours and then shouted to Bik, who was two cells away, that there was enough there. Bik agreed and stated that he would comm outside accepting. The following day a comm from the outside IRA leadership rejected their acceptance.

Richard’s claims were immediately rubbished by SF leaders mainly Danny Morrison, Jim Gibney and Bik McFarlane in TV and radio interviews and also in the press. There was a multitude of interviews and press statements from them in what seemed an uncoordinated manner as there were glaring contradictions in their various positions on the claims.

Bik on UTV live on 1st March 2005 denied that any offer of any sort was ever made by the British at any point. Also in March 2005 in an interview with the Irish News Bik stated ’There was no concrete proposals whatsoever in relation to a deal.? He goes on to deny that the acceptance conversation with Richard ever took place.

Danny Morrison in the Irish Times on 5th February 2005 said ’It is telling that not once in 24 years has the NIO stated that before Joe McDonnell’s death it made an offer to the hunger strikers which was turned by the IRA’s army council.? Even though Danny contradicted Bik by saying that there were offers being proposed by the British but he stated that none of them were concrete. Bik later retracted his earlier claim in other press briefing that there were no offers and said he meant to say no deals.

Jim Gibney said in the Irish News on 12th May 2006 that ?Joe McDonnell died on 8th July –the British did not offer an agreement before he died.?

Those are just some of the multitude of examples of SF’s public position on the O Rawe claims and the debate turned into one of semantics of what constituted an offer or a deal. They steered the debate away from the IRA jail leadership’s acceptance claim and focussed instead on semantics over the definition of deals and offers but maintained that there were no concrete offers and because there were no concrete offers therefore the IRA jail leadership could not have had, in Bik’s words, ?accepted something that didn’t exist.?

During this period there was a demonisation campaign waged by SF against Richard using their old and tested tactic of demonising and smearing the messenger in order to rubbish the message.

During this period of 2005-2006 the IRSP, at first, were merely interested observers but were also very sceptical about the claims. We did not want to believe O’Rawe: we did not want to think that the IRA leadership would undermine the authority of the prisoners and reject the offer. Even more importantly we could see no concrete evidence that supported his claims despite the contradictory rebuttals by SF. A number of our ex-prisoners and some relatives of our hunger strikers began raising questions on the claims and asked us to investigate them. At that point we knew absolutely nothing at all and we set up a series of meetings with senior members of the IRSP and INLA Army Council members who were involved in the strike at that time as well as with Rab Collins, the INLA H-Block OC. All of them stated that they had no knowledge whatsoever about a substantial offer being made, nor of the acceptance by the IRA jail leadership or indeed of the mountain climber initiative.

The turning point in the controversy for the IRSP came after a publicised interview by Anthony McIntyre with Richard O Rawe which appeared on a website called ‘The Blanket’ on the 16th May 2006. A key paragraph in that interview jumped out at a number of us who were closely following the debate and it is worth quoting here again-

’‘Q: Indeed. I think you realise there is a bit more than that. As you know I have enormous time for Bik. It goes back to the days before the blanket. But I can only state what I uncovered. I am not saying that it is conclusive. These things can always be contested. But it certainly shades the debate your way. If Morrison and Gibney continue to mislead people that there is no evidence supporting your claim from that wing on H3 I can always allow prominent journalists and academics to access what is there and arrive at whatever conclusions they feel appropriate. That should settle matters and cause a few red faces to boot. We know how devious and unscrupulous these people have been in their handling of this. They simply did not reckon on what would fall the way of the Blanket. Nor did I for that matter. A blunder on their part.’‘

ELABORATE. IRSP/confidentiality agreement. ***Last night I done this part from memory but will give a summary here of what was said – WG ***

There was contact between the IRSP and those who had possession of this evidence and after some negotiations we agreed to certain preconditions that were being placed upon us. Bear in mind that we did not believe O Rawe at this point, did not want to believe him and wanted to report back that there was no real evidence so that we could go round our Hunger Strikers families and say ?ignore what you hear and read about O Rawe’s claims—they’re not true.? We thought we would put the controversy to bed and little did we realise the opposite would happen. Jimmy Bradley, a senior IRSP person from Belfast were presented with this evidence which turned a sceptic and a non-believer in believing that there were indeed serious questions to be answered. In fact we believed Richard was telling the truth. We agreed beforehand that we could not talk about the content or nature of the evidence, until given permission to do so, but could only sum up whether we believed O Rawe or not. We believed him! We reported back to our leadership who instructed us to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate further.)

In June/July 2006 the IRSP met with Colum Scullion, Richard’s cell mate, in the presence of Mickey Devine for over an hour. He sated a number of times that he could neither confirm nor deny the claims that Richard made. He said that there were some things about the Hunger Strike that he couldn’t talk about and that was one of them. I pointed out to him that if what Richard claimed was untrue then it was an outrageous slanderous lie which was having an adverse impact on Mickey, his family and all the other families and that could he not now reassure Mickey that the claims were untrue. He again stated that he would neither confirm nor deny the claims.

We then briefed the INLA Hunger Strikers families as to our investigation but due to our hands being tied with the confidentiality agreement we could not tell them the nature or content of the evidence that was presented to us.

The controversy then remained out of public viewing until March 2008 when Eamon McCann in a radio interview verified Richard’s claims. Eamon based his claims on conversations he had with Brendan Duddy who he describes as the mountain climber and Colum Scullion. This time SF learnt lessons from 2 years prior when they were full of contradictions and untruths. They remained silent but were able to produce Colum Scullion to counter the claims. Scully inadvertently, despite rubbishing the acceptance conversation, added weight to Richard’s claims by saying Bik did indeed make Richard aware of an offer on July 5th.

In March 2009 we became aware of documents that were released under the Freedom of Information Act prior to their publication in the media. Put together, these documents suggest that Margaret Thatcher proposed a deal with the IRA to end the hunger strike. This was first given “privately to the IRA on July 5th” according to the documents.

A further message was approved by Thatcher on the evening of July 7th and communicated to the IRA on the afternoon of 8th July. The documents further suggest that the IRA was cool at first but later in the day said that only the tone, and not the content, of the offer was unacceptable. As a result, a further draft statement, enlarging upon the previous British statement, was communicated to the IRA for their consideration. The documents say the IRA was advised that if they accepted this statement and “ordered the hunger strikers to end their protest” then the statement would be issued immediately. Otherwise a statement would be issued re-iterating the British government position of June 30th.

On the afternoon of July 18th the IRA asked for an official to go into the Maze to meet the hunger strikers. The British intention was that the official would explain the offer on clothes set out above and clarify a previous private offer on work. However, after some discussion, the British decided not to proceed without a prior indication of acceptance by the IRA. The documents clearly support Richard’s version of events and disputes the SF version of no offers of substance.

We once again spoke to senior members of the 1981 IRSP/INLA, the H-Block OC and the families of the INLA hunger strikers families and briefed them all on the documents. The IRSP executive then drafted a press release based on all the information uncovered in their investigation and stated that the 1981 leadership of the IRSP/INLA and the H-Block OC would have ended the INLA involvement in the Hunger Strike if they had have had this information at the time. All of them claimed that they were kept totally in the dark about the Thatcher negotiations or acceptance by the IRA prison leadership of an offer made on July 5th.

On the 6th April SF in the Irish Times denied the Sunday Times claims and bizarrely stated that the documents were a part of a British military intelligence conspiracy. The IRSP on the internet pointed out that the only evidence of a British intelligence intervention was that which SF promoted with the John Blelloch interview who they claimed was an MI5 agent. SF quickly done a U-turn on this claim and welcomed the documents claiming, again quite bizarrely, that they supported their version of events.

SF’s position is now shifting from ‘no offers whatsoever’ to ‘no concrete proposals whatsoever’ to according to Barbara de Bruin on 2nd May 2009:

?There were negotiations, there was an offer, in fact a number of different offers but as the British refused to sign anything or give a public commitment to move before the hunger strike ended there was no ‘deal’. Due to the way the British government had acted in the wake of the first hunger strike the hunger strikers wouldn’t end their fast without some form of public guarantee.

Indeed, the timeline published by the Bobby Sands Trust also shows that the British government refused to meet the hunger strikers and stand over their offer.?

It is worth rewinding back to Jim Gibney’s public statement on March 2004 when during a speech on the anniversary of Bobby Sands 50th birthday he said, ?I was shown a comm written by Bobby Sands that had come out of the prison the previous day(the day the first Hunger Strike ended). The following sentence stuck out: “I will begin another hunger strike on the 1st January.” SF’s position now seems to be relying on British duplicity at the end of the first Hunger Strike by claiming that the British reneged on a deal therefore it was imperative that the Brits stand over any offer they made. Why would Bobby Sands be writing a comm on the night the first Hunger Strike collapsed about going on another Hunger Strike if there was an alleged deal? Danny Morrison appeared on RTE, the same day Jim received this comm, saying that Bobby was ?jubilant.? All the main players including of course the Brits knew that no deal was reneged on so why maintain this pretence and preconditions over an alleged deal that didn’t exist.

The day following the Sunday Times exposes Danny Morrison inferred that Kevin McQuillan knew about the mountain climber initiative as did Kevin Lynch and Mickey Devine. This was strongly denied publicly by Kevin as well as by Tommy McCourt and Seany Flynn, senior members of the 1981 IRSP who were in constant contact with the INLA Hunger Strikers, Liam McCluskey a former Hunger Striker and Rab Collins who was the INLA prisoners OC.

On the 7th April 2009 another ex-blanket prisoner confirms over hearing acceptance conversation. Elaborate *** Again last night I gave this account last night from memory but will give the following summary – WG ***

An ex-blanket man phoned me the Tuesday after the Sunday Times article and confirmed Richards account. We met on Easter Sunday and in the presence of others once again confirmed Richard’s account of and stated that he heard the conversation between Richard and Bik accepting the offer and agreed to meet the families and others if they wished. He is in this hall tonight and perhaps he may want to talk about this later during the debate or I can arrange a meeting with some family relatives in private.

Part of the evidence presented to the IRSP on June 2006:

Extracts from a taped conversation

I am going to reference four separate segments of this conversation. There are more which are just as powerful. These quotations, we believe, more than confirm Richard O’Rawe’s assertions. It should be borne in mind that the IRSP leadership had hoped that this day would never come; it was our honest desire that we would have been able to report that O’Rawe was either lying, or that his memory was playing tricks with him. While our investigation is still ongoing, clearly it is getting increasingly difficult to dismiss what O’Rawe is saying. Here are the quotes. Make your own minds up:

Mr A: I have said to people, yes… it’s true enough. A couple of people around here got at me about it, and I said ‘Well, I don’t want to get involved in this, but I do recall that conversation’.

Mr A: I can verify it, it fuckin happened; I don’t want f*ck all to do with it. It did happen. O’Rawe’s telling the truth.…..

Mr A: Well, I can verify the first part of it, the offer …except I thought it was three points rather than four and I know it was rejected – but I don’t know who – and neither I do…

Mr A: The reply, the reply… well, I know it was turned down – but I don’t know by whom.

The IRSP are very conscious of the pain and hurt that has been revisited upon the families and wider republican community. We have had a number of lengthy meetings with four of the families in relation to this controversy which have been both heartbreaking and head-wrecking experiences but also very humbling experiences. If we, the IRSP, added any further pain and distress to the families then I unreservedly apologise for doing so but I must add that we were duty bound to fulfil the requests of the relatives who did ask us to investigate these claims and to tell them the truth. I hope others are likeminded and give us all the truth and finally closure to this controversy.

On a final note, we in the IRSP would like to salute the memory of the Hunger Strikers and praise the dignity and courage of the families.

Post script:
(Last night Brendan Duddy, the Mountain Climber, verifies that the latest document Liam Clarke recieved last week is indded the offer that was sent in to the prisoners on the 5th July 1981 and also confrimed that 4 of the 5 demands were in effect conceded. He also said he would not dispute O Rawe’s version of events.

The IRSP released a small portion of the evidence that Jimmy Bradley and I were presented with in 2006. Another ex-blanket man, the one we met on Easter Sunday, Gerard ‘Cleeky’ Clarke publicly confirmed Richard’s account and claimed he heard the acceptance of the offer conversation between Bik and Richard. Other relevant information also came out last night an I will give further details as others can later-this is just a quick response. The debate was videoed and those who didn’t get an opportunity to attend last night can get access to the debate when it goes online. – WG)

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

Transcript of Willie Gallagher’s Gasyard Meeting Speech

Transcript of Willie Gallagher’s opening speech, appended with post-meeting observations

“What is the truth behind the Hunger Strike 23-05-09-The Gasyard in Derry”

In early 2005 Richard O Rawe’s book ‘Blanketmen-An untold story of the H-Block hunger strike’ was published. In that book he made an explosive and controversial claim that he and Bik, on behalf of the jail IRA leadership, accepted a British offer made on 5th July 1981 to end the hunger strike. He claimed that four of the five demands were in effect conceded and that these were passed to him by Bik, who received them from Danny Morrison. He claimed he studied the comm for a number of hours and then shouted to Bik, who was two cells away, that there was enough there. Bik agreed and stated that he would comm outside accepting. The following day a comm from the outside IRA leadership rejected their acceptance.

Richard’s claims were immediately rubbished by SF leaders mainly Danny Morrison, Jim Gibney and Bik McFarlane in TV and radio interviews and also in the press. There was a multitude of interviews and press statements from them in what seemed an uncoordinated manner as there were glaring contradictions in their various positions on the claims.

Bik on UTV live on 1st March 2005 denied that any offer of any sort was ever made by the British at any point. Also in March 2005 in an interview with the Irish News Bik stated ’There was no concrete proposals whatsoever in relation to a deal.? He goes on to deny that the acceptance conversation with Richard ever took place.

Danny Morrison in the Irish Times on 5th February 2005 said ’It is telling that not once in 24 years has the NIO stated that before Joe McDonnell’s death it made an offer to the hunger strikers which was turned by the IRA’s army council.? Even though Danny contradicted Bik by saying that there were offers being proposed by the British but he stated that none of them were concrete. Bik later retracted his earlier claim in other press briefing that there were no offers and said he meant to say no deals.

Jim Gibney said in the Irish News on 12th May 2006 that ?Joe McDonnell died on 8th July –the British did not offer an agreement before he died.?

Those are just some of the multitude of examples of SF’s public position on the O Rawe claims and the debate turned into one of semantics of what constituted an offer or a deal. They steered the debate away from the IRA jail leadership’s acceptance claim and focussed instead on semantics over the definition of deals and offers but maintained that there were no concrete offers and because there were no concrete offers therefore the IRA jail leadership could not have had, in Bik’s words, ?accepted something that didn’t exist.?

During this period there was a demonisation campaign waged by SF against Richard using their old and tested tactic of demonising and smearing the messenger in order to rubbish the message.

During this period of 2005-2006 the IRSP, at first, were merely interested observers but were also very sceptical about the claims. We did not want to believe O’Rawe: we did not want to think that the IRA leadership would undermine the authority of the prisoners and reject the offer. Even more importantly we could see no concrete evidence that supported his claims despite the contradictory rebuttals by SF. A number of our ex-prisoners and some relatives of our hunger strikers began raising questions on the claims and asked us to investigate them. At that point we knew absolutely nothing at all and we set up a series of meetings with senior members of the IRSP and INLA Army Council members who were involved in the strike at that time as well as with Rab Collins, the INLA H-Block OC. All of them stated that they had no knowledge whatsoever about a substantial offer being made, nor of the acceptance by the IRA jail leadership or indeed of the mountain climber initiative.

The turning point in the controversy for the IRSP came after a publicised interview by Anthony McIntyre with Richard O Rawe which appeared on a website called ‘The Blanket’ on the 16th May 2006. A key paragraph in that interview jumped out at a number of us who were closely following the debate and it is worth quoting here again-

’‘Q: Indeed. I think you realise there is a bit more than that. As you know I have enormous time for Bik. It goes back to the days before the blanket. But I can only state what I uncovered. I am not saying that it is conclusive. These things can always be contested. But it certainly shades the debate your way. If Morrison and Gibney continue to mislead people that there is no evidence supporting your claim from that wing on H3 I can always allow prominent journalists and academics to access what is there and arrive at whatever conclusions they feel appropriate. That should settle matters and cause a few red faces to boot. We know how devious and unscrupulous these people have been in their handling of this. They simply did not reckon on what would fall the way of the Blanket. Nor did I for that matter. A blunder on their part.’‘

ELABORATE. IRSP/confidentiality agreement. ***Last night I done this part from memory but will give a summary here of what was said – WG ***

There was contact between the IRSP and those who had possession of this evidence and after some negotiations we agreed to certain preconditions that were being placed upon us. Bear in mind that we did not believe O Rawe at this point, did not want to believe him and wanted to report back that there was no real evidence so that we could go round our Hunger Strikers families and say ?ignore what you hear and read about O Rawe’s claims—they’re not true.? We thought we would put the controversy to bed and little did we realise the opposite would happen. Jimmy Bradley, a senior IRSP person from Belfast were presented with this evidence which turned a sceptic and a non-believer in believing that there were indeed serious questions to be answered. In fact we believed Richard was telling the truth. We agreed beforehand that we could not talk about the content or nature of the evidence, until given permission to do so, but could only sum up whether we believed O Rawe or not. We believed him! We reported back to our leadership who instructed us to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate further.)

In June/July 2006 the IRSP met with Colum Scullion, Richard’s cell mate, in the presence of Mickey Devine for over an hour. He sated a number of times that he could neither confirm nor deny the claims that Richard made. He said that there were some things about the Hunger Strike that he couldn’t talk about and that was one of them. I pointed out to him that if what Richard claimed was untrue then it was an outrageous slanderous lie which was having an adverse impact on Mickey, his family and all the other families and that could he not now reassure Mickey that the claims were untrue. He again stated that he would neither confirm nor deny the claims.

We then briefed the INLA Hunger Strikers families as to our investigation but due to our hands being tied with the confidentiality agreement we could not tell them the nature or content of the evidence that was presented to us.

The controversy then remained out of public viewing until March 2008 when Eamon McCann in a radio interview verified Richard’s claims. Eamon based his claims on conversations he had with Brendan Duddy who he describes as the mountain climber and Colum Scullion. This time SF learnt lessons from 2 years prior when they were full of contradictions and untruths. They remained silent but were able to produce Colum Scullion to counter the claims. Scully inadvertently, despite rubbishing the acceptance conversation, added weight to Richard’s claims by saying Bik did indeed make Richard aware of an offer on July 5th.

In March 2009 we became aware of documents that were released under the Freedom of Information Act prior to their publication in the media. Put together, these documents suggest that Margaret Thatcher proposed a deal with the IRA to end the hunger strike. This was first given “privately to the IRA on July 5th” according to the documents.

A further message was approved by Thatcher on the evening of July 7th and communicated to the IRA on the afternoon of 8th July. The documents further suggest that the IRA was cool at first but later in the day said that only the tone, and not the content, of the offer was unacceptable. As a result, a further draft statement, enlarging upon the previous British statement, was communicated to the IRA for their consideration. The documents say the IRA was advised that if they accepted this statement and “ordered the hunger strikers to end their protest” then the statement would be issued immediately. Otherwise a statement would be issued re-iterating the British government position of June 30th.

On the afternoon of July 18th the IRA asked for an official to go into the Maze to meet the hunger strikers. The British intention was that the official would explain the offer on clothes set out above and clarify a previous private offer on work. However, after some discussion, the British decided not to proceed without a prior indication of acceptance by the IRA. The documents clearly support Richard’s version of events and disputes the SF version of no offers of substance.

We once again spoke to senior members of the 1981 IRSP/INLA, the H-Block OC and the families of the INLA hunger strikers families and briefed them all on the documents. The IRSP executive then drafted a press release based on all the information uncovered in their investigation and stated that the 1981 leadership of the IRSP/INLA and the H-Block OC would have ended the INLA involvement in the Hunger Strike if they had have had this information at the time. All of them claimed that they were kept totally in the dark about the Thatcher negotiations or acceptance by the IRA prison leadership of an offer made on July 5th.

On the 6th April SF in the Irish Times denied the Sunday Times claims and bizarrely stated that the documents were a part of a British military intelligence conspiracy. The IRSP on the internet pointed out that the only evidence of a British intelligence intervention was that which SF promoted with the John Blelloch interview who they claimed was an MI5 agent. SF quickly done a U-turn on this claim and welcomed the documents claiming, again quite bizarrely, that they supported their version of events.

SF’s position is now shifting from ‘no offers whatsoever’ to ‘no concrete proposals whatsoever’ to according to Barbara de Bruin on 2nd May 2009:

?There were negotiations, there was an offer, in fact a number of different offers but as the British refused to sign anything or give a public commitment to move before the hunger strike ended there was no ‘deal’. Due to the way the British government had acted in the wake of the first hunger strike the hunger strikers wouldn’t end their fast without some form of public guarantee.

Indeed, the timeline published by the Bobby Sands Trust also shows that the British government refused to meet the hunger strikers and stand over their offer.?

It is worth rewinding back to Jim Gibney’s public statement on March 2004 when during a speech on the anniversary of Bobby Sands 50th birthday he said, ?I was shown a comm written by Bobby Sands that had come out of the prison the previous day(the day the first Hunger Strike ended). The following sentence stuck out: “I will begin another hunger strike on the 1st January.” SF’s position now seems to be relying on British duplicity at the end of the first Hunger Strike by claiming that the British reneged on a deal therefore it was imperative that the Brits stand over any offer they made. Why would Bobby Sands be writing a comm on the night the first Hunger Strike collapsed about going on another Hunger Strike if there was an alleged deal? Danny Morrison appeared on RTE, the same day Jim received this comm, saying that Bobby was ?jubilant.? All the main players including of course the Brits knew that no deal was reneged on so why maintain this pretence and preconditions over an alleged deal that didn’t exist.

The day following the Sunday Times exposes Danny Morrison inferred that Kevin McQuillan knew about the mountain climber initiative as did Kevin Lynch and Mickey Devine. This was strongly denied publicly by Kevin as well as by Tommy McCourt and Seany Flynn, senior members of the 1981 IRSP who were in constant contact with the INLA Hunger Strikers, Liam McCluskey a former Hunger Striker and Rab Collins who was the INLA prisoners OC.

On the 7th April 2009 another ex-blanket prisoner confirms over hearing acceptance conversation. Elaborate *** Again last night I gave this account last night from memory but will give the following summary – WG ***

An ex-blanket man phoned me the Tuesday after the Sunday Times article and confirmed Richards account. We met on Easter Sunday and in the presence of others once again confirmed Richard’s account of and stated that he heard the conversation between Richard and Bik accepting the offer and agreed to meet the families and others if they wished. He is in this hall tonight and perhaps he may want to talk about this later during the debate or I can arrange a meeting with some family relatives in private.

Part of the evidence presented to the IRSP on June 2006:

Extracts from a taped conversation

I am going to reference four separate segments of this conversation. There are more which are just as powerful. These quotations, we believe, more than confirm Richard O’Rawe’s assertions. It should be borne in mind that the IRSP leadership had hoped that this day would never come; it was our honest desire that we would have been able to report that O’Rawe was either lying, or that his memory was playing tricks with him. While our investigation is still ongoing, clearly it is getting increasingly difficult to dismiss what O’Rawe is saying. Here are the quotes. Make your own minds up:

Mr A: I have said to people, yes… it’s true enough. A couple of people around here got at me about it, and I said ‘Well, I don’t want to get involved in this, but I do recall that conversation’.

Mr A: I can verify it, it fuckin happened; I don’t want f*ck all to do with it. It did happen. O’Rawe’s telling the truth.…..

Mr A: Well, I can verify the first part of it, the offer …except I thought it was three points rather than four and I know it was rejected – but I don’t know who – and neither I do…

Mr A: The reply, the reply… well, I know it was turned down – but I don’t know by whom.

The IRSP are very conscious of the pain and hurt that has been revisited upon the families and wider republican community. We have had a number of lengthy meetings with four of the families in relation to this controversy which have been both heartbreaking and head-wrecking experiences but also very humbling experiences. If we, the IRSP, added any further pain and distress to the families then I unreservedly apologise for doing so but I must add that we were duty bound to fulfil the requests of the relatives who did ask us to investigate these claims and to tell them the truth. I hope others are likeminded and give us all the truth and finally closure to this controversy.

On a final note, we in the IRSP would like to salute the memory of the Hunger Strikers and praise the dignity and courage of the families.

Post script:
(Last night Brendan Duddy, the Mountain Climber, verifies that the latest document Liam Clarke recieved last week is indded the offer that was sent in to the prisoners on the 5th July 1981 and also confrimed that 4 of the 5 demands were in effect conceded. He also said he would not dispute O Rawe’s version of events.

The IRSP released a small portion of the evidence that Jimmy Bradley and I were presented with in 2006. Another ex-blanket man, the one we met on Easter Sunday, Gerard ‘Cleeky’ Clarke publicly confirmed Richard’s account and claimed he heard the acceptance of the offer conversation between Bik and Richard. Other relevant information also came out last night an I will give further details as others can later-this is just a quick response. The debate was videoed and those who didn’t get an opportunity to attend last night can get access to the debate when it goes online. – WG)

Sourced from Slugger O’Toole

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

Statement: Oliver Hughes

Francis Hughes’s family speaks out

francishughes

THE family of Francis Hughes, the second Hunger Striker to die in 1981, have responded to the Sunday Times story. Speaking through Oliver Hughes, they said:
Read the rest of this entry »

Sinn Fein Timeline

Timeline referred to in Sinn Fein statement
*Compare with previous timeline from Danny Morrison, 2006
See also Expanded Timeline 29 June – 12 July 1981

Timeline around Joe McDonnell’s death, 1981 H-Block Hunger Strike

29 June 1981
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 strikes.

Joe McDonnell is on Day 52 without food. NIO 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’”.
Read the rest of this entry »

Statement: Sinn Fein

Allegations ‘false and without any substance’ – Sinn Féin

10-hunger-strikers2

SINN FÉIN said the claims in The Sunday Times were “nothing new” and have been “comprehensively refuted, both by documentary evidence and witness testimony, when they first appeared in Richard O’Rawe’s book some year ago.”

A Sinn Féin spokesperson described the allegations as “false and without any substance”, adding:

“Indeed, all of the documents, including those published in the Sunday Times, point clearly to a republican leadership seeking to find a resolution and a British side seeking a victory over the prisoners.”

The spokesperson said these include the recent discovery and publication by the Bobby Sands Trust of a previously unpublished interview with Sir John Blelloch, a member of MI5 who had been seconded to the NIO as a Deputy Secretary at the time of the 1980 and 1981 Hunger Strikes (see ‘Timeline’ on facing page and, for the full interview with Blelloch www.bobbysandstrust.com/archives/1069).

The Sinn Féin representative ended by saying:

“If people study the documentary evidence and follow the actual timeline of events then these allegations are exposed for what they are and show clearly where the truth of this matter lies.”

ICJP001

Sinn Fein Timeline

Sourced from An Phoblacht

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SPRING 2013: 55 HOURS
A day-by-day account of the events of early July, 1981.


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