"When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions!"

The quote from Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ certainly seems appropriate for Gerry Adams and the Republican movement. John Burns in the Sunday Times reports in IRA blocked deal to save hunger strikers that the IRA spokesman in the Maze during the Hunger Strikes, Richard O’Rawe, has revealed that acceptable concessions were offered to Gerry Adams before the death of Joe O’Donnell, the fifth man to die, by ‘Mountain Climber’, an emissary of the Thatcher Government but the deal was vetoed by the IRA Army Council.

O’Rawe suggests in his book , “Blanketmen, An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike”, which is published tomorrow that this was because “the IRA wanted to use continuing sympathy for the hunger strikers to win a by-election.”.

“The concessions offered to end the hunger strike were put to Gerry Adams, now the Sinn Fein leader, by a Foreign Office intermediary known as “the Mountain Climber”. His identity remains a mystery.
Thatcher’s government effectively conceded four of the IRA demands including the abolition of prison uniforms, more visits and letters, and segregation of prisoners on political lines. Prison work for IRA men was to have been widely defined to include educational courses and handicrafts. The only point the government refused to concede was free association of prisoners on the IRA wing. “

O’Rawe is blunt :

“Omission, rather than lies, was the order of the day. The leadership never told the hunger strikers’ relatives of Mountain Climber’s intervention and they washed their hands of any responsibility for making or breaking the deal,” he says.

The Hungerstrikes continued, 6 more men died, and were settled on less favourable terms.

O’Rawe is quoted :

“No matter which way one views it, the outside leadership alone, not the prison leadership, took the decision to play brinkmanship with McDonnell’s life. If Bik and I had had our way, Joe and the five comrades who followed him to the grave would be alive today.”

Bik being Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane , the IRA prison commander at the Maze, who, according to O’Rawe, felt the terms offered were acceptable.

The article finishes with:

Adams declined to comment until he had read the book, but Danny Morrison, a former republican publicity officer, said O’Rawe’s claims were wrong. He questioned the authenticity of the deal offered by the government and claimed the IRA army council did not run the hunger strike. “The prisoners were sovereign, it was their call.” “

Extract from book.

  • PaddyCanuck

    I think your Hamlet quote is a bit premature, Ambrose.

  • Richard Delevan

    Are any bookies offering odds on how long Gerry lasts after this? It’s like a B movie. I actually feel sick. Though not as sick as I’m sure I’ll feel after a full day of Shinners crying ‘traitor’ (about O’Rawe) or constant echoes of Danny Morrison.
    What does “questioned the authenticity of the deal” mean? Is he acknowledging that a deal was offered but wasn’t taken seriously? Or questioning whether such a deal was offered at all?

  • PaddyCanuck

    I think the key point here is that the prisoners knew what was being offered by the “Mountain Climber”. Deals had been offered before by nameless intermediaries, as seen during the first Hunger Strike, and these deals had been reneged on.

    This is what DM is talking about when he talks about the “authenticity of the deal”. Relying on a nudge and a wink from and MI5\MI6 man was not enough for the prisoners.

    Prisoners new that secret offers of deals, presented unofficially by intermediaries were not reliable, the British government had tried to play Republicans both inside and outside of Long Kesh with previous offers. They subsequently either reneged on deals, diluted them, or often the intermediaries had been overplaying these offers. We have seen this many times since the Hunger Strikes.

    I think Danny Morrison is also correct when he said that the prisoners had final say.

    It will be also interesting to hear what Bik says. Also what is O’Rawes recent form, is he pro peace process? I think his current views or pertinent.

  • Alan

    This will be earth-shattering for many, many people.

  • Davros

    For all my feelings about why they were in Long Kesh, I respect the courage of the men who died on the hunger strike. There had been rumours that latterly some had wanted to come off the strike and that families had been unhappy. As you say Alan, there will be a lot of unhappy people. Looks like the H Block memorial will take on a new role – to remember the “Lions led by donkeys “.

  • Hardy Handshake

    Personally I don’t see how any of this will make much difference, we already know the hunger strikers were sold out by a shower of smug opportunist ego-maniacs.

    To be fair, Morrison’s claim that the deal may have lacked authenticity has some basis. Remember that they’d already been sold a pup by the British and they would have had little doubt that anything looking like a deal from Thatcher would have been other than a trick.

    That said, the consensus appears to be that the path from the early position of the AC on the hunger strikes, ie that it was against it, to one in which the RM came to the realiisation that electoral advantage could be leveraged from the sympathy engendered by it, is one which Morrison as I understand it claims to have championed and triumphed upon so perhaps he should know.

    Whether we should believe him or not is of course another matter.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    is he pro peace process?

    I’m getting tired of this “traitor trying to undermine the peace process by damaging Sinn Fein” stuff. The peace process no longer exists.

    To the point, I can’t see this business doing too much damage to the republicans at the moment. Everyone’s preoccupied with the McCartney murder. The only possibility is that the McCartney family’s brave defiance of the IRA is going to encourage a lot of people to speak out who up to now were afraid to, but I’m not sure how likely that is.

  • Hardy Handshake

    Incidentally I’m sure by now it’s common knowledge that Mountain Climber was/is MI6’s Michael Oakley.

  • aquifer

    I believe the Hunger Strikers started the strike, without AC support initially, following earlier INLA use of the tactic.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Wasn’t ‘Mountain Climber’ Michael Oatley, who had built up a reasonable relationship with republicans?

  • Jacko

    These revelations show just how calculating and manipulative Gerry is. They will further damage him in the eyes of many republicans. His detractors are becoming harder to dismiss as just “anti-peace process” malcontents.
    How long before those within the provisional movement who are just as calculating as he is decide that Gerry has become a liability rather than an asset?

  • Davros

    David Sharrock in today’s Times:

    Leaders ‘blocked hunger strike deal’

    Mr O’Rawe writes: “I make no apology for saying now that the Army Council acted in an inexcusable manner. A generous interpretation is that they disastrously miscalculated on all fronts. A more sceptical view would be that perhaps they didn’t miscalculate at all.”

    While he places the blame on the Army Council, he also makes it clear that Mr Adams — who claims that he has never been an IRA member — was in the driving seat of the negotiations.

    Other former prisoners have separately confirmed that this was the case. Monsignor Denis Faul, a Catholic priest who was regularly inside the Maze during the strikes, said yesterday: “I had a suspicion at the time but this book is devastating, it confirms those suspicions.”

    Can Gerry Adams take any more ?

  • George

    This from Brendan McFarlane, the leader of the H-Block prisoners during the hunger strikes:

    “All of us, particularly the families of the men who died, carry the tragedy and trauma of the hunger strikes with us every day of our lives. It was an emotional and deeply distressing time for those of us who were in the H-Blocks and close to the hunger strikers. However, as the Officer Commanding in the prison at the time, I can say categorically that there was no outside intervention to prevent a deal. The only outside intervention was to try to prevent the hunger strike. Once the strike was underway, the only people in a position to agree a deal or call off the hunger strike were the prisoners, and particularly the hunger strikers themselves.

    “The political responsibility for the hunger strike, and the deaths that resulted from it, both inside and outside the prison, lies with Margaret Thatcher, who reneged on the deal which ended the first hunger strike. This bad faith and duplicity lead directly to the deaths of our friends and comrades in 1981”.

    Raymond McCartney’s comments:

    “Richard’s recollection of events is not accurate or credible. The hunger strike was a response to Thatcher’s criminalisation campaign, now being revived by Michael McDowell. The move to hunger strike resulted from the prisoners’ decision to escalate the protest after 5 years of beating, starvation and deprivation. The leadership of the IRA and of Sinn Fein tried to persuade us not to embark on this course of action. At all times we, the prisoners, took the decisions.”

    Raymond isn’t exactly a friend of Gerry’s and is held in such high esteem that he is called a former IRA “activist” by many unionists who quote him on a regular basis so I think I’d trust his view on this story.

  • Alice

    If any of you are thinking of buying this book then buy it from Waterstones at £7.99. At Easons it is £9.99.

  • Davros

    George – Raymond McCartney is a prominent member of SF – what else did you expect him to say ?

  • Davros

    and as both the McFarlane and McCartney comments come from SF website , it’s hardly surprising that both McFarlane and McCartney deny O’Rawe’s version of events.

  • The Devil


    If you think that Raymond McCartney is not a cheer leader for Adams then you are either extremly limited in your S/F insight or you are deluding yourself.

  • The Devil

    Listening to talkback today I was struck by the account given by O’Rawe..

    It was stumbling

    It was stuttering

    It was inarticulate

    But it was HONEST

    When one compares it to OH DANNY BOY Morrison on the same show, there to inform everyone who would listen how much of a misguided fool Mr O’Rawe was and how much of a liar he was.

    Morrison spoke with authority and with eloquence, but it was cold, it was rehersed and it was untruthful.

    Morrison stated that he did not know who the Derry contact was, that was a lie he did.

    Morrison stated he did not know who mountainclimber was, that was a lie he does.

    Morrison stated that he never met mountainclimber, that was a lie he has met with him several times.

    Morrison stated that they were not sure if a deal was on offer or not from untrusted sources, that was a lie they trusted the bishop and mountainclimber implicitly.

    I think if anyone wishes to believe Morrison on anything to do with republican politics then you would first of all have to believe that Morrison was not bringing back the death sentence from the Army council to be delivered to Sandy Lynch, but was in fact just visiting friends.

  • Davros

    Row continues over hunger strike claims

    ““This hasn`t been said for 24 years because it would be a massive embarrassment if they accepted the Army Council of the IRA refused to acquiesce with the prisoners acceptance of the deal,” he said.

    The consequence of that would be that responsibility for the deaths would shift from the Brits to the IRA.”


    “The outrage at his version came as no surprise, he said.
    “They are rallying the troops and it won`t stop here,” he said. “But this is a battle they can`t win because I have the truth on my side. “

  • Davros

    Danny Morrison gives his thoughts in Daily Ireland :

    Hunger strikers story brought to book