Eamon McCann verifies Richard O’Rawe’s account of the 1981 hunger strike in which he alleges that six of the hunger strikers need not have died as the prisoners had agreed to accept an offer from the Mountainclimber, only to be over-ruled by Gerry Adams.
Evidence which has now become available helps clarify a dispute sparked three years ago by the assertion of former IRA prisoner Richard O’Rawe that terms for ending the strike, accepted by the prisoners’ leadership in the Maze/Long Kesh, were rejected by IRA commanders outside. The implication is that the lives of six of the hunger strikers might have been saved if the prisoners hadn’t been overruled.
McCann also confirms Richard O’Rawe’s account on WBAI’s Radio Free Eireann (starts @ 42mins in; right click, save as): “I have confirmation of that. I have spoken to people who are certainly in a position to know what happened, who were in a position at that time to know exactly what was going on … Broadly speaking, the information which I now have, I am absolutely satisfied with, is that in blunt terms that Richard O’Rawe, on the key issue between himself and Danny Morrison and the others, that Richard O’Rawe was right and that those who were arguing against him were wrong.””I think that’s right…that Richard O’Rawe is telling the truth. … I don’t know what the motivation for the rejection, by the outside IRA leadership, for the rejection of the offer, which was made on 6/7th of July, at that time, I don’t know what the motivation was and therefore I can’t confirm the motivation, but I can confirm that it happened, that the prisoners’ acceptance of the deal was over-ruled by the outside leadership.”
“I have also spoken to the ‘Mountain Climber’; … of course, he didn’t know what was going on inside the prison, but the things that he did know and which he’s told me, confirm Richard O’Rawe’s account.”
From the Belfast Telegraph article:
During this period, negotiations being conducted through the Derry man known as ‘the Mountain Climber’ were stepped up.
O’Rawe’s allegation is that an offer from the Foreign Office, conveyed to McFarlane on July 5, two days before the fifth hunger-striker, Joe McDonnell, was to die, conceded three of the prisoners’ five demands and effectively conceded a fourth.
He says that McFarlane pushed a document containing these proposals along a pipe to his cell.
He maintains that it offered that prisoners could wear their own clothes, have remission restored and enjoy more visits and letters three of the five demands and that while prison work wouldn’t be eliminated, ‘work’ would be broadly defined so as to include educational and cultural activities. The one demand not covered was free association within the wings.
“It was a fantastic offer. I never expected it,” says O’Rawe. He recalls a shouted conversation between himself and McFarlane, two cells away.
“We spoke in Irish so the screws could not understand. I said, ‘Ta go leor ann’ there’s enough there.
“He said, ‘Aontaim leat, scriobhfaidh me chun taoibh amuigh agus cuirfidh me fhois orthu’ I agree with you, I will write to the outside and let them know.”
McCann spoke to a number of people who have confirmed O’Rawe’s account:
… a number of republicans, including former prisoners, have confirmed that O’Rawe did voice the allegations on more than one occasion before publication of his book.
One ex-prisoner who had been on the same wing as O’Rawe and McFarlane and who also claims to have heard the exchange says that, independently of O’Rawe, he broached the subject of the rejected deal with senior IRA figures during the 1990s.
More importantly, the man who was sharing a cell with O’Rawe in July 1981 confirms O’Rawe’s account: “Richard isn’t a liar. He told the truth in his book. I heard what passed between Richard and Bik (McFarlane). I remember Richard saying, ‘Ta go leor ann,’ and the reply, ‘Aontaim leat.’ There’s just no question that that happened.”
O’Rawe’s account of the negotiations as seen from “inside” will not be contradicted by the account from a different perspective contained in the BBC programme to be transmitted tonight focusing on the role of the ‘Mountain Climber’, Brendan Duddy.
And, in what seems to be a recurring problem for the Sinn Fein leadership:
The suspicions which still surround the events and which have damaged the republican leadership in the eyes of many former activists arise, it seems, not so much from O’Rawe’s narrative of what happened but from an adamant refusal on the part of the IRA leadership of the time to admit to serious and, in the end, fatal errors in their conduct of the hunger strike and from determined efforts to blacken O’Rawe’s name in an attempt to obscure the truth.
YouTube Clip from Peter Taylor’s The Secret Peacemaker: