Eamon McCann’s Belfast Telegraph article and Radio Free Eireann interview about Richard O’Rawe’s account of the prisoner acceptance of a deal which would have saved the lives of six hunger strikers has created more questions than answers. McCann’s pieces were firm in his conviction that “Richard O’Rawe is telling the truth”, based on confirmations he had from the “Mountain Climber”, former prisoners on the same wing and Richard’s cellmate. Richard’s cellmate, Colm Scullion, was then quoted by the Derry Journal – in a confused piece, which, for example, referred to the Derry based INLA hunger strikers as being IRA, and also ran without a by-line – saying there was no deal but agreeing there was an offer. This was followed by a letter from Scullion to the Irish News, which Richard O’Rawe has answered today. The silence from Jim Gibney, Danny Morrison and Laurence McKeown, who were so vocal in denouncing O’Rawe the first time around, is noticeable now. They certainly weren’t shy about sticking an oar in before, even if their accounts then contradicted each other and historical record. This week’s Gibney column is about Gaza, while last week it was about Deaglán de Bréadún’s book. Answers that should be forthcoming from that quarter aren’t.
McCann could also write a follow-up piece which expands on the information he has been privy to that has so convinced him. Such an article would not be unwelcome.
The IRSP are investigating the claims and counter-claims; more about their findings can be read on their forum.
This is one controversy, the events of which are so seared in the public mind, which isn’t going to go away easily. It’s left too many questions and not enough answers.
Mrs Thatcher and her government were responsible for their deaths Colm Scullion Ex-prisoner, Co Derry, 09/04/08
In The Irish News (April 2) it said: A former IRA prisoner last night claimed that he had been totally vindicated after a man who shared a cell with him confirmed his account that republicans rejected a deal in 1981 which could have saved the lives of hunger strikers.
This is a reference to Richard ORawe.
I also believe it is a reference to me because I was on the blanket and shared a cell with Richard at this time during the hunger strike, July 1981.
I dont accept what is being said.
There was no deal.
I agree with Richard that there was certainly an offer which Richard was made aware of by Brendan McFarlane, who was a few cells away.
We all desperately hoped that there would be a deal.
Unfortunately, the British government refused to stand over or verify what it was offering.
It refused to send any of its representatives in to meet the hunger strikers and tragically
Joe McDonnell died and his death was followed by five more of our comrades.
Mrs Thatcher and her government were responsible for their deaths.
Ex-prisoner, Co Derry
Britains offer to end hunger strike is still cloaked in mystery, Richard ORawe, Belfast 11, 17/04/08
Colm Scullion avoids detail and keeps to what is the standard Sinn Fein line in relation to the 1981 hunger strike in his Irish News letter (April 9 2008).
However, Colm did contradict Bik McFarlane, the OC of the prisoners, when he said that Bik received the contents of a British offer on July 6 1981 and that Bik sent that offer down to me on his return from his meeting with Danny Morrison in the camp hospital. That is progress, because Bik had previously said that there was no offer whatsoever (see UTV Live, March 1 2008, in reply to interview with reporter, Fearghal McKinney).
Now that, I hope, it is universally accepted that there was a British offer sent into the prison leadership to consider, perhaps we can get answers to the many questions that this poses.
For example, what was Bik McFarlanes opinion of the offer?
Did he believe it constituted a settlement?
If so, did he convey this belief to the Committee, the caucus of republican leaders who had been designated by the IRA Army Council to advise on the running of the hunger strike?
It would be interesting to know what the committees view was on the offer.
Did they communicate their opinion to Bik? If not, why not?
Why did Bik, for 26 years, deny that an offer had been made?
Suffice to say that, on several occasions, Colm and I have had conversations, during which he did accept, that (1) there was an offer (2) Bik and I accepted that offer, and communicated our mutual acceptance in Irish, and (3) a comm came in from outside which rejected the offer.
Richard ORawe, Belfast 11