O’Rawe and the Derry Journal

FAO Those following the hunger strike controversy: As noted yesterday, the Derry Journal had carried a rather confused piece quoting Richard O’Rawe’s cellmate, Colm Scullion, in the wake of the claims by Eamon McCann. Today, they refer to complaints made by O’Rawe and carry an instant rebuttal from Greg Harkin. The heart of the matter comes down to semantics over the words “deal” and “offer”, as Harkin writes, “Mr O’Rawe’s entire argument rests on what constituted a ‘deal’ or ‘offer'”.

However, that misses the point of O’Rawe’s issue. The argument about “deal” and “offer” is a semantic cul de sac that ultimately goes nowhere as what emerges is that there was an “offer”, or “proposal” or “deal” or whatever term you want to use, that came into the prison from the British. O’Rawe’s issues rest on the acceptance of that offer by the prisoners, i.e., he and Bik agreeing there was enough there, and sending word out. What happened from that point is what is causing the problems, and to focus on anything else loses the plot. Obviously the prisoners’ acceptance as O’Rawe recalls it was over-ruled. Why? And if it was as simple as the fear of the British not upholding their end of things, then why not say that from the start? Why the rush to rubbish O’Rawe, and divert the discussion with forensic examination of semantic cul de sacs? Colm Scullion confirming there was an offer but no deal doesn’t add anything new, other than to confirm that O’Rawe’s claims about the offer he says they accepted did exist. If the prisoners’ acceptance was overruled by the Hunger Strike committee on the outside, of course there would be no deal.

When his book came out, we started from a position of having the offer denied. The outcome, of course, was always that there was no deal made. Now we have the offer O’Rawe wrote of confirmed. So what happened to the acceptance? That has always been O’Rawe’s question.

  • Grassy Noel

    ‘So what happened to the acceptance. That has always been O Rawe’s question.’

    Good try, Rusty, and a fair rearguard action on his behalf but your slip is showing.

    I can’t remember 1981 too good as I was still in short trousers, but 2005 when this book came out is still fresh in my mind.

    Then, the angle was that the IRA leadership ‘overruled’ the prisoners and ‘allowed them to die’. This was spelled out in black and white, time and again and was never rejected by O Rawe.

    It is telling that, in the face of Harkin’s forensic rebuttal, O Rawe’s own words from the time, and Scullion’s first had account (after being hojacked by McCann on the back of O Rawe) you – and I suppose, by extension – O Rawe are now being somewhat Jesuitical about what exactly all the fuss over his book was about.

    Surely the time for zeroing in on this was back when the book came out, or is it a case of having been painted into a corner and using this as the only means of escape.

    I should add, the reason I take an interest in this is because I was at school during this period with the son of one of the hunger strikers.

    My parents kept us well out of politics, and for most of my adult life I could only really describe my own politics as vaguely non-unionist.

    Howeever, this whole chapter showed the Thatcher government at its most callous, and I think O Rawe’s book, when it came out, detracted attention away from that barbarity.

  • Rusty Nail

    Grassy Noel,

    You wrote: “Then, the angle was that the IRA leadership ‘overruled’ the prisoners and ‘allowed them to die’. This was spelled out in black and white, time and again and was never rejected by O Rawe.”

    I wrote: “So what happened to the acceptance? That has always been O’Rawe’s question.”

    Jesuitical you may call it, however, to me it amounts to the same. If you accept O’Rawe’s claim that they accepted the “offer”, the outside leadership then overruled them and six more hunger strikers died. So what happened?

    When his book came out, the standard line from was that there was no “offer”, a word which was used alongside the word “deal”.

    Now we are at the point where we have the “offer” confirmed.

    With that out of the way, the only thing left is whether O’Rawe is correct that he and Bik agreed to accept the offer and send word of that acceptance out. Bik says this did not happen, O’Rawe says it did, Scullion is watery.

    So, giving O’Rawe the benefit of the doubt, what happened to that acceptance, did Bik send it out, if he did then why did the leadership over-rule the prisoners and allow six men to die?

    Or did O’Rawe just dream the part about him and Bik agreeing there was enough there to accept, and that Bik was to send word out that they would accept the offer?

    I think the fuss remains the same now as it was then, we just no longer have to debate whether there was an offer or not, we can move on to the next part of the problem. What happened to the acceptance of the offer?

  • B

    Mate, the brits wouldnt standover what they toldthe Commssion, the Irish commission,and what they told the movment. as simple as that.

  • Rusty Nail


    So you are saying that the prisoners did accept the offer? That O’Rawe is correct when he writes of Bik and he agreeing there was enough there, and sending word out?

    Fair enough.

  • Janus

    Does Bik McFarlane now accept that on July sixth 1981, Danny Morrison relayed to him an offer from the British government and that he sent that offer to O’Rawe upon his return from the prison hospital? And let’s not confuse the issue any more: we’re talking about the Mountain Climber offer — not the ICJP one. Yes or no?

  • B

    hunger strikers did not accept the offer but wanted to see if itwere geinuine andwanted to test the Brits to see if they were sincere. the Brits never went in and woudlntgo in except to say to Lorney tht there was no change in their position. ricky DId saythere was a deal whenthere wasnt. ricky hasn’t explianed how the hunger strikerswere to accept what was thin air.and maybe trgger a third hungerstrike. brits wouldn;’t even write it down.the offer down I mean. i know.

  • Dec

    Funny that both O’Rawe and McCann (& others) used the (hitherto anonymous)cellmate’s corroboration of O’Rawe’s account as damning witness evidence against the SF line, however when the cellmate (using his own name) refutes this account, phrases such as ‘confused pieces’ and ‘watery’ are used. Cue the sound of goalposts being hastily moved. One thing is clear: O’Rawe was wrong about the cellmates account and his painfully weak man-playing rebuttal in the Irish News this week did his case no favours.

  • Rusty Nail


    So Ricky and Bik did get the offer and did agree there was enough there, but the word that Bik sent out was not an acceptance of the offer but wanting further confirmation, or acceptance upon further confirmation, is this what you are saying? If you know this, how do you know? You were on the wing, a hunger striker, or you are Bik or one of the H/S committee? Why did you not say this when Ricky’s book came out, instead of trying to pretend that there was no offer at all? Surely that would have been much simpler than all the convoluted semantic wordplay and character attacks that went on?

  • B

    mate I don’t haveto explain myselg to you or anyone.canyou not undestand a simple fact.brits wouldn’t stand overwhat they told Duddyin derry and whatthey told theccommissioners.they wouldn’tgo in.its you whos talkingwordplay. didn’t matter if ricky or bik or me oryou orthe whole ofthe blcoks thought anoffer wasgood orbad ordifferent. brits wouldntstand over it end of story
    youpiss people off goingon and on when you know nothing

  • Lorraine

    in the turbulent times of 1981 a man possibly came up with a plan to utilise the hunger strike for the advancement of a political front; this political front would grow in strength in direct proportion to a diminishing need for armed struggle. it worked. and today we can all look back with hindsight and analyse the differences between an offer and a deal but the strategy worked and relieved us from the pain of war. i don’t think this was a cynical plot to make martyrs, it was a determined effort to win a war.

  • Rusty Nail


    You are making statements and being asked to clarify and stand over them. You claim to “know” and are being asked to explain how you know. Given the subject matter it is a narrow pool you are swimming in with regards to how you would “know”. You have made a statement claiming some authority; put up or shut up.

    You also appear to be accepting that there was indeed the offer that O’Rawe claims and that it was good enough for the prisoners to seek confirmation of; that brings us further from where we were before, and if you have the authority you claim, this should be made plain, for what you are saying helps clear things up.

    However it also begs the question why you weren’t so forthcoming earlier.

    I am not trying to talk word play, I am attempting to seek clarification from what you have written.

  • Rory

    ‘On July 23rd , two weeks after McDonnell’s death, O’Rawe wrote: “…only direct talks between the British and ourselves…can guarantee clarity and sincerity and thus save lives…At present the British are looking for what amounts to an absolute surrender. They are offering us nothing that amounts to an honourable solution…”‘

    These words of O’Rawe’s shortly after McDonnell’s death completely contradict his assertion in his book many, many years later (and today) that the British had made an offer, prior to McDonnell’s, death which he found acceptable.

    Which O’Rawe are we to believe? Given the starkness of the sharp contradiction we may have to indeed conclude, “Which O’Rawe can we believe?”.

  • curious

    ‘On July 23rd , two weeks after McDonnell’s death, O’Rawe wrote: “…only direct talks between the British and ourselves…can guarantee clarity and sincerity and thus save lives…At present the British are looking for what amounts to an absolute surrender. They are offering us nothing that amounts to an honourable solution…”’

    Danny Morrison used this same arguement when this controversy first arose using O’Rawe’s (propoganda)comms, in fact one would be forgiven for thinking that Harkin plagerised Danny. O’Rawe’s rebuttal of Morrison’s statement pointed out that both he and Danny were both guilty of propoganda at that time and pointed out the news clip on RTE were Morrison was interviewd after visiting Bobby Sands the day after the first huger strike ended. In that interview Danny stated that Bobby was ”jubilant”. Yet Jim Gibney stated that he read a comm from Bobby which was written immediatedly afer the first strike ended were he said that he was going to begin another hunger strike on 01-01-81. Was Bobby really jubilant Danny or was this just propoganda that you and others like O’Rawe were propogating at that particular time?

  • Lorraine

    i don’t think this was a cynical plot to make martyrs, it was a determined effort to win a war.

    According to your post it was both. But if it were true that Adams thought in 1981 in the way that you are thinking now – that ten lives were needed to further his political agenda then it would be the most crass cynicism the world has ever know. It would be utterly evil.

    I personnally think that you are right. But that his thinking was that that the deaths would inspire the war effort and that they would win.

    The sheer pornography of the thought processes leading to that end in relation to his friends on the inside would tell me and any reasonable person that Adams is a cold, conniving, evil man.

    He is the Antichrist according to my defintions of such beings, having seven heads (seven man army council) and ten horns (ten wasted men).

  • Rusty Nail

    Rory, I do not follow you. Re-reading the relevant chapters in the book, I do not find the contradiction you claim there is.

    On page 200, O’Rawe writes:

    “Another comm came in from Adams on 22 July, stating that talks with the Mountain Climber (MC) had broken down once more and that nothing new was on offer. Adams outlined the Army Council’s (AC) view that we were facing two options: to end the hunger strike immediately without accepting the MC’s proposals or to stay on hunger strike, basically hope for the best and pray that at some time in the future the British government would concede to our five demands. He then repeated the AC’s opinion that the MC’s proposals did not provide the basis for an honourable settlement. The reason given was that there was too much distance between the MC’s offer and what was needed to validate the deaths of the six hunger strikers.”

    On page 214, excerpt from a comm written by Bik McFarlane to Gerry Adams, 28 July:

    “I put our position straight to them all. Firstly, that cutting me out to gain a propoaganda victory was dangerous and that it in itself would not save the boys’ lives. Secondly, that we had two options – 1. pursue our course for the five demands, or 2. capitulate now. I told them I could have accepted half-measures before Joe McDonnell died, but I didn’t then and I wouldn’t now.”

    Then, page 219:

    “Bik replied to Paddy by telling the hunger strikers that they had two options: pursue our course for the five demands, or capitulate immediately. “I told them that I could have accepted half-measures before Joe died but that I didn’t then and wouldn’t now”.
    Those ‘half-measures’ were a reference to the first Mountain Climber’s proposals. I have to say I was taken aback and vexed when I first read this comm in 1985. Clearly Bik is relating to Adams the conversation that he had had with the hunger strikers the previous night and, taken at face value, one would have to assume that Bik was being less than forthright with the hunger strikers because he did in fact accept the proposals. I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about this and concluded that Bik was being truthful to the hunger strikers. This is because, in light of the Army Council’s rejection of the MC’s offer, both he and I had unambigously accepted the view of our peers.
    Difficult as it may seem for an outsider to understand, Bik’s role in all this was subject to the laws of command and control. His authority had been critically undermined by the AC’s rejection of the MC deal before Joe McDonnell died. After that, he was a mere extension of the AC, condemned to take orders or advice from them. In the absence of an order from the Council to end the hunger strike, he saw his role as following the AC line. If his voice had been listened to way back when the MC had made his offer, Joe McDonnell and the five other prisoners who died after him would be alive today.”

    Ruairi O Bradaigh has since rejected the idea that the AC was calling the shots:

    “I am convinced that the IRA army council of that time did not reject the British government offer of early July 1981 (which was sponsored by the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace), resulting in the deaths of six more hunger strikers,” Mr O’Bradaigh said.

    “I knew that it was not the policy of the republican movement to prolong the hunger strike until the by-election which followed from Sands’s death.

    “I believed then, and still do, that the terms for the settlement were a matter for the H-block prisoners themselves.”

    Which leaves the fatal decision in the hands of the Hunger Strike Committee.

    Oddly enough, Jonathan Powell’s recent book gives some insight into what may have happened with regards to the negotiations going on between Gerry Adams and the Mountain Climber.

    Continued next post.

  • Rusty Nail

    On page 162 of “Great Hatred, Little Room,” Powell writes:

    “When he (George Mitchell) came to see us on 3 November, he described Adams and McGuinness as “natural-born chisellers” – they would always come back asking for one last concession. It was true that the Republicans were addicted to over-negotiating. They would keep going, hoping that they could squeeze out one final thing, when often they would have been better off settling earlier, because each time the talks broke down, the price they had to pay next time had gone up.”

    We see this in action in O’Rawe’s account. On page 184:

    “On the afternoon of 6 July, a comm came in from the AC saying it did not think that the MC’s proposals provided the basis for a resolution and that more was needed. … The Council was hopeful, though, that the MC could be pushed into making further concessions. As usual, the comm had come from Gerry Adams, who had taken on the unenviable role of transmitting the AC’s views to the prison leadership.”

    Page 188:

    “On the day that Joe died, a comm came in from Adams to say that he had been by the telephone all night awaiting a call from the MC, anticipating that it would contain the vital second offer. But in Adams’s express opinion, the MC had been under the assumption that Joe had had a few more days left in him (an assumption we shared) and had delayed making the crucial second offer, preferring to take matters to the wire in a battle of nerves.”

    Perhaps, as has been suggested before, it was incompetence, this “addiction to over-negotiating”, rather than anything more Machiavellian, that led to the rejection of the prisoners’ acceptance of the MC proposal. Only in this case the price to pay for holding out for something better to come around was the lives of six volunteers.

  • Far from being a forensic rebuttal, what Harkin has produced is a cut and paste job, by producing the publicly statement that O’Rawe put out he is totally ignoring what Richard’s role was back then. O’Rawe was the blanketmens publicity officer, thus his job was not to argue publicly about past decisions but show the hunger strikers, the RM in the best light; and expose the British government for what they were, a bloody disgrace; and that is what he was trying to do in the quotes published by Harkin.

    They have no relevance to this debate not least because the HS was still going on when he made them, what these quotes do show though is despite his doubts Richard remained loyal to the RM and its command structure.

    The man has doubts about what occurred, instead of trying to beat O’Rawe down, why cannot the PRM deal with the questions he and others have raised, if there are differences of opinion about what led up to these mens deaths, surly they and their families deserve the truth. The PRM has an archive of comms and most of the participants are still alive so the solution to me seems obvious. That the PRM refuses to go down this road raises more questions and will continue to do so, the truth is the most powerful weapon in a freedom fighters armory.

  • Greg Harkin misses the point entirely about Richard O’Rawe’s intervention. It is not about a deal or no deal, an offer or no offer. This is about a leading republican, with an intelligent and compassionate mind, telling the whole world that Gerry Adams, together with the rest of the Army Council he allegedly belonged to, sacrificed their own men to further their entry into politics. It doesn’t get more evil than that.

    I am minded of my own theories in relation to this individual:-

    First of all, I believe that Gerry Adams is the Antichrist because of the coincidence that his name comes out at 666 on my numeric alphabet (see website), a numeric alphabet that I discovered during my years at St Columb’s College in Derry and further investigated during my years at University College Galway. If his name didn’t come at 666, using some reasonable means, then I would not believe that he is the Antichrist. He would simply be to me just another delinquent who leads a very large conspiracy to undermine Ireland.

    Second of all, due to another pertinent coincidence his name contains “Adam”, the name of the first man, and from a theological point of view, this adds much to the basis of him being the Antichrist. Adam coincidentally means ‘man’ in Hebrew, and the number of the beast is specifically described as “man’s number” (Rev 13:18).

    Click on my name for more.

  • Refert

    What did the hunger strikers commit suicide in the name of? They committed suicide in the name of the conquest of territory for their ethnic group and the extension of sovereignty over an area in which the majority of people resident were opposed. What is noble about that? It’s about as noble as the aims (if arguably not the methods) of Milosevic or Karadzic.

  • Ard Eoin

    Can you keep your ill informed notions to your self in what is a reasonable debate thus far. To strain a point the HS was not a direct attempt to acheive “the conquest of territory for their ethnic group and the extension of sovereignty over an area in which the majority of people resident were opposed”; their protest was undertaken in order to acheive political status and judging by the current political situation noone can argue that everyone has recognised the legitimate political aspirations of Irish Republicans, I am sure that you will attempt to say that they were ‘terrorists and murderers’, but this tag was attatched to Pearse, Connolly, Collins, Castro, Guevara and Mandela in their day. So please stay out of this debate unless you have something constructive to say and keep your diatribe for a more suitable situation.

  • deadmanonleave

    Ard Eoin, you put your point far, far more articulately than I could.

    The questions being asked are of massive significance to all in the Republican movement, and I am quite certain that the truth will out, and will show some of the SF hacks, sorry, but that’s what I feel and see, up for what they are.

    Whatever one’s reservations about O’Rawe, McCann and Willie Gallagher, I believe that they have a serious interest in bringing the truth out, untainted by a quest for office or whitewashing their past.

  • McKelvey

    (RustyNail) did Bik send it out, if he did then why did the leadership over-rule the prisoners and allow six men to die?

    This would only make any sense if you believe that the leadership had the authority or the ability to order people to continue a hunger strike.

    The final decision to accept or reject anything was the prisoners alone to make. I don’t think there is a surviving hunger striker who disputes this.

  • Mckelvey

    The final decision to accept or reject anything was the prisoners alone to make.

    Or it was the leadership’s role outside the Maze (and inside) to make the prisoners believe this. Surely there was enormous pressure to do the job to its completion coming from the entire Republican Movement. In that sense all are culpable but that the leadership must take the rap as they could have insisted on a different route.

    It still comes back to Gerry Adams’ role and it will continue ever more to come back to haunt him. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, a time when SF/republicans were regularly losing their deposits in even council elections. Now they were big boys because they could allow ten of their men to starve themselves to death, six of whom didn’t even need to die on their own terms.

  • Mckelvey

    You are correct in what you write and it is why I say there are no villains here, however it is not the whole story. One of the reasons why the AC delegated some of its members to liaise ‘closely’ with the hunger strikers, was because the prisoners due to there confinement were unlikely to be able to make a judgement with the benefit of the whole picture. After all people like mountain climber and the like were not negotiating with the prison chain of command [Bik]

    Thus when there were offers real or imagined it was important that those on the outside expressed an opinion to the prisoners about whether or not they were worth considering. We now know on at least one occasion when Adams was asked for his opinion, he said it was for the prisoners to decide. Now with hindsight this was a poor decision at best by Gerry, as in truth the prison CO was not in a position to make a realistic judgement due to the fact that he had the weight of dead hunger strikers on his shoulders and he was unlikely to call the strike off without a very firm deal, as he was conscious of the fact that were he to make the wrong call, the six men may have died for sod all.

    (this is why it is vitally important we know whether there was an offer that Bik thought was enough to stand the men down. Or could the conversation in question have been simply Bik and Richard momentarily clutching at straws in the hope of bringing this deadly thing to an end and saving lives?

    That the aforementioned weight of any decision also weighed heavily with the RM leadership outside the Maze I have do doubt, but not to the extent of the Jail OC.

    In many ways this kerfuffle is yet another example of the Adams leadership having primed the RM membership that they are infallible, thus they are not prepared to step back from this infallibility and even listen to Richard’s point of view.

    Perhaps it is time Gerry pondered on Euripides words, “Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.”

  • Rory

    “… they are not prepared to step back from this infallibility and even listen to Richard’s point of view.”

    But Richard O’Rawe’s (revised) account has been well aired and listened to, Mick. That is precisely the reason for all this present polemic. It has been listened to and it has been countered by those in a better position to know.

    Clearly you, and others are not happy with that and will not be happy until everyone uncritically accepts O’Rawe’s (revised) account and rejects those of Bik McFarlane, Colm Scullion and Rory Brady among others.

    So who is donning the cloak of infallibility with least claim to it? Clearly it is those who, out of whatever animus they have towards Gerry Adams, accept Richard O’Rawe’s (revised) account in a downright devious attempt to smear Adams while whitewashing the Brits. It stinks of the same dirty tactics that were utilised by Corrigan and Williams and McKeown in their quest for Nobel gold.

  • Rory

    If Adams is the good guy everybody has smeared and Corrigan and Williams and McKeown in their quest for Nobel gold are the bay guys you have a real problem with the concept of good and evil.

  • Rory

    I would add that a man who was instrumental in bringing the terror tactic to Ireland – a tactic that is defined simply as the tactical use of human suffering – is as evil as they get.

    Don’t listen to me just listen to the references to him inthe Book of Revelation:-

    The descriptions of the beasts in the Book of Revelation are interesting.

    ‘The inhabitants worshipped the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed,’ (Rev 13:12). Coincidentally, Gerry Adams was shot and wounded in 1984, but recovered. Afterwards, he became Sinn Fein president and one of the foremost politicians in Northern Ireland. The use of violence for him is a matter of tactics. That is a matter of fact and record. Gerry Adams has not stepped away from violence. He believes in his own words that “there is a time for peace and a time for war”, mocking the Prince of Peace and equating Christ with the Antichrist, good with evil.

    The first beast, who is said to be the Antichrist, is prophesied to have “seven heads” (Rev 13:1), which is coincidentally the number of heads on the IRA army council, including Gerry Adams’ allegedly.

    “Who can make war against him?” (Rev 13:7). The IRA has been described as ‘the most sophisticated terrorist organisation in the history of mankind’. Their structure makes it impossible for a conventional army to defeat them

    Gerry Adams fulfilled another prophecy during the run-up to the 2007 Assembly election campaign in the North of Ireland. This involved him requesting the use of Clonard Monastery (Roman Catholic) church in West Belfast for a political meeting discussing his party’s policy. He still believed that armed struggle was a legitimate means of resolving differences.

    When Gerry Adams took to the altar of Clonard monastery while his beliefs were in conflict with Christ’s teaching, he was proclaiming himself to be wiser than God and better than Jesus Christ. He was in logic proclaiming himself to be God.

    “[The man of lawlessness or the Antichrist] will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thes 2:3-4)