‘Adams complicit over hunger strikers?’

So asks the Sunday Times headline this morning, after accessing NIO papers which confirm Richard O’Rawe’s account of an offer being made via an MI6 back channel approved by Thatcher that the prisoners accepted and could have saved the lives of 6 hunger strikers. So why did the Adams team scupper the deal? Because they didn’t like Thatcher’s ‘tone’? Was that reason enough for six men to die? Former hunger striker Gerard Hodgins says, “If I had had the full facts at the time — that there was a deal on offer — I definitely wouldn’t have had anything to do with the strike.” The INLA lost 3 volunteers on this hunger strike, 2 of them after this deal had been, according to O’Rawe and now given weight by the Freedom of Information release of papers detailing the offer, accepted. Willie Gallagher, IRSP spokesman says: “Both the then INLA Army Council and the officer commanding have stated to the IRSP that if they had been made aware of the content of these developments at the time, they would have ordered the INLA prisoners to end their hunger strike.” Read the full documents on the Sunday Times website. [pdf] Papers suggest IRA subbed a conciliatory offer from Margaret Thatcher to ensure Sinn Fein by-election win to Westminster: Was Gerry Adams complicit over hunger strikers? by Liam Clarke. See also:
O’Rawe’s account confirmed: Hunger Strikers Allowed To Die (28 March 08)
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.

Hunger Strike Controversy Has Not Gone Away, You Know (17 April 08)
Many background links

  • Chris Donnelly

    So, Liam Clarke quotes from documents selectively released under the Freedom of Information Act, yet they confirm accounts of the hunger strike as contained in ‘Ten Men Dead’, ‘Biting at the Grave’, statements from the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, and in a more recently revealed interview from 1986 published on the Bobby Sands Trust website – see http://www.bobbysandstrust.com/archives/1069.

    The latter actually devastates his story, and is summarised as: “There was absolutely no change in the government’s position” – Sir John Blelloch.

    Interestingly, even the subs at the ‘Sunday Times’ appear to have their doubts – “Papers suggest IRA subbed a conciliatory offer”.

    How can Clarke be taken seriously when he ignores such a primary source?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    As an outsider looking in, perhaps you can explain to me some things Chris.

    Why invest so much political capital in the interview by someone whom ‘mainstream’ republicans acknowledge is MI5, who is putting forward the Government’s public position, and not in the Clarke documents, which reveal more private thinking?

    I’m not familiar with all the detail, but there’s a difference between what Blelloch says (‘no change in Govt position’) and what the Govt was apparently offering – own clothes and movement on prison work.

    The Govt saying ‘our position has not changed’ is surely for public consumption, to avoid being seen to give in on any of the prisoners’ demands. Blelloch arguing that ‘if we gave in on any demand, the prisoners would pocket it and demand more concessions’ is a good cover for the Govt’s public position.

    Saying Clarke is being selective is a bit of a non-argument – the Govt decides what to release, and it even states in its accompanying letter that hasn’t released certain information in order not to jeopardise the devolution of policing and justice, essentially to protect Sinn Fein’s position.

    Also, it could easily be argued that Blelloch has been selective too, as his interview completely fails to mention MI6’s role in the hunger strike. We now know about that role, but his failure to mention it seems to reinforce the notion that his interview was for public consumption, even if it didn’t enter the public domain until much later.

    I’ve no axe to grind, nor am I any hunger strike expert, but I find it odd that SF and its supporters have so much faith in what is essentially MI5 propaganda, while private notes revealing Thatcher’s true thinking and suggesting movement by the Government are so easily dismissed.

  • “The latter actually devastates his story, and is summarised as: “There was absolutely no change in the government’s position” – Sir John Blelloch.”

    Well, of course they’ll say that. Republicans trust the British when it suits their narrative and then cast doubt when it doesn’t. Can’t have it both ways.

  • picador

    I just found this fascinating piece on the Guardian website.

    How Maggie is remembered in her home town

    Personally, I think she was a witch who prolonged our sordid little ‘war’ for another ten years through her bloody-minded intransigence. Her handling of the hunger strikes was nothing short of disastrous.

  • Reader

    picador: Personally, I think she was a witch who prolonged our sordid little ‘war’ for another ten years through her bloody-minded intransigence.
    In the alternative scenario, when and how did the war end?

  • picador

    Seeing as you are such a smart-arse I will leave you figure it out. 😉

    Suffice to say that Maggie’s bloodymindedness drove another generation into the arms of the republican death and gun cult. She gave a lifeline to a movement that was going nowhere.

  • Brian MacAodh

    I’m sure Eamon McCann would be privy to inside information in negotiations between the PIRA and the M15…

  • Brian MacAodh

    “If we’re to take these quotes at their word, We must be prepared to believe that Lawrence McKeown – a highly intelligent man who spent 5 years on the blanket and 70 days on hunger strike and only survived it because his parents took him off of it while he was in a coma – is protecting a leadership, which includes Gerry Adams, that was allegedly willing to allow him and others to die so that they could secure electoral advantage at a time when support within the Republican Movement for electoral politics was limited and by no means settled.

    I’m sorry but that is more of a stretch than I am prepared to make. “

  • Reader

    picador: Seeing as you are such a smart-arse I will leave you figure it out.
    Well, to start with, I think there was a limit to how far she could go, irrespective of any issues over the pace. ‘Political Status’ was just too close to ‘Political Prisoner’ – and I don’t think that should be applied to bombers and gunmen. ‘Special Category’ fit the bill, in the end.
    The second problem is that, irrespective of the issue (P&J or Political Status), and the adverse comments you and ‘Sammy’ might make on the armed struggle, the only actual proposal, ever, for any issue, is concessions to republicanism. You would blame Thatcher for being intransigent – would you condemn her intransigence half so much if you agreed with me that she was right? But that too, is an aside.
    So here is the alternative history:
    Thatcher concedes Political Status immediately, or after the first couple of suicides; Scenting weakness, the Provos line up the same set of patsies to starve themselves for the next concession. Repeat until Thatcher gets a spine – and history then repeats itself from that point.
    Don’t you wonder why the IRA never repeated the hunger strikes for other objectives? Political objectives, perhaps.

  • Reader

    Brian MacAodh: …is protecting a leadership, which includes Gerry Adams, that was allegedly willing to allow him and others to die so that they could secure electoral advantage at a time when support within the Republican Movement for electoral politics was limited and by no means settled.
    Why not? It’s the only game in town at the moment, and the strategy was ‘settled’ before this issue came up.
    You can more or less predict an old republican’s position on this matter of fact by whether they are pro or anti agreement right now. Truth, as ever, subordinated to the cause. First, pick the cause, then pick the truth.