“Let’s have the whole truth”

Richard O’Rawe today responds to Danny Morrison’s statement earlier this week with more questions. Statement and response follow the jump.
Danny Morrison, Secretary of the Bobby Sands Trust: “I welcome the release of documents by the British government under the Freedom of Information Act, though I believe that their withholding of one or two particular documents is deliberate and mischievous.

“What is of interest is that a close reading of the documents supports not the sensationalist construction that the ‘Sunday Times’ and others have put on them but what republicans have contended all along, that the British government did not want a settlement on terms acceptable to the prisoners and that they played along with the delegation from the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace.

“It has been known for decades that the Republican Movement and the British were in contact in July 1981 during the hunger strike. As a result of that contact I went into the prison hospital on Sunday, July 5th, and told Joe McDonnell, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Tom McElwee and Micky Devine, and told Brendan McFarlane, the leader of the prisoners, separately, that we were in contact and the details of what the British appeared to be offering in terms of the prisoners’ five demands.

“Because the prisoners at the end of the first hunger strike had experience of the British reneging on promised offers, and this reneging had led to the second hunger strike, the hunger strikers told me that they wanted a representative of the British government to come in and stand over what was on offer. Now, what the British were offering fell short of the five demands but whether it would have been enough to end the hunger strike was never put to the test because the British refused to meet the hunger strikers and stand over their offer. So there was never a deal.

“Those people who criticise the leadership for faithfully representing and echoing the five demands of the prisoners and trying to maximise their gains, especially after four hunger strikers had laid down their lives, would in all likelihood be criticising the leadership if it had tried to force on the hunger strikers acceptance of just one concession or two concessions from the British.

“Among the documents still being withheld by the British are the one whose contents were delivered verbally through an intermediary on July 5th and which I delivered verbally to the hunger strikers and Brendan McFarlane; and the one which the British rewrote hours before Joe McDonnell died on July 8th but which neither we nor the hunger strikers were given. They rewrote it, according to the newly released material, to alter its tone in response to a request, they say, by the Republican Movement. Crucially, if we accept this document then it indicates a Republican Movement anxious to settle, not prolong the hunger strike.

“The only reason the British could have for continuing to withhold this statement is simply to create and sustain confusion. These documents should be read alongside the timeline the Bobby Sands Trust has detailed. These documents also tally with a background interview from 1986 with a senior prison official, Sir John Blelloch, which he did not anticipate being published, but which the Trust released a few weeks ago.

In that interview Blelloch states: ‘There was absolutely no change in the government’s position.’

The documents in the ‘Sunday Times’ say: ‘The statement [the one still withheld – DM] contains, except on clothing, nothing of substance which has not been said publicly… It has been made clear (as the draft itself states) that it is not a basis for negotiation.’

“This was the real position of the British government and it is being lost among sensational claims which, unfortunately, are bound to cause pain to the families of the hunger strikers.” from the Bobby Sands Trust website, 7 April 09

Let’s have the whole truth about the Hunger Strike

It is encouraging to read (April 7) that Danny Morrison welcomed the newly-released Freedom of Information documents which show that the British government made an offer to end the hunger strike on July 5 1981, three days before hunger striker Joe McDonnell died.

However, the news of this offer reflects badly on the 1981 prison OC, ‘Bik’ McFarlane, who has consistently said that there was ‘no offer whatsoever’.

Whatever possessed Bik to say that in the first place is beyond me as Danny has always admitted the existence of the offer.

This debilitating fracture, which runs right down the spine of the conventional hunger strike story, can only but cast grave doubts on anything Bik McFarlane has said in the past while adding considerable weight to my assertion that he and I accepted the offer and that the outside leadership rejected our acceptance.

In the Freedom of Information documents, it is confirmed that Thatcher approved the offer from No10 Downing Street, but ?they [the PIRA] did not regard it as satisfactory and that they wanted a good deal more?.

As well as that, the documents state that the republican negotiators, Gerry Adams and Danny Morrison, changed their minds when the British warned that they were going to pull the plug on the process, and that this threat: ?produced a very rapid reaction which suggested that it was not the content of the message which they had objected to but only the tone?.

This begs some questions which Adams and Morrison must answer:

– Do they agree with this interpretation?

– If they do, why did they not inform the prison leadership, the hunger strikers, their families, and the Blanketmen about this enormous volte-face?

– If only a Parius softer’ tone stood between hunger strikers living or dying, why did they not make the most strenuous efforts to agree language with the British?

– How is it that the last six hunger strikers died – if there was no fundamental disagreement between them and the British on what constituted a settlement?

Perhaps Adams and Morrison do not agree with the British interpretation of events, as shown in the documents.

If this is the case, why then would Danny ‘welcome’ the documents and say that they ‘corroborated’ his account of events?

– Why are the NIO still blocking the release of information about the hunger strike?

– Is Gerry Adams ever going to break his silence about all this, and give republicans his version of events?

I call on the British to release all documents which they appear to have withheld, including the communications between themselves and Adams and Morrison.

Richard O’Rawe
Irish News, letters, 09/04/2009

Earlier on Slugger: Did Thatcher Kill All 10 or Only 4? – contains statements and interview excerpts

Links and background:

1986 excerpt from interview with John Blelloch, Mi5, by Padraig O’Malley (Bobby Sands Trust website)
“The Blelloch Interview”, Anthony McIntyre

Sunday 5 April 09:
‘Adams Complicit Over Hunger Strikers?’
NIO Documents on Sunday Times website
“The Thatcher Intervention”, Anthony McIntyre
IRSP Statement in response to NIO documents

Monday, 6 April 09:
Irish News: Hunger Strike deal ‘must be disclosed’
Irish Times: SF denies claims on hunger strike deaths
Radio Foyle, The Morning Programme (link lasts a week): Willie Gallagher, IRSP and Danny Morrison, begins @ 8 mins
Response from Kevin McQuillan to comments made by Danny Morrison in the Radio Foyle interview; scroll down a bit.

Tuesday, 7 April 09:
Irish News: Morrison rubbishes renewed claims of Hunger Strike deal
Bobby Sands Trust: Documents Still Withheld

Previously on Slugger:
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

O’Rawe and the Derry Journal (18 April 08)
Crucial question still unanswered

Blanketmen, by Richard O’Rawe
Danny Morrison
Jim Gibney
O’Rawe response to Gibney
Brendan McFarlane
Brendan Hughes
Interview with Richard O’Rawe

Further reading:

Irish News: Allegations of a rejected deal spark fury among republicans (1 March 2005)
Irish News: Was my father’s death PR exercise? (1 March 2005)
Irish News: Monsignor Faul regrets his ‘late intervention’ (1 March 2005)
Irish News: Hunger strikers’ lives not sacrificed — family (2 March 2005)
Daily Ireland: Hunger Strikers Story Brought to Book, Danny Morrison (2 March 2005)
Irish News: Hunger strikers’ deaths must be fully explained, says author (3 March 2005)
The Guardian: Hunger strike claims rile H-block veterans (4 March 2005)
Daily Ireland: McFarlane denies Hunger Strike deal was struck (4 March 2005)
Irish Times: Hunger strikers wanted more than vague promises, Danny Morrison (5 March 2005)
The Village: H-Block Hypocrisy (12 March 2005)
The Village: For the cause or caucus, Hugh Logue (ICJP) reviews O’Rawe’s Blanketmen (19 March 2005)

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  • It seems to me as far as this argument is concerned, there is an elephant in the room which has been sidestepped by both parties. Whom, at the start of the second Hunger Strike was given responsibility to either accept an offer, or call the strike off.

    The Republican movement must have forseen that the hunger strikers themselves might not be in no position to make such a decision.

    The question is who had that responsibility to OK a deal or call the whole thing off, the OC in the jail, possibly with his trusted confidents, or the outside republican leadership after taking advice from the OC, etc?

  • It seems to me as far as this argument is concerned, there is an elephant in the room which has been sidestepped by both parties. Whom, at the start of the second Hunger Strike was given responsibility to either accept an offer, or call the strike off.

    The Republican movement must have forseen that the hunger strikers themselves might not be in a position to make such a decision.

    The question is who had that responsibility to OK a deal or call the whole thing off, the OC in the jail, possibly with his trusted confidents, or the outside republican leadership after taking advice from the OC, etc?