What were the hunger strikers told?

Liam Clarke follows up on last week’s story about the 1981 hunger strike and secret deals in today’s Sunday Times. This week, it is members of the IRSP, including one former INLA hunger striker, whose memories of the time cast more doubt on the Sinn Fein denials and Morrison narrative of the hunger strike offer/deal. This follows the direct rebuttal earlier in the week from Kevin McQuillan clearly refuting Danny Morrison’s suggestion on Radio Foyle that he had told McQuillan of the secret deal while McQuillan was driving him to the prison: “This did not happen. If he had of appraised me of such a serious development, my first point of reference would have been to contact the National leadership of the Republican Socialist Movement, in particular those delegated with the struggle within the Blocks. At no point had I cause to.” Willie Gallagher’s statement last week on behalf of the IRSP also undermines Morrison’s claims: “…the IRSP has been speaking to relatives of the three INLA Hunger Strikers, ex-INLA Army Council members who were involved in the Strike at that time and also to the then OC of the INLA prisoners […] All have stated that they were not aware of the ‘back-channel initiative’ or of an ‘acceptance of the content of Thatcher’s offer but not the tone’ by the PIRA in July 8th 1981…Both the then INLA Army Council and the INLA prisoners OC have stated to the IRSP that if they had have been made aware of the content of these developments at that time they would have ordered the INLA prisoners to end their hunger strike.”

Former hunger striker Gerard Hodgins has said, “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.”

Former INLA hunger striker, Liam McCloskey, who went on hunger strike after the secret deal fell through, according to the Sunday Times “believed the offer would have been enough for him if the leadership of the INLA, of which he was a member, had endorsed it.” This forms a picture of men going on hunger strike without being in possession of the full facts of what had gone on before they joined the strike.

This picture is fleshed out further: “Sean Flynn, an IRSP leader […] met Kevin Lynch, an INLA hunger striker and friend of McCloskey, who was to die on August 1. Flynn is quite clear that Lynch “knew nothing about the Mountain Climber or that there was going to be a deal”.

Another then-IRSP leader, Tommy McCourt, also visited the prison: [he] “visited Michael Devine who died on August 20, the last hunger striker to expire. He told Devine that the hunger strike was unlikely to succeed and that if he came off it, the INLA would back him. Devine replied that to end the strike would represent complete defeat and moved the conversation on to his funeral arrangements. He was aware of no honourable way out.”

A clear picture is emerging that the INLA and IRSP were kept completely in the dark regarding the negotiations being conducted by the Adams team and the Mountain Climber. Given the amount of INLA prisoners on hunger strike, and that 3 of their volunteers died on the strike, 2 after the secret deal was claimed to have been accepted by the Provo prisoners’ representatives, O’Rawe and McFarlane, why were the IRSP and INLA kept in the dark?

What were the arrangements between the IRSP, INLA and the PIRA, Sinn Fein, in regards to negotiations with the British? Did the Provo representatives have carte blanche, and no need to keep the IRSP or INLA informed of developments or progression? Was it not required that they keep all hunger strikers, regardless of affiliation, informed? Given that the Provisional IRA Army Council was also kept in the dark regarding the complete activities of the Adams team’s negotiations with the British, the picture emerging of hunger strikers and their representatives also being kept in the dark, and allowed to proceed on hunger strike without being made aware of all that was on the table, is not one that should surprise anyone. It is, however, a terrible blow to the Morrison narrative of what had been, until O’Rawe’s book, the accepted version of the 1981 hunger strike.

Earlier on Slugger:

“Let’s have the whole truth” – Danny Morrison and Richard O’Rawe statements

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

IRSP Response to Downing Street Documents 02-04-09

The IRSP believe that these Downing Street documents, at face value, appear to vindicate Richard O’Rawe in the claims he made in regards to this crucial period of the Hunger Strike. These confidential 10 Downing Street letters, which were written contemporaneous, certainly contradict PSF’s version of events from that period. The IRSP have been investigating similar claims that are contained in these documents for quite some time and will be making their conclusions public after examining the evidence in its totality.

Over the past number of days the IRSP has been speaking to relatives of the three INLA Hunger Strikers, ex-INLA Army Council members who were involved in the Strike at that time and also to the then OC of the INLA prisoners about these particular documents. All have stated that they were not aware of the ‘back-channel initiative’ or of an ‘acceptance of the content of Thatcher’s offer but not the tone’ by the PIRA in July 8th 1981 which these documents clearly indicate.

Both the then INLA Army Council and the INLA prisoners OC have stated to the IRSP that if they had have been made aware of the content of these developments at that time they would have ordered the INLA prisoners to end their hunger strike.

Many questions now arise from these documents which only the NIO, PSF, the Mountain Climber and Brendan Duddy can answer and therefore the IRSP would call on all these parties to reveal all the documentation and information that are relevant to this period. The IRSP, on behalf of some of the relatives of the Hunger Strikers, will be seeking meetings with the relevant parties in the very near future.

Michael Devine Junior speaking this morning to the IRSP has stated that -“the families demand and deserve the truth about what really happened during this period. These latest disclosures have added substantial weight to previous claims that the last six hunger strikers lives could have been saved. Did my Father and his five comrades die because a number of individuals didn’t like the tone of Thatcher despite accepting the content of her offer? Why were the families or the prisoners themselves never told about the nature and content of these contacts? I would appeal to SF and the British Government, given their public positions on truth and reconciliation, to tell us the truth and give us closure.”
Willie Gallagher on behalf of the IRSP Executive 02-04-09

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:

Statement from Kevin McQuillan in response to Danny Morrison’s comments on Radio Foyle:

During the period of the Hunger Strikes(s) I sat on the Belfast Executive of the H-Block, then H-Block/Armagh Committee. I did so as the Republican Socialist prisoners’ representative. During this I time interacted and consulted with numerous senior members of the provisional movement in relation to the ongoing Prison campaign, and developments therein.

I wish to respond to claims made by Danny Morrison on Radio Foyle, yesterday April 6th 2009. I did take Danny Morrison (as I had other provisional representatives) to Long Kesh in July of 1981.

Whilst I have yet to personally hear the said interview, I am led to believe that Danny Morrison said that I was told of, or was already aware, of a set of proposals that were to be put to the prisoners, and that we had talked of this.

This did not happen. If he had of appraised me of such a serious development, my first point of reference would have been to contact the National leadership of the Republican Socialist Movement, in particular those delegated with the struggle within the Blocks. At no point had I cause to.

Clearly put…it did not happen.

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)

  • Re

    When organisations start telling half-truths and/or lies, the next logical exercise is to simply ask why and to then try to start connecting the dots.
    If there is some truth to the accusations about the hunger strike and that the outside Provisional leadership let their own people and the people of other organisations deliberately die terrible deaths, why did this possibly happen?
    I sense this is all about totalitarian control at the top by some insecure individuals. It reverts back to the age old adage that the emperor has no clothes.
    If one skips forward a decade-and-a-half and looks at the GFA and the legal commitments for “robust action” to promote the Irish language and then according to what I was told several years ago by a senior NI academic that “robust action” are merely “weasel words” used by senior civil service and politicans to deceive ordinary people, one starts to see a pattern of dots and lies and deception.
    It was the same Provisional leadership who were engaged in not ending the hunger strike and the same Provisionals who have engaged in attempting to destroy the Irish language. Publicly, one face is presenting. Behind the scenes just the opposite is taking place.
    The Provisional leadership needs to come clean on both the hunger strike and their campaign against the Irish language. It is time for the truth.

  • sj1

    Rusty,

    You left out RFE on Saturday which has a discussion of Liam Clarke and Ricky O’Rawe. It’s around 15 mins long, just scroll through until around the last fifteen minutes from the end. Its an excellent discussion.

    http://archive.wbai.org/

  • You there.

    Why oh why were there not more of them. That fella who murdered dozens in Omagh might have been the right age to suicide for holy ireland. He possibly was not in the prison at the time but at least a sympathetic `Im starving myself to death in my own home town` would have been a good plan. Look at the trouble that would have saved.

    If this happens again we will know to encourage the entire mass suicide(from these murdering toe rags)from,lets face it, toe rags.

  • Jimmy Sands

    It’s hard to see the legitimacy of the complaint. If the accusation is that their lives were sacrificed in order to further the “project” then is that not precisely what they had signed up for?

  • picador

    The people who are complaining now were happy to buy into Adams & co’s lie as long as it suited them. Now that it no longer suits them they scream about the truth.

    TRUTH NEVER MATTERED TO YOU BEFORE.

    IT’S A BIT RICH CRYING ABOUT IT NOW!

    Remind us why Bik McFarlane was inside in the first place.

  • picador

    Should have read lies (plural) BTW, cos the Provos told us thousands of them down through the years. Rusty was outraged by them all of course.

  • Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!!
    What would those three INLA hungerstrikers have to say about the conduct of the ‘inla’ today??
    Total shame, no doubt!
    Please, just go away and pack it in!!!!

  • Sorry!! If it comes from laim clarke, then it must be true??????