Inch by inch, the truth is coming out. In a major concession, now that Richard O’Rawe’s account of the July Thatcher offer and prison leadership acceptance has been vindicated, Bik McFarlane has changed his story. Suddenly regaining his memory, he recalls a conversation with O’Rawe and comes up with never-before-revealed details of a conversation he held with the hunger strikers.
This is a major about-face from where he started, going from “That conversation did not take place, there was no deal, there was no offer, there was no rejection, it didn’t happen” to “Something was going down, this is amazing, this is a huge opportunity and I feel theres a potential here to end this.
Coming on the heels of Danny Morrison’s admission in last week’s Slugger discussion that the conversation between O’Rawe and McFarlane did in fact take place, and that the prison leadership did accept the British offer, this morsel of truth from McFarlane is to be applauded, however much it contradicts what Morrison has claimed elsewhere. McFarlane is a bit of a wild card like that for the Morrison narrative, not knowing when to agree there was no offer or deal, or exactly why the prisoners are to blame for the July offer rejection. More of it however, please, Bik and Danny. We’ll get the full truth out of yis yet.
In the meantime, let’s look at the remarkable recovery of McFarlane’s memory. Evolution of McFarlane’s memory:
28 February 2005
UTV interview with Fearghal McKinney: “There was no offer whatsoever.”
“He [Richard O’Rawe] uses me to give credence to his argument. It’s ‘Bik and Richard this’, and ‘Richard and Bik that’. And it’s totally erroneous, totally and absolutely erroneous,”
“Danny Morrison and myself had a visit together. He informed me that that morning the British had opened a line of communication to the republican movement in relation to the jail hunger strikes. My eyes widened.
“And he said to me ‘I am instructed to inform you, do not under any circumstances build up your hopes’.
“Danny then went and briefed the hunger strikers. I was able to go in and talk to them [and] went back to the block later that afternoon.
“I went back to the block, wrote out a quick note, passed it up to Richard, informed him that the British had opened up a line of communication.
“We were not to spread the word. I told him and I think I told one other member of camp staff. I told him again that we need to see what’s going to happen here.”
“There was no concrete proposals whatsoever in relation to a deal.
“According to Richard he has a deal done. Richard then says that he shouted down to me that ‘that looks good’. ‘I agreed’ and that I would write out to the army council and say that we would accept the deal.
“That is totally fictitious. That conversation did not happen.
“I did not write to the army council and tell them that we were accepting [a deal]. I couldn’t have. I couldn’t have accepted something that didn’t exist.
“He then says that the conversation continued at the window in Irish to confuse the prison guards so they wouldn’t hear. But there’s 44 guys on that wing who have Gaelic.”
“Not only did I not tell him. That conversation didn’t take place.
“No way did I agree with Richard O’Rawe that a deal was offered and that we should accept it and that I would write to the army council and say that ‘that is a good deal we’re accepting it’.
“And one thousand per cent, the army council did not write in and say ‘do not accept the deal’.”
REPUBLICAN hunger strike prisoners who died in the Maze prison in 1981 were never offered any deal from the Margaret Thatcher-led Government, according to Brendan Bik McFarlane.
There was never any deal, he said
The whole thrust of this is coming from information that certain journalists requested from the British Government. But the Government and the journalists didnt release it all so weve actually asked them to publish the whole lot because you will see, through an outline of their own documentation, that they did not have any deal.
The British opened the conduit, said McFarlane. They said it was to bring about a resolution. But they had to go in with a piece of paper to the hunger strikers and say have a read of it, and ask whether we wanted to accept what they were offering be it one or two concessions or whatever. But the British never came in because no deal existed and it didnt happen.
Something was going down, McFarlane said. And I said to Richard (ORawe) this is amazing, this is a huge opportunity and I feel theres a potential here (in the Mountain Climber process) to end this.
[The British had to] expand the offer, and they need to go into the prison hospital.
They (the hunger strikers) were at pains to say the Brits need to come forward,
They need to expand on it (the offer), and stand over it and it needed to be underwritten in whatever shape, form or fashion the British chose to do that. It needed to be confirmed.
We went through it step by step. The hunger strikers themselves said: OK the Brits are prepared to do business possibly, but what is detailed, or what has been outlined here isnt enough to conclude the hunger strike.
And they said to me, what do I think?
And I said I concur with your analysis fair enough but you need to make your minds up.
Something had to be written down. Something had to be produced to the hunger strikers, even to the extent that the Brits were saying, there it is, nothing more, take it or leave it, and thats the way the lads wanted clarity on this.
We were never given a piece of paper.
As we know now from the Gasyard meeting in Derry, a very concrete set of proposals went in to the prison. We also know that the conversation between O’Rawe and McFarlane accepting the offer took place because prisoners are coming forward confirming this. So the lie has shifted from complete denial to one of claiming to have given the hunger strikers in the hospital the full brief of the offer and it being rejected by them. This lie does not work because of a number of reasons.
First and foremost, it was after speaking with the hunger strikers in the hospital that McFarlane and O’Rawe agreed to accept the offer. As McFarlane himself now says today, “This is a huge opportunity and I feel theres a potential here to end this”.
In addition, the hunger strikers were not told the details of the Mountain Climber offer. As Laurence McKeown wrote in 2005, “Whether it was the ‘Mountain Climber’ or the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, we wanted definite confirmation, not vague promises of ‘regime change’.” Had the hunger strikers been presented with the offer as confirmed by Duddy they would have been told more than “vague promises of regime change”. This is backed up by Danny Morrison’s own interview for Padraig O’Malley’s Biting at the Grave, page 96:
…Danny Morrison was allowed to go into the Maze/Long Kesh to see the hunger strikers on the morning of 5 July to apprise them of what was going on, although he did not go into detail. Morrison says that he relayed information about the contact and impressed upon them the fact the ICJP could make a mess of it, that they could be settling for less than what they had the potential for achieving.
Bik’s own comm to Gerry Adams on 6 July, 1981, which was sent after receiving a comm that afternoon from the Adams cadre rejecting the prison leadership’s acceptance, also confirms this: “I spent yy [yesterday] outlining our position and pushing our Saturday document as the basis for a solution. I said parts of their offer were vague and much more clarification and confirmation was needed to establish exactly what the Brits were on about. I told them the only concrete aspect seemed to be clothes and no way was this good enough to satisfy us. I saw all the hunger strikers yesterday and briefed them on the situation. They seemed strong enough and can hold the line alright.”
In the same comm, a suggestion to request the British to come in and detail their offer to the hunger strikers – albeit the ICJP offer – is rejected by the hunger strikers themselves: “During the session, H. Logue suggested drafting a statement on behalf of the hunger strikers asking for the Brits to come in and talk direct, but the lads knocked him back.”
So how can the hunger strikers on the one hand, according to Bik today, reject the offer from the British because they wanted the British to come in to explain it to them in person, while in 1981 he was telling Gerry Adams that the hunger strikers rejected asking the Brits to come in and talk to them directly? How can Bik today claim that he went through the offer with the hunger strikers step by step, yet in 1981 he clearly says he told them that the offer was vague, and the only concrete aspect was on clothes? We know now that the offer was much more substantial than that. We also know Danny Morrison “did not go into detail” with the hunger strikers during his visit to the hospital on 5 July. Laurence McKeown is on record saying the offer was “vague promises of ‘regime change'” – which means he was told nothing about the true nature of the offer. This is also supported by Jake Jackson’s claim in Biting at the Grave (pg 96) that the hunger strikers didn’t know about the Mountain Climber initiative at that point – nevermind being told the full details of the offer that had come in via the link. Subsequent hunger strikers were also told nothing of the offer or rejection.
These people, Morrison and those supporting his narrative, are like a toddler who refuses to go to bed, in the way they begrudgingly give up bits of the truth a little at a time, while still clinging desperately to the shards of the lie. The toddler thinks he just may be able to stop going to bed if he resists and only moves an inch forward when told it is time. He thinks he is being clever, as he gets to stay up longer, and he is complying a little bit, so he rides the two horses, and just may be able keep riding the one he wants. The problem is, no matter what he does, he’s going to end up in bed anyway. By refusing to budge, he just makes things harder for himself and still ends up in bed. This is the same for Morrison, McFarlane, and all those who are mitigating the lie each time more of it is exposed. The truth is coming out, whether they admit to it or not. The more lies they continue to tell, the worse they make it for themselves. They are passing the point where they could have made it easy by admitting to the mistake made – and soon they are going to be thrown over the shoulder and carried to bed by their grassroots who will harbour a great resentment and anger towards them for not telling the truth in the first place when asked.
Earlier on Slugger:
I will not be attending and will not send a representative Gerry Adams refuses to attend public meeting about the hunger strikes
1981 Hunger Strike Truth Commission Includes text of British document of July offer and transcript of Willie Gallaghers speech at the Derry meeting
The Truth is a Heartbreaking Thing Initial summary of Derry meeting
Upcoming Debate: What is the Truth Behind the Hunger Strike? Announcement of public meeting and note of Radio Foyle debate between Raymond McCartney and Richard O’Rawe (also discussed on The Pensive Quill: A Shifting Narrative)
When in a hole… Contrasts between Danny Morrison’s position and previously published accounts of the time
What were the hunger strikers told? Questions emerge that cast doubt on what the hunger strikers knew when about what negotiations were being conducted on their behalf by the Adams subcommittee.
Links and background:
1986 excerpt from interview with John Blelloch, Mi5, by Padraig O’Malley (Bobby Sands Trust website)
“The Blelloch Interview”, Anthony McIntyre
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.
Previously on Slugger:
ORawes account confirmed: Hunger Strikers Allowed To Die (28 March 08)
Eamon McCann verifies Richard ORawes 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
ORawe and the Derry Journal (18 April 08)
Crucial question still unanswered
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)