“This is a huge opportunity and I feel there’s a potential here to end this”

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 there’s 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.”

11 March 2005

“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’.”

London, weekend of 17th May 2009

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 didn’t release it all — so we’ve 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 didn’t happen.”

Today, 4 June, 2009

“Something was going down,” McFarlane said. “And I said to Richard (O’Rawe) this is amazing, this is a huge opportunity and I feel there’s 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 isn’t 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 that’s 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 there’s 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 Gallagher’s 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.

“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

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)

  • oracle

    Rusty nail…. more like a big polished spike… driven right through the heart of this lie spun by the Adams wing of SF.

  • fin

    Rusty, we are on opposite sides of the fence, however, I am beginning to enjoy your posts on this and you do seem to attract celebs to Slugger to reply to you. Election day is probably not the best day for this as the feeding frenzy will be elsewhere.

    However my tuppenceworth is, without getting involved with the evolving story, that it appears to be a large amount of brinkmanship, and to be honest it lookslike the brits wanted the hungerstrikers to agree to something that was out there in the ether.

    I don’t know the full comm on rejecting the brits visiting the hospital wing, from what you posted its just not inviting them to visit, as I said it all seems to have been brinkmanship.

    Without degrading the hungerstrikes, the process is like any bargaining/sales process, act interested, act disinterested etc. Was this any different from farmers at a mart, saying the calf they wanted to buy looked sick and walking away, only to come back and make another offer, act interested in another animal, etc, etc.

    But keep it up, I really do hope Danny and others come back this time aswell.

  • Dec

    First and foremost, it was after speaking with the hunger strikers in the hospital that McFarlane and O’Rawe agreed to accept the offer.

    Did O’Rawe speak to the prisoners in the hospital?

  • jade

    why didn’t brian rowan pick up on the conflict between what mcfarlane says now compared to what he said in the past? is it because rowan is an incompetent journalist or because he has a dog in this fight?

  • anotherblanketman

    ”why didn’t brian rowan pick up on the conflict between what mcfarlane says now compared to what he said in the past? is it because rowan is an incompetent journalist or because he has a dog in this fight? ”

    Probally because he is that far up Danny’s arSe he’s used to beind fed shIte.

  • Billy Whiz

    The article reads like a Jack Hammer ripping through the foundations digging away for the truth.
    Will PSF fill in the cracks or just crack?

  • Paul

    I must be reading this wrong because to me it reads like a complete rebuke of rusty and his attempt to write a new narrative

    Silly me for taking a man at his word

  • jojo

    If they spoke to the hunger strikers, how come the INLA strikers or current IRSP leaders weren’t aware of any proposals?

  • Billy Whiz

    Paul, try reading it from top to bottom, as it does read funny from bottom to top.

  • anotherblanketman

    7.”I must be reading this wrong because to me it reads like a complete rebuke of rusty and his attempt to write a new narrative”

    It sure does look like you are reading it wrong as the only one, so far, attempting to write a new narative is Bic. Isn’t it strange that Barry never mentioned Bic’s earlier positions of ”no offers whatsoever”to today’s claims. Quite a contrast or maybe I am a silly me too.

  • Paul

    There wasn’t an offer if I read it right

    There was vague allusion to a vague promise from vague people who were so focussed on making a deal to end the hunger strike they wouldnt even write it down

    It wasn’t an offer or a deal it was a suckers bet where the sucker didn’t bite

  • andyetanother

    paul’s got it right; and if rusty thinks that he is on the right track i would urge him to ask the british government to release all relevant documents now. problem solved. of course s/he would be out of a hobby then.

    i read the sunday times ‘revelations’ as confirming that the brits were entertaining the idea of using new words but that nothing substantial was on offer from them. bik least of all bears the blame.

    no dog in this race. i’m not a shinner, but remember the hunger strikers proudly. thatcher let them die-not bik, not danny, not even adams.

  • Danny O’Connor

    The Brits wont release the documents because it would damage relations with the Irish govt,given that some of those involved are still prominent in Northern politics.
    Sorry but I dont know how to post the link,but it was part of a FOI request by Liam Clarke

  • End Censorship

    PSF should have no problem asking their British colleagues to release any information that would bring an end to this subject.
    If anything people are sympathetic to Bik as he is caught in the middle.
    In a free thinking society people can question political matter, if the political leaders choose to be vague or refuse to engage the questions, one would have to assume there is more than what has been said?
    Reading both sides without the blinkers on there are more questions than answers.
    It is not a matter of right or wrong rather a matter of truth.

  • henry

    brendan the dark hughes hit the nail on the head wen he called them profesiniol LIARS nough said

  • anotherblanketman

    I think Anthony McIntyre got it even more right when he said the Sinn Fein leadership lie like the way the rest of us breathe.

  • Sam Flanagan

    Do none of you “Republicans” think it strange the way this “Brendan Duddy,” character keeps cropping up in every important event that takes place?

    Do British Intelligence agencies just lift the phone book and pick a name at random?

    You would get to the heart of the matter if you did a little study on the tactics and strategy of the “Avishai Raviv” template.

    The penny dropped with Brendan Hughes it seems the rest of you are not that bright!

  • Billy Whiz

    What is your theory Sam? A few insults and a reference to a book will shed light on an issue of “truth” over politics?