Sleepwalking into the past? Liam Hannaway’s hunger strike.

With the ongoing protests against conditions in Maghaberry, a dead hunger striker is not in anyone’s interests but that seems a growing risk in the much overlooked case of Liam Hannaway. Hannaway is two years into a 10-year sentence for possession of explosives and ammunition and is on Hunger Strike. His situation seems complex and I have no personal insight but the Andersonstown News initially reported on it while the IFC have a more recent article:

Liam was sentenced ten years in 2008 for possession of explosives. While still on remand at Maghaberry prison, Liam was approached by prison staff and told that an alleged death threat had been put on his life by unnamed republicans. These alleged `threats’ have never been substantiated. An extensive inquiry by his well-known republican family has determined without any doubt there is no threat to his life from the movement on the outside. The republican prisoners at Roe house have said they will welcome Liam “with open arms”.

However, he is now approaching his 40th day without food and reaching a point when his death becomes increasingly likely. Surely that alone warrants real attention to define his grievance and see if it can be resolved before a prison death and the sparks we know such events can generate?

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  • joeCanuck

    Empty vessels make most soud, wee buns.
    And isn’t a bit odd that those politicians, for example, who are loudest in their condemnation of “abnormal” behaviour are found to be very active participants in the activities they pretend to abhor.

  • Mark McGregor

    Joe,

    I don’t moderate, never have. Always thought my clear political bias would lead to houls of oppression if I did. Best to contact Mick direct if you have a problem.

  • Mark McGregor

    Anne, this has the makings of a stand alone blog. Can I suggest you tweek it then submit it to Mick.

  • Pilgrim

    There is passion in your comments, and whilst I wonder, I also think perhaps its a good idea to ‘hold your fire’ for a while.. This thread is about one man on hunger strike and by extension other prisoners who are being denied their human rights.

    In due course you may well find there are other, and more senior targets, for you to aim at…

  • Mark McGregor

    All the spam from ‘Pilgrim505’ has been put into a review file for Mick. I’ll be putting any further contributions into the same file pending Mick’s call.

    Mick may restore it all.

  • Danny

    Some have claimed that the OC CIRA prisoners has been ordered not to associate with Hannaway and that he is not to be let on their wing. CIRA do not claim him. RSF disassociate themselves from him.

    Stories of family connections to drugs abound and that this hunger strike is merely a [dangerous] stunt to force the prison authorities to move him back to the republican wing. Who knows?

  • anne warren

    Am most flattered by your suggestion Mark!
    Do feel free to e mail me and let me know exactly what you have in mind
    Best
    Anne

  • dee

    mark i am liam hannaways cousin. just wanted to tell u that liam is not on hungerstrike because of the so called death threats that the prison services have concocted to isolate him. liam has been in a loyalist wing of magaberry jail & is in more danger of getting murdered there. he is on hunger strikt to get himself into a republican wing. he spent 18 months in a cell with absolutley no furniture ir eating utensils it took 18 months to get him a chair to sit on & a fork to eat with. he was under attack by the warders and loyalists daily. thats enough to put any man on a death wish. liam is a proud man & has to walk a barrage of abuse, loyalist flags & emblems just to go for a shower. any wonder he’s on hunger strike. he has signed a form asking not to be revived if he goes into a coma or suffers cardiac arrest. i can name the warders responsible for the beating that are handed out daily to liam but this is not the place to do it. if u cant do anything to help liam in his fight for basic human rights a prayer wouldnt go amiss. ty for u’r time

  • YelloSmurf

    Yes, but you will have to deal with the murder of a prisoner. Even if he were to sign a waver (which I believe he is willing to do) you can be sure that there would be allegations of collusions if anything were to happen to him. Just like any other prison dispute, it’s complicated.

  • argosjohn

    Cannot really agree that Anne Warren’s post is fantastic. She merely reposts a list of affirmations UN fatcats, bolstered by such prisoner abusing countries as Britain, the US and China, dreamt up. Groups like Amnesty International, who used to campaign for banged up “prisoners of conscience” but not those in the Six Counties, have now moved on to campaigning for sodomites and other white middle class folk.

    The other thing that comers out of this is just how splintered Republicans are. PSF is Tesco but the otehrs are not even the corner store.

    Was Michael Henry a troll? I just thought he was a young PSF supporter. Oh well.

  • argosjohn

    I agree republicanism is splintered (and whose fault is that) but Mr Hannaway has been on hunger strike for more than 40 days with almost no media activity. Whatever his reasons Mr Hannaways condition is becoming dangerous, and quite apart from those who would use a death for their own ends, a man with problems is clearly not getting the treatment he needs.

    I too thought Michael Henry was young and his ‘crimes’ were nothing more than the exuberance of youth.

  • anne warren

    Good evening Argosjohn

    So sorry you did not like my post with the UN resolution i.e. a list of basic rights for all prisoners, whatever their crime and length of imprisonment, wherever they are imprisoned.

    It was designed to be informative, deny ignorance and provide a framework for assessing what we learn from the press and media about this topic, particularly news of negotiations between prisoners’ representatives and prison authorities.

    Whatever your personal views of “UN fatcats” the UN remains the supreme worlld authority. Its resolutions are the touchstone and are bolstered by the UK and practically all other countries in the world.

    Do you object to that? If so, start a campaign to propagate your worldview.

    In the meantime, behave like everyone else in the civilised world and accept UN rulings and resolutions, particularly on human rights. They are the best we have got at present. I doubt if any campaign you start will improve them!

  • anne warren

    Good evening again Argosjohn

    In reply to your assertion that
    “Groups like Amnesty International, who used to campaign for banged up “prisoners of conscience” but not those in the Six Counties, have now moved on to campaigning for sodomites and other white middle class folk”.

    I suggest you have a look at http://blogs.amnesty.org.uk/blogs_entry.asp?eid=6550, dated 18 May 2010

    I quote

    “Republican prisoners are complaining of beatings, sectarian harassment, unprovoked relegations to solitary confinement and denial of visits from family and lawyers. If even one incident of this is true, it could well be a violation of Article 3 of the ECHR – the right to be free from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

    Furthermore
    “whether or not what those men are suffering is a violation of Article 3 – the point is that, under the positive obligations doctrine, States have the duty – the obligation – to investigate any allegations of torture, whether by the state or by private individuals. This means that it doesn’t matter if some people think it’s a political ploy, or some think it’s an exaggeration, or if it’s actually worse than what’s coming out – the state has to investigate”.

    And
    “The Justice Minister’s assertion that Maghaberry prisoners are attempting to ‘give the impression’ that they are being abused is insulting, not only because of the allegations, but because it implies flippancy and disregard, and all but spells out his intention to not touch the matter. This is his job, and people must demand that he does it, whether you agree with the prisoners or not.”

  • Argosjohn

    “Its resolutions are the touchstone and are bolstered by the UK and practically all other countries in the world.”

    Anne Warren: The government of what you call the UK is a terrorist government with a long litany of violating human rights, committing genocides, helping Indonesians committing genocide, supporting the Khmer Rouge and so on. The UN was set up by the USA in the USA, hardly a civilised society, after World War 11. The USA, destroyer of Muslims and enemy of freedom, controls it.
    Despite representations I and others made to and about Amnesty International, that outfit refused to do anything for those, like the Birmingham 6, Guildford 4 etc, banged up by the terrorist British government, which you think is some way civilised.
    Amnesty International has lost whatever focus it once had. It is the play thing of Colm O’Gorman and his ilk.
    If your terrorist “UK” government is such a beacon of civility, why did 10 Irish men have to die on hunger strike?
    And, as regards the conditions in US prisons, give me a break. Americans turn my stomach even more than Brits. Walking devils, as the Asians and Africans call them. Have you never heard of the torture the American savages do on their prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places? Tactics that were developed by the “UK” forces?
    Why, after the Guildford 4 and others were released, did a slew of others have to be released?
    Because Britain does not practice justice. Like all imperialist states, it is the antithesis of same.
    Sopare me the imperialist clap trap. Nothing has changed since O’Donovan Rossa was in chains.

  • Argosjohn

    Amnesty International claimed the abuses of justice carried out by the terrorist British government in Britain were, like the 6 occupied counties, outside of their jurisdiction. It is one of the vilest and most contemptible outfits I know of.

  • anne warren

    Argosjohn, despite your personal opinion of, and experiences with, each international organisation, both websites have provided information about separate international legal frameworks which are currently in place for prisoners’ rights.

    Each framework helps readers to assess the situation and shows which principles and parameters prisoners’ representatives and prison authorities could, and should, work and negotiate with to resolve the dispute. This needs to be done very urgently for Mr Hannaway and quickly for the others.

    I cannot see how this information constitutes “imperialist claptrap” .

  • Antomac

    Lets not fool ourselves here. There will be more than one death if Liam Hannaway dies. Imagine what would have happened if L.Hannaway had died on Saturday – the hottest day of the year so far. Hundreds if not thousands of teens out swallying in all the major towns and cities. What mayhem would have ensued if news that an Irishman had died on hunger strike that day? I dread to think how many would have died and where it might have went. Remember that the ‘Ra had a modicom of control over rioting during ’81. Now they have none (okay, okay they are disbanded).

    Another worry is the control that someone appears to be exerting over the media with regards to keeping this hushed up. Remember Pravda anyone?

  • Antomac

    I forgot to mention the elephant in the room – the 6000 troops that WILL be called out if the PSNI can’t handle the ensuing mayhem. Troops on the streets of Belfast will mean the end of power-sharing. Sinn Fein vetoing troops on the streets when it seems the PSNI are getting hammered will also mean the end of power-sharing if the UUP, TUV et al spin any non-deplyment as supping with dissidents.

    There is a hell of a lot at stake.

  • antomac

    Below are extracts from a recent article by humanist, priest and A’town news columnist Fr. Des Wilson – entitled ‘One answer to a hunger strike’, on the use of the hunger strike and the role of those not fasting as he sees it I am not aware of Fr. Des Wilson’s efforts to bring Liam Hannaway’s fast to a conclusion at this time but he has not (to date) used his column to highlight Liam Hannaway’s plight.

    + + + +

    One answer to a hunger strike
    Andersonstown News Thursday
    Fr Des

    There is a holding camp in Iraq. Holding hundreds of people from Iran. Some went on hunger strike.

    We in Ireland know how a hunger strike by those in bondage comes only from the depths of misery and even despair. And we have learned that the only answer to a hunger strike is justice. We have seen the result of the refusal of governments to grant it. It should not happen anywhere and, if it does, Irish people will be among the first to say no and demand that what caused it be changed.

    The world is plagued by hunger, injustice, suffering, illness, and while we are depressed at the scale of it we are enraged by the inability or unwillingness of governments and their organisations to take their courage in both hands and do everything needed to relieve them.

    There is no need to make a judgment about who is right and who is wrong in such a situation – prisoners are prisoners are prisoners, whether in prisons, in camps or under oppressive force, and those who have the privilege of helping them do it just because they are fellow human beings in trouble.

    Once a human being passes through that door of suffering, there are no distinctions to be made. If the United Nations and the Human Rights organisations and the churches and the political parties agree to relieve suffering for that reason alone, they can be sure there will still be plenty they can do to satisfy their own demands and self interest. LATER…

    No political or financial arrangement can justify imposing or continuing human suffering that can be avoided.

    We have had many occasions to be disappointed with the organisations we appointed to save human beings from misery.

    Maybe there seems little we can do then, but there is something. Letters, letters,letters. To United Nations people, human rights people, MPs, TDs, Assembly members, churches, to anybody with the slightest power to intervene.

    We can easily do it by email.

    + + + + + + +

    IMO it is one thing to talk the talk but walking the walk is an altogether different prospect. The A’town News to date has given less coverage to L.Hannaway’s case than the Belfast Telegraph.

  • summershine

    It of course would suit some people that a republican prisoner starves to death, im not surprised seeing as how ten men were allowed die in 1981 because of the same conditions which were forced upon them and their families while in custody. There is always very little media coverage when it comes to the cruelty that republicans have to put up with, It always has been one sided. This man is dying on hunger strike for his rights, whether people agree with them or not he should not be allowed die. If political status was returned to the republican prisoners maybe it would encourage young men and women to move forward with the peace process and not get involved in organisations but I cannot see how If this man and others start to die again for their rights how the peace process will stay strong. I for one do not and will not respect a one sided government that allows men to be treated worse than animals while in prison. It shows how the butcher behavior towards irish prisoners of war has not changed at all since 1981. If we are moving forward with the peace process, surely its only from one direction. Can you see a middle ground?not in Maghaberry prison you cant, closed mouths closed doors and closed minds leads to closed coffins, unless something is done to stop the suffering of republican prisoners this man is sure to die. Liam Hannaway is a human being and should not be suffering, there is a reason why he is on hunger strike and I hope to God that it is taken serious before it is too late.

  • al

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/10159464.stm

    The BBC earlier reported on the hungerstrike and then this evening are reporting he has quit.

    So what changed in the past few hours?

    Have the Republicans succeeded in their goal to get mainstream media to take notice or have the prison authorities taken action now the media has taken interest?

  • al

    Does it matter why he has stopped? Thank whatever gods there be, and hope far from being placed with republicans of any persuasion, they put him next door to the kitchens and promise him the full banquet when the tubes come out!

    I hope this is accurate and wish Mr Hannaway well.

  • al

    It does matter why it has stopped, of course it does. He stopped eating for a reason and he’s started again for a reason. What has been done to change his mind?

    As for a banquet I really don’t think he deserves one. He can eat what the rest of them eat.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Of course it would suit people if Mr Hannaway had died. For a start it would have suited the republican dissidents and their apologists. They want a martyr.
    I am of course glad that Mr Hannaway will (presumably) survive. Best wishes to him.
    I quite like Life. Life is much better than any known alternative.
    This would be a major difference between me and Mr Hannaway who was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for having explosives. Not the most life affirming of actions.

    Still he joins a long list of “dont let him die” (Ill never forget whats his name Tommy Crossey? Gerry Crossan? whose name was plastered all over the Royal Victoria Hospital for years) guys who didnt actually die at all.

  • anne warren

    I was pleased to hear Mr Hannaway has come off his hunger strike. I hope his grievances are given due hearing and respect and satisfactory resolution is achieved.

    The BBC report cited above http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/10159464.stm also states
    “In a statement, Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe said she was investigating complaints from a number of prisoners and hoped to produce a report within a few weeks. ”
    Which is another step forward in resolving the dispute although “a few weeks ” seems as long as a piece of string. Nevertheless, let’s hope everything is satisfactorily resolved for these prisoners too.

    To answer Al’s question “Have the Republicans succeeded in their goal to get mainstream media to take notice or have the prison authorities taken action now the media has taken interest?”

    Readers might like to note another statement in the BBC report
    “A Sinn Fein delegation led by Martin McGuinness and Raymond McCartney discussed the situation at Maghaberry with Justice Minister David Ford on Tuesday.”

    Do you think Minister Ford realized it was his duty to investigate all the allegations? And has carried it out?

  • al

    Why? What does it matter to you? You and everyone should be glad a life is saved.

    Mr Hannaway may well have problems. He is in prison now and it is the responsibility of the prison authorities to ensure his health and well being.

    If he decided it was just time to have something to eat – whats wrong with that.

    Blame and credit will be apportioned later, and frankly I don;t care. I was concerned for the man.

    When I say it does not matter I bloody well mean it! If he wants to be among his peers he has that right. If his targets were demonstrably ‘legitimate’ he has the right to political status. Regardless of all that. I am glad he is, hopefully, recovering. He got very close to the point of ‘no return’.

  • al

    It is also his responsibility to ensure his health. Going on hungerstrike is not the way to solve grievances.

    There is a wider political picture here. Republicans would have used the death of this man to their advantage and no doubt they’ll spin and twist the situation now to their advantage.

    If he did decided it was time to eat then fair enough. However I doubt that was the reason. The man has saved his life by coming off hungerstrike and that’s a very wise decision for himself and for everyone in Northern Ireland. The fallout from a dead hungerstriker would not have been pleasant.

  • al

    @Pippakin

    It is also his responsibility to ensure his health. Going on hungerstrike is not the way to solve grievances.

    There is a wider political picture here. Republicans would have used the death of this man to their advantage and no doubt they’ll spin and twist the situation now to their advantage.

    If he did decided it was time to eat then fair enough. However I doubt that was the reason. The man has saved his life by coming off hungerstrike and that’s a very wise decision for himself and for everyone in Northern Ireland. The fallout from a dead hungerstriker would not have been pleasant.

  • al

    I completely agree! Not pleasant at all. However his reasons for eating are, if he chooses, his own.

    There would, and still will be, others who seek to gain from this apparent near miss, that was always going to be the case.

    The truth though, is a bit different. It was some of those ‘others’ who made sure Mr Hannaways story was told. If he won any kind of ‘victory’ then so did they, and we, knowing the alternative so well, owe them and he our thanks.

  • molehilclimber

    @ fitzjames_mare

    Quite the assumptionist. You assume the dissidents want a martyr, you assume that L.Hannaway doesn’t like life. I wonder if Bobby Sands liked life, or perhaps his actions were driven by selflessness, the desire to free his friends/comrades from their torment. I wonder if Jesus then liked life…

    Unlike an assumptionist who thinks they know it all, I assume nothing.

    By the way, if you were sentenced for having explosives- did you in fact have them? If you were caught (as Jack Regan used to say) “bang to rights” then surely having them was not a life affirming actions given the histroy of explosives and their effects on the human body. Having them in someone’s house (if that were the case) would not be life affirming for anyone that lived/frequented the house and nearby houses or passers by. In fact the more I think about your comments the more ridiculous they seem given your own past.

    The list of ‘don’t let him die’ stretches far back in Irish history since the weapon of hunger has been used for hundreds of years and presumably will continue to be as long as injustices arise be the Belfast, Iraq, Turkey, etc etc etc

  • d v bagal

    I understood that the scews union the POA did campaign against and get removed a ‘liberal’ Governor at Maghaberry, and that it was a crack-down by screws that led to trouble eg over wearing easter lillies that gave vent to broader problems
    including the matter of their status as “political prisoners”