The Smoking Gun

Four documents – 2 double sided pages  – have been made available from NUI Galway’s Brendan Duddy archives that are relevant to the Mountain Climber/Thatcher offer of early July, 1981. They are Brendan Duddy’s notes of the messages he was ferrying between the Adams Committee and the British Government. The first two pages are dated the 5th and 6th of July; the last two pages are undated but relate to the ongoing negotiation; they detail the offer being discussed. The notes are supported by British Government documents obtained by journalist Liam Clarke under a Freedom of Information request. Interested readers can compare the information in all these documents against an expanded timeline of events that has been previously documented.

On the 4th of July, the prisoners released a statement that freed the British to make an offer, by suggesting that any prison reforms be extended to all prisoners. This resulted in the Mountain Climber, Brendan Duddy, contacting the Adams Committee. The British were making an offer that meant the prisoners would get their own clothes “after lunch tomorrow and before the afternoon visit”.

According to Duddy’s notes, this offer included:
Send on 5 of July Clothes = after lunch Tomorrow and before the the afternoon visit  as a man is given his clothes  He clears out his own cell pending the resolution of the work issue which will be worked out  [garbled] as soon as the clothes are and no later than 1 month. Visits = [garbled] on Tuesday. Hunger strikers + some others H.S. to end 4 hrs after clothes + work has been resolved.

DOCUMENT 1:

Send on 5 of July
Clothes = after lunch
Tomorrow
and before the the afternoon visit
as a man is given his clothes
He clears out his own cell pending the resolution of the work issue which will be worked out [garbled] as soon as the clothes are and no later than 1 month.
Visits = [garbled] on Tuesday. Hunger strikers + some others
H.S. to end 4 hrs after clothes + work has been resolved.

The morning of the 5th of July, Danny Morrison first visited the hunger strikers, telling them nothing of the Mountain Climber offer – only that there was contact, and that the ICJP must be resisted as they could “make a mess of it, that they could be settling for less than what they had the potential for achieving.” (Biting at the Grave, pg 96.)

The sequence is described by Morrison: “After exchanges, Mountain Climber’s offer (concessions in relation to aspects of the five demands) goes further than ICJP’s understanding of government position. Sinn Fein’s Danny Morrison secretly visits hunger strikers. Separately, he meets prison OC Brendan McFarlane, explains what Mountain Climber is offering should hunger strike be terminated. McFarlane meets hunger strikers.”

After Morrison privately relayed the British offer to Bik McFarlane, McFarlane discussed it with Richard O’Rawe. Both agreed there was enough there to accept. Bik McFarlane speaking to Brian Rowan 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.”

O’Rawe told the Irish News, “I said, ‘Ta go leor ann’ – There’s enough there. He (McFarlane) said, ‘Aontaim leat, scriobhfaidh me chun taoibh amiugh agus cuirfidh me fhois orthu’ – I agree with you, I will write to the outside and let them know.”

DOCUMENT 2:
Key:
S.S. = Shop Steward – code for the Adams Committee which included Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison, Tom Hartley, Jim Gibney and Martin McGuinness
Union Membership or The Workers = the prisoners, as represented by Bik McFarlane (OC) and Richard O’Rawe (PRO)
The Management = The British Government (Thatcher)

“The Mountain Climber messages were being sent in a crudely coded form, apparently because the Foreign Office was concerned that the phone line they were using into the north might be tapped by the local security forces: the negotiations were being couched in the form of exchanges over an industrial dispute, prisoners being referred to as ‘the workers’, the external leadership of the IRA as ‘the shop stewards’ and the British Government as ‘management’.”
– Ten Men Dead, pg 325

“The coded terminology used in the communications between the Army Council and the British reflected the class system. The British were called ‘the management’ and the Army Council were the ‘shop stewards’ and the prisoners were ‘the workers’. I didn’t know about this terminology until years later, but when I did, I couldn’t help but remember something my father used to say: “The workers always get shafted.””
– Blanketmen, pg 174; for Army Council see: Afterlives, pgs 78-82

The S.S. fully accept the posal --- as stated by the Union MemBship

The S.S. fully accept the posal — as stated by the Union MemBship
And that is the only Basis for a successful draft proposal by the Management.
It is essential that a copy of the draft be in the S.S. hands Before it is made public.
To enable the S.S. to apr – up
or to point out any difficulty before publication
If it is pub. without prior sight and agreement the S.S. would have to disapprove it.
Monday Morning
July 6th.
————————————–
————————————–
Reply 11:30 PM July 6

The British Gov. is preparing to issue a statement only if there is an immediate end to the hunger strike.
(A) Prison reg. in Armagh would become general in NI prison ie civian clothing
B Visits as for conforming prisons
C Re. as stated on June 30 by Sec of State

“As the situation moved beyond our control, it became evident that the real power in the republican movement was asserting its authority. This time, the ‘shop stewards’, not the ‘management’ had consigned the prison leadership to the role of the ‘workers’ in the general scheme of things, and the ‘shop stewards’ and the ‘management’ were going to work things out – no matter what the ‘workers’ thought.”
Blanketmen, pg 186.

This is the smoking gun; the proof that the prison leadership – McFarlane and O’Rawe – were told of Thatcher’s offer, they agreed to accept it, and sent word out of that acceptance. The proof their acceptance was over-ruled by those handling the negotiations on the outside, the Adams Committee, who claimed more was needed.

The notes show the prisoners got their clothes; they would have had them immediately. Their visits would have begun on the 7th of July, before Joe McDonnell died. Work was agreed to, and education recognised as work. Free association was rendered a moot point by obtaining segregation. Letters and parcels would resume, to start on the 13 of July – the day of Martin Hurson’s death. Remission was not going to be an insurmountable issue.

THIS WAS ACCEPTED BY THE PRISONERS. The acceptance by O’Rawe and McFarlane was overheard by other prisoners and it is reflected in Duddy’s notes. Duddy’s notes are also reinforced by the British Government’s record.

The British, according to their own contemporaneous documents, were genuine, and willing to comply with the “Shop Steward’s” demand to have access to a draft statement of the proposal before it was made public:

“The statement has now been read and we await provo reactions (we would be willing to allow them a sight of the document just before it is given to the prisoners and released to the press).”

All that was needed was for the Adams Committee to accept the proposal as the prison leadership had expressed. The hunger strike would have ended, with enough of the 5 demands granted, before the death of Joe McDonnell, before the deaths of six hunger strikers. The prisoners could have been wearing their own clothes the day before Joe McDonnell died.

The Adams Committee said, “No.” And the hunger strikers continued to die.

 

LINK: MOUNTAIN CLIMBER NOTES + TIMELINE

NOTES: Details of the proposal as noted by the Mountain Climber, Brendan Duddy, with documents from the British confirming the sequencing, and the draft statement that would have ended the hunger strike on terms agreed by the prison leadership had the Adams Committee not rejected it.

DOCUMENT 3
Transcription:
5 demands

clothes work
assoc. visits
letters re – XX
————————————–
Clothes at 12
Visits on Tues. [Note: Tues, July 7, re Document 1]
Parcels Next Monday
Work over 1 month
Full remission
————————————–

clothes = letters = visits
Immediately
New Gov. Plus to be decider
Cunningham as Gov
Plus
Work = Each wing to decide a rota with prison staff
A good order
Association realistic with good prison discipline within each wing xxxx
————————————–
No Will
Strike goes on
[Note: Written in pen over ‘No Will Strike Goes On’]
Prison work will vary between cell and block maintenance, in the futherest of educational subjects, ie open university, toy making for charities and building projects: ove
[Note: this is clarified on the back of the page/Document 4]

————————————–
Sincere = YES
————————————–
If they work and conform
5/6 working
2 not working
H
Freedom of M
on the Each Wing P.O. would maint. the unrestricted control of supervision

DOCUMENT 4:

Freedom of Movement would be permitted within each wing. Prison officer would maintain the total control of supervision during these periods:
Prison work will vary between Cell and Block maintenance, educational, cultural subjects ie Open University, toy making for charities. Building projects, ie New Church. Prison officers would maintain

 

EXTRACT FROM A TELEGRAM FROM THE NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE TO THE CABINET OFFICE

PLEASE PASS FOLLOWING TO MR WOODFIELD

MIPT contains the text of a statement which SOSNI proposes to authorise should be released to the hunger-strikers/prisoners and publicly. The statement contains, except on clothing, nothing of substance which has not been said publicly, and the point on clothing was made privately to the provos on 5 July. The purpose of the statement is simply to give precise clarification to formulae which already exist. It also takes count of advice given to us over the last 12 hours on the kind of language which (while not a variance with any of our previous public statements) might make the statement acceptable to the provos.

The statement has now been read and we await provo reactions (we would be willing to allow them a sight of the document just before it is given to the prisoners and released to the press). It has been made clear (as the draft itself states) that it is not a basis for negotiation.

 

[Note: As the extract is describing a meeting that took place shortly after midnight on the 8th of July, it refers to the negotiations described in Duddy’s notes – namely, the back and forth between the 5th and 7th of July]
EXTRACT FROM A LETTER DATED 8 JULY 1981 FROM 10 DOWNING STREET TO THE NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE

The Prime Minister met your Secretary of State at 0015 this morning to discuss the latest developments in the efforts to bring the hunger strike in the Maze to an end. Philip Woodfield was also present.

Your Secretary of State said that the message which the Prime Minister had approved the previous evening had been communicated to the PIRA. Their response indicated that they did not regard it as satisfactory and that they wanted a good deal more. That appeared to mark the end of the development, and we had made this clear to the PIRA during the afternoon. This had produced a very rapid reaction which suggested that it was not the content of the message which they had objected to but only its tone. The question now for decision was whether we should respond on our side. He had concluded that we should communicate with the PIRA over night a draft statement enlarging upon the substance of the previous evening but in no way whatever departing from its substance. If the PIRA accepted the draft statement and ordered the hunger strikers to end their protest the statement would be issued immediately. If they did not, this statement would not be put out but instead an alternative statement reiterating the Government’s position as he had set it out in his statement of 30 June and responding to the discussions with the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace would be issued. If there was any leak about the process of communication with the PIRA, his office would deny it.

The meeting then considered the revised draft statement which was to be communicated to the PIRA. A number of amendments were made, primarily with a view to removing any suggestion at all the Government was in a negotiation. A copy of the agreed version of the statement is attached.

The Prime Minister, summing up the discussion, said that the statement should now be communicated to the PIRA as your Secretary of State proposed. If it did not produce a response leading to the end of the hunger strike, Mr Atkins should issue at once a statement reaffirming the Government’s existing position as he had set out on 30 June.

Statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

1. In the light of discussions which Mr Michael Alison has had recently with the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, during which a statement was issued on 4 July on behalf of the protesting prisoners in the Maze Prison, HMG have come to the following conclusions.

2. When the hunger strike and the protest is brought to an end (and not before), the Government will:
I. extend to all male prisoners in Northern Ireland the clothing regime at present available to female prisoners in Armagh Prison (i.e. subject to the prison governor’s approval);
II. make available to all prisoners in Northern Ireland the allowance of letters, parcels and visits at present available to conforming prisoners;
III. allow the restoration of forfeited remission at the discretion of the responsible disciplinary authority, as indicated in my statement of 30 June, which hitherto has meant the restoration of up to one-fifth of remission lost subject to a satisfactory period of good behaviour;
IV. ensure that a substantial part of the work will consist of domestic tasks inside and outside the wings necessary for servicing of the prison (such as cleaning and in the laundries and kitchens), constructive work, e.g. on building projects or making toys for charitable bodies, and study for Open University or other courses. The prison authorities will be responsible for supervision. The aim of the authorities will be that prisoners should do the kinds of work for which they are suited, but this will not always be possible and the authorities will retain responsibility for decisions about allocation.

3. Little advance is possible on association. It will be permitted within each wing, under supervision of the prison staff.

4. Protesting prisoners have been segregated from the rest. Other prisoners are not segregated by religious or any other affiliation. If there were no protest the only reason for segregating some prisoners from others would be the judgment of the prison authorities, not the prisoners, that this was the best way to avoid trouble between groups.

5. This statement is not a negotiating position. But it is further evidence of the Government’s desire to maintain and where possible to improve a humanitarian regime in the prisons. The Government earnestly hopes that the hunger strikers and the other protesters will cease their protest.

  • michael-mcivor

    Is Rusty Nail saying that Thatcher betrayed the british goverments hard-line stance and give in to the prisoners- thats the way i read this- so much for the Iron Lady-

  • OneNI

    Or Michael a pragmatic PM offered a face saving solution to the prisoners and the external leadership betrayed them?
    Note also Thatcher:
    “The Prime Minister, summing up the discussion, said that the statement should now be communicated to the PIRA as your Secretary of State proposed. If it did not produce a response leading to the end of the hunger strike, Mr Atkins should issue at once a statement reaffirming the Government’s existing position as he had set out on 30 June”
    Hardly ‘giving in’?

  • michael-mcivor

    OneNI-

    It was Thatcher who give in- the prisoners got all their demands on her watch- name 1 demand that the prisoners did not get whilst thatcher was prime-minister-

  • Reader

    michael-mcivor: It was Thatcher who give in- the prisoners got all their demands on her watch- name 1 demand that the prisoners did not get whilst thatcher was prime-minister
    To be fair, Paisley and Molyneaux recognised Thatcher’s easygoing and accommodating nature 25 years before you did.
    You you may be missing the original point that if the senior provos had been honest with the hunger strikers, then more of the strikers would have lived to enjoy life in prison and their subsequent release.

  • Harry Flashman

    Actually Thatccher was following a long historic British line; resist threats and then when you have defeated your opponent grant them what they wished. It worked a treat in assembling the biggest empire the world has ever seen.

    Churchill -“in victory, magnanimity”- always stood by that, he said after the miners were crushed utterly in 1926 they then should have been given their wage increase, he felt the same about Ireland. It’s actually a logical position to take in many ways.

    Thatcher did what always was done in Ireland and which never seems to cross the pea-sized brains of Irish Republicans, you will always get the reforms you want from the British eventually, using violence and threats of violence only postpones the reforms.

    It was ever thus, it was the case in 1968, ’72, ’74, ’81, ’85, ’94 and ’98.

  • Alias

    Objecting to the tone of a missive when such frivolous vanity could serve to prolong an agonising starvation process for people in extreme distress gives you all the insight you’ll ever need into Adams and his ilk. The cynical might suggest that prolonging it was the purpose of objection, of course. It does show the cult mentality that existed when so many would trust the cult leaders with their lives – and paid for that gullibility with their lives.

    But, at the end of the day, clothes and parcels were a very silly and self-serving basis for a hunger strike. If education wasn’t declared to be work would then there wouldn’t have been any degree craze in there – as any student will tell you, studying beats working.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Alias

    Most students only realize that once they start working….besides, the boys in the Kesh didn’t quite have the array of rich and engaging, ahem, distractions that most students do.

    To be fair, the demands within themselves were – from an incarceration p.o.v. material but not decisive; what was was the recognition that these concessions would make to their line an the distinction between them and ODCs.

    O’Rawe’s books are worth reading if you haven’t done so already. As much as anything, they’ll tell you a good deal about the modus operandi of the current political project of many of the same players and those who either hopped off or were/are jettisoned.

  • Hedley Lamarr

    It would be interesting to see the other drafts of the document Liam Clarke published. Minor differences in detail could mean more than you think when you consider the subtle provisos in the Secretary of State’s statement.

    When the demands are met in a way which does not guarantee anything (as the prison authorities can prevent remission, association or prisoners’ own clothes in certain circumstances) no wonder they wanted something more.

    Look what happened recently when a deal was made on strip-searching at Maghaberry and because subtlety allowed it, it was reneged on soon after.

  • Mick Fealty

    True Hedley. But did they get anything more, or was this it?

  • Nunoftheabove

    Correct Hedders, also when it comes to prisons there is only one keyholder and the distinction between rights and priveleges can often become blurred and highly conditional; a lot of the thinking and behavior tends towards the zero sum. Given the context it’s almost inevitable that boundaries will be challenged outwards, authority will be resisted and resistance often forcibly counter-resisted, events outiside impact the inside etc. Also, the apparently insignificant often undergoes a huge amplification in terms of significance when you’re locked up/down and symbols can mean a lot more than substance.

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, it can. Of course. But the test remains, what supplementary details, if any, were added when agreement was made to stick?

  • Hedley Lamarr

    Mick- I realise that this is what they got but we only know this with hindsight. If there was a high level of trust it may have been worth the gamble. Otherwise Republicans may have thought they had the government on the ropes and went for something more solid.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Some Hunger Strike History and unanswered questions:

    The 1981 hunger strike was unnecessary. The earlier 1980 hunger strike should have been settled honorably on the basis of a document drawn up by John Hume – but subsequently altered (see below) by the Northern Ireland office and presented to the hunger strikers by an NIO official, accompanied by Fr. Meagher.

    In addition to the controversy about unnecessarily prolonging the second strike, why did the Provisional leadership accept the 1980 altered document – and who commissioned Fr Meagher as a go-between/guarantor?

    Below is mostly an extract from Barry White’s 1984 book – ‘John Hume, statesman of the troubles’. It contends that the first hunger strike was ended by a combination of sleight of hand on the part of the Northern Ireland Office, and naivety on the part of Sinn Fein leaders, who were opposed to the hunger strike. The duplicitous manner of ending the first strike caused the second viz:

    “Prison conditions were difficult when the first hunger strike began in October 1980. Some IRA prisoners were four years into the ‘dirty protest’ and 18 prison officers had been murdered. Sinn Fein opposed the prisoners’ decision. Gerry Adams wrote: “We are tactically, strategically, physically and morally opposed to a hunger strike.”

    Fifty days into that strike and with Sean McKenna going blind and fading fast, John Hume made a crucial intervention. His proposals to the government concentrated on freedom of movement, so prisoners could have association within the H–block, and freedom to wear their own clothes. Brendan Hughes, the IRA’s prison leader, sent word to Hume that if he could deliver the strike would be over. When John Hume relayed that message to Humphrey Atkins, NI Secretary of State, the feedback was very positive. Hume then advised the prisoners that if he appeared in person with an official, their points would be guaranteed. If not, there was no guarantee.

    Hume waited at home. When no call came, he rang Atkins only to be told: “We weren’t able to meet your points.” However, the strike was over that same day, 18 December. A NIO official met Redemptorist priest, Father Meagher,(based in the Irish Republic) at Aldergrove. They went to the Maze and presented a long document to the starving men. Later when the small print was read, the agreement was not what it seemed. Where Hume wrote ‘civilian clothes’ the NIO had changed it to ‘civilian type clothes.’ The prisoners should have known from Hume’s instructions that something was wrong. It is believed the provisional leadership, outside the prison and unconvinced about the hunger strike, accepted Stormont Castle’s deceitful deal in order to prevent Hume taking political credit – which he had promised not to do.

    It was out of Bobby Sands’ subsequent feeling of betrayal that the second hunger strike was born on 1 March 1981. It led to the futile deaths of 10 prisoners. Outside the prison an explosion of sectarian violence resulted in 50 more deaths. Recruiting and funding for the IRA greatly increased. That hunger strike ended when next-of-kin, assisted by Monsignor Faul, assumed power of attorney when prisoners went into coma. Thus relatives, not provisional leaders, rightfully made the life or death decisions.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Later when the small print was read, the agreement was not what it seemed. Where Hume wrote ‘civilian clothes’ the NIO had changed it to ‘civilian type clothes.’ ”

    God help us, a pathetically small point to have dozens of people killed for.

    There was no conceivable way any government in the world would have allowed a prison to revert to the terrorist training academy of Long Kesh. If the Provos had given guarantees that prisoners wearing their own clothes wouldn’t include paramilitary uniforms and that free association wouldn’t involve drilling and weapons instruction the whole bloody mess could have been sorted in an hour or two and the Troubles wouldn’t have dragged on for another twenty years.

    Shame on them.

  • 241934 john brennan

    My 1.30pm post is make 2 points about the Provisional leadership outside the prison.
    a. They did not want the first hunger strike to begin and used sleight of hand (underhand) methods to end it.
    b. They did not want the second hunger strike to end and used similar tactics to prolong it

  • Decimus

    “Later when the small print was read, the agreement was not what it seemed. Where Hume wrote ‘civilian clothes’ the NIO had changed it to ‘civilian type clothes.’ ”

    God help us, a pathetically small point to have dozens of people killed for.

    Harry,

    Irish republican history is littered with people being killed because of such miniscule nonsense.

  • michael-mcivor

    Not only did the prisoners in the H blocks get the 5 demands but they also got a 6th request which was segregation- this is all fact- it it was achieved when the iron lady was in charge-

  • Dixie Elliott

    Thirteen years after the Hunger Strikes, in 1994; The former Hunger Striker Laurence McKeown recorded a visit, in his book ‘Nor Meekly Serve My Time’ by Gerry Adams on 29th July 1981…..

    On page 236 he wrote of Gerry Adams having visited hunger striker Kieran Doherty:

    “On their way out of his cell Doc’s parents met and spoke with Gerry, Bik and the others. They asked what the situation was and Gerry said he had just told all the stailceoirí, including Kieran, that there was no deal on the table from the Brits, no movement of any sort and if the stailc continued, Doc would most likely be dead within a few days. They just listened to this and nodded, more or less resigned to the fact that they would be watching their son die any day now.”

    “there was no deal on the table from the Brits, no movement of any sort…”

    Why did he tell dying men this if the Brendan Duddy notes now comfirm more than ever that there was an offer on July 5th and most certainly there was movement?

  • Mick Fealty

    Good spot Dixie.

  • SteadyEddie

    Dixie

    Thirteen years after the Hunger Strikes, in 1994; The former Hunger Striker Laurence McKeown recorded a visit, in his book ‘Nor Meekly Serve My Time’ by Gerry Adams on 29th July 1981…..

    Do you know if Lorny has ever revised his version of events?

  • Dixie Elliott

    Mick and Eddie,

    I didn’t spot it someone else did. In fact it was made public on at least a few occassions I know of…

    There was an offer on the table – but the prisoners weren’t told
    THE HUNGER STRIKE Was there a deal?
    By Richard O’Rawe, for the Irish News
    22/10/09

    http://www.longkesh.info/category/statements/richard-orawe/

    How Could Brits Renege if There Was No Offer?

    How Could Brits Renege if There Was No Offer?
    Letter in the Irish News and Andersonstown News
    Gerard Foster

    http://www.longkesh.info/2011/01/19/how-could-the-brits-renege-if-there-was-no-offer/

    No one as of yet has answered the questions arising out of Laurney book.

  • Cynic2

    “Why did he tell dying men this if the Brendan Duddy notes now comfirm more than ever that there was an offer on July 5th and most certainly there was movement?”

    Perhaps because the Hunger Strikers were mere canon fodder to be sacrificed for the greater good of SF seats in the Stormont sandpit?

    Indeed one day soon we may see a new slogan on a mural in West Belfast

    “they have left us our Fenian dead ….. and a few more will be a great help at the elections”

    Or perhaps not

    Heaven help the families now they realise this

  • SteadyEddie

    Whereas before I was unsure, now I am certain that certain people need to account for themselves.

    There can be no doubt that there was ‘communication’ between the main players as facilitated by B. Duddy.

    Also there can be no doubt that there was an offer or deal (call it what you will) on the table for discussion.

    This flys in the face of Lawrence Mc Keown’s account that Gerry Adams stated to Bik, hunger strikers and to the parents of a dying hunger striker that their was no movement from the British.

    How could Gerry Adams be so heartless as to quash any hopes that the Docherty’s might have had that their son wouldn’t die

    Why is neither man, Gerry or Lawrence being held to account?

  • Skinner

    Did anyone on the British government side mention this offer publicly, after the event? Seems slightly odd that they would accept the huge amount of negative publicity that came their way after the hunger strikes, when they had a perfectly good retort: “we made a good offer to the Republican leadership, which doesn’t seem to have been communicated to the prisoners”. Slightly odd that Maggie didn’t just say this, don’t you think? Without at least getting something in return for her silence?

  • Skinner

    oooh I feel a fillum coming on

  • Little James

    Some posters are strangely silent on this.

  • Skinner

    Why would the British government have talked up this offer, any hope of a deal was dead in the water and the last thing they wanted was for no return, to trash thatchers carefully crafted reputation as someone who will not talk to ‘terrorists,’ as the witch egotistically and foolishly once said, “this lady is not for turning.”

    The real question is not why the British government never mentioned this, but why the Provo leadership did not eventually place it into the public arena. Sadly I feel we now know the answer to that question. Reputations were being protected and not only on the British side.

  • SteadyEddie

    Shinner
    Did anyone on the British government side mention this offer publicly, after the event?
    When you think of Maggies statements up until the HS ie a crime is a crime is a crime, murder is murder etc and her statements throughout the HS and the first HS that she would not negotiate with criminals/murderers or their godfather leaders it is easy to think that Maggie would keep the fact that she had negotiated quiet especially when she got the result she wanted, the Hunger Strikers faced down, why would she rain on her own parade?

    Also the fact that the prisoners got access to their own clothes the day after the HS officially ended is indicative that the British knew Britain hadnt come out well of the whole sad situation and wanted the prison protests to be over.

  • Cynic2

    “Why is neither man, Gerry or Lawrence being held to account?”

    Because this is so profound that it would shock Republicanism to its very core. The Brits offered a deal and it was hidden and 5 more allowed to die

  • Cynic2

    “The real question is not why the British government never mentioned this”

    That could actually be a profound question. Indeed, would possession of the evidence of that deal not have been immensely useful in latter negotiations when the SF sheep had to be herded into the peace and politics pen?

    Will we ever know what hints were dropped? What finally induced the leadership to move?

  • Decimus

    Will we see official papers released soon under the thirty year rule?

  • Skinner

    Mickhall and SteadyEddie

    I had considered that, but if Maggie was that concerned about her reputation for being uncompromising she wouldn’t have made the offer in the first place. Presumably the driving force behind making the offer was to avoid the negative publicity she expected by appearing unmoved, uncaring about the prisoners’ plight. As it happened she got exactly the negative publicity the offer can only have been made to avoid. So why not make the offer public? Get the value of it? Why not say “actually you’ve got this wrong, we did try to reach a deal for the sake of these poor brainwashed prisoners but their cult leaders didn’t pass on the message”.

    Cynic 2 – exactly my point

  • Decimus

    Perhaps they didn’t want to undermine that leadership.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Even in the aftermath of the Brighton Bomb when her friends and colleagues were killed and critically injured?

  • Dixie Elliott

    By the time this offer was made, July 5th, 4 men had already died on Hunger Strike, Bobby Sands had been elected MP for Ferm./S.Tyrone and 100,000 people had attended his funeral. Kieran Doherty and Paddy Agnew had been elected TDs in the South, Joe McDonnell narrowly missed election in Sligo–Leitrim…

    It was obvious to Thatcher that other Hunger Strikers intended dying and world-wide opinion was swinging against her.

    She also realised that there was a bye-election coming up on 20th August and if the Hunger Strike was continuing by that time that the SDLP had to stand aside and give a clear run to SF’s Owen Carron.

    Then Ricky O’Rawe, the prisoners PRO, released the July 4th conciliatory statement which pulled back from political status and indicated that all prisoners in the North’s prisons could avail of the 5 Demands…

    This gave her the way out and it is clear that she wanted to take it, thus the offer via Duddy on July 5th.

    Anyone taking time to study the series of events around this time would see that.

    The most shocking thing for me is that 3 days after Micky Devine the last Hunger Striker to die, on the same day that Owen Carron won the F/ST by-election 20th August, SF announced that they would be standing in all future elections in The North.

    See the events in August 1981 on the CAIN website…

    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/hstrike/chronology.htm

    When was this decision put to and ratified by the PRM as a whole?

  • Dixie Elliott

    The Richard O’Rawe July 4th conciliatory statement stated that the ” British government could settle the hunger strike without any departure from ‘principle’ by extending prison reforms to the entire prison population…”

  • Cynic2

    “Perhaps they didn’t want to undermine that leadership”

    You never can Bribe or Twist
    The Trusty British Journalist
    But when you see what Unbribed he’ll do
    In truth, there’s no requirement to

  • Decimus

    Even in the aftermath of the Brighton Bomb when her friends and colleagues were killed and critically injured?

    Pat,

    That lay in the future. If PIRA was operating on a strict ‘need to know’ security basis I wonder how much of the detail of that attack would have been known to the leadership?

  • Dixie Elliott

    The Mountain Climber’s Notes + Timeline can be studied here….

    http://www.longkesh.info/2011/11/23/mountain-climber-notes-timeline/

  • Harry Flashman

    “to trash thatchers carefully crafted reputation as someone who will not talk to ‘terrorists,’ as the witch egotistically and foolishly once said, “this lady is not for turning.” ”

    The left wing demonology of Thatcher is now simply part of their DNA and can not be expunged, one can only anticipate the foam-flecked, vein throbbing, eye ball popping extravaganza of hate that will be released when the old girl finally shuffles off her mortal coil.

    However for those who prefer to deal with historical facts it is worth noting that Thatcher was a pragmatist, always willing to cut a deal and only became stubborn when confronted by threats.

    In 1980 she gave into the miners in an initial strike which was settled amicably, she only took them on when confronted by the loony Scargill whereupon she smashed them.

    She would happily have negotiated away the Falklands and indeed was giving every signal to the Argies that she had no interest in the place (British Nationality Act, 1981 which excluded Falklanders, the scrapping of the ice patrol vessel Endurance, also in 1981). Confronted by another bunch of loonies in the Argie junta however she was forced to act. The Chinese weren’t so stupid and got Hong Kong handed to them on a plate.

    So it was with the hunger strikers. She gave them civilian clothes in December 1980, no need to qualify this with “type”, the clothes were shown on TV and were clearly mix and match civilian clothes of a type worn outside prison and in no way could they be described as a “prison uniform”. Had this been accepted by the prisoners within months the men would have been wearing their own clothes (not paramilitary uniforms of course) and the issue would have faded into history as a forgotten footnote.

    But no, the prisoners needed to fight Maggie, no compromise was acceptable, so fight them they did. Ten men died in prison another hundred men, women and children died on the streets and the Troubles dragged on for another twenty years,

    For what? Immediately after the prisoners called off their strike Thatcher, true to her pragmatist form, gave them their civilian clothes which they could have had anyway a year earlier.

    Oh and Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and dozens of well connected members of Sinn Fein ended up in very nice government funded jobs with lucrative salaries to boot.

    Thank you very much Bobby and Francis and er, the other ones, we’ll never forget you so we won’t.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    “That lay in the future. If PIRA was operating on a strict ‘need to know’ security basis I wonder how much of the detail of that attack would have been known to the leadership?”

    But at that time and in subsequent years why didn’t the British release the details of ‘the offer’ If 6 men could have been saved why didn’t the British do the leaking at the time?

    Also, why didn’t the British release details of their ‘offer’ when urged time and time again to do so by the ICJP. Why, if a concrete proposal existed did they not go directly to the ‘Workers’ themselves? Are we really asked to believe that the British stuck rigidly to ther leadership protocols?

    Rather than a smoking gun what we have is the smoke coming off the jis saw piece as it is being hammered to fit into the puzzle.

  • michael-mcivor

    Harry Flashman-

    Thank you very much Bobby and Francis and er,the other ones,well never forget you so we won’t-

    Dont you just know that Harry does not know the names of the 4 brit army that were killed by the freedom fighters in afganistan this week- just like he cant remember any of the 1000 brit army killed by our freedom fighters- and all the brits died for nothing- like when was any body interested about talking about those names-

  • Cynic2

    Where oh where are all the Grizzly fans this past two days?

    Clearly the word has gone out to send Slugger to Coventry on this one. Still, you have to admire the way in which the so many vehement supporters who normally infest slugger posts seem to be able to switched on and off like a tap.

    Is it just me that sees this?

  • Decimus

    But at that time and in subsequent years why didn’t the British release the details of ‘the offer’ If 6 men could have been saved why didn’t the British do the leaking at the time?

    Pat,

    Perhaps that would have blown wide open their secret conduit to the Provo leadership, and set back their plans for sucking them into a peace process by many years?

    Also, why didn’t the British release details of their ‘offer’ when urged time and time again to do so by the ICJP. Why, if a concrete proposal existed did they not go directly to the ‘Workers’ themselves?

    Surely the proposals were sent directly to the prisoners themselves? O’Rawe and co saw them and decided that they were enough to stop the hunger strike, but were told by those on the outside to carry on. Isn’t that what the controversy is all about?

  • Decimus

    Dont you just know that Harry does not know the names of the 4 brit army that were killed by the freedom fighters in afganistan this week- just like he cant remember any of the 1000 brit army killed by our freedom fighters- and all the brits died for nothing- like when was any body interested about talking about those names-

    The British don’t tend to paint cartoon caricatures of their war dead on gable walls. They are remembered with dignity and pride by their families and friends without being used for the political purposes of others. It’s a real army v makey up army thing.

  • Decimus

    Where oh where are all the Grizzly fans this past two days?

    Busy finding new and exciting ways to torture the Police Ombudsman’s Office perhaps.

  • Brian

    I’d like to see Munsterview’s response to this.

  • Cynic2

    Brian

    Either he’s away or the Party Press Office don’t have a line on it

  • Dixie Elliott

    Pat McLarnon,

    You really are clutching at straws…

    These notes of Duddy [The Mountain Climber] confirm what was denied by Bik when he told Fergal McKinney that there was no offer what-so-ever in around 2006. He changed his mind when Duddy first confirmed that an offer was indeed made on July 5th 1981 in Derry’s Gasyard when confronted by the FOI documents.

    Bik then said in the Belfast Telegraph that he told Richard O’Rawe…

    “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.”

    It seems that the sudden change was brought about by Brendan Duddy’s admission at the time.

    Now we see the FOI documents backed up by Duddy’s notes made at the time.

    You ask….

    “Also, why didn’t the British release details of their ‘offer’ when urged time and time again to do so by the ICJP. Why, if a concrete proposal existed did they not go directly to the ‘Workers’ themselves? Are we really asked to believe that the British stuck rigidly to ther leadership protocols?”

    The FOI documents hold the answer to this if you care to study them….

    “PLEASE PASS FOLLOWING TO MR WOODFIELD
    MIPT contains the text of a statement which SOSNI proposes to authorise should be released to the hunger-strikers/prisoners and publicly. The statement contains, except on clothing, nothing of substance which has not been said publicly, and the point on clothing was made privately to the provos on 5 July. The purpose of the statement is simply to give precise clarification to formulae which already exist. It also takes count of advice given to us over the last 12 hours on the kind of language which (while not a variance with any of our previous public statements) might make the statement acceptable to the provos.

    The statement has now been read and we await provo reactions (we would be willing to allow them a sight of the document just before it is given to the prisoners and released to the press). It has been made clear (as the draft itself states) that it is not a basis for negotiation.”

    Just in case you missed it Pat, I’ll repeat…

    “It also takes count of advice given to us over the last 12 hours on the kind of language which (while not a variance with any of our previous public statements) might make the statement acceptable to the provos.

    The statement has now been read and we await provo reactions..”

    And….

    “(we would be willing to allow them a sight of the document just before it is given to the prisoners and released to the press…”

    Laurence McKeown ‘Nor Meekly Serve My Time’ [1994] page 236…

    on July 29th 1981

    “On their way out of his cell Doc’s parents met and spoke with Gerry, Bik and the others. They asked what the situation was and Gerry said he had just told all the stailceoirí, including Kieran, that there was no deal on the table from the Brits, no movement of any sort and if the stailc continued, Doc would most likely be dead within a few days. They just listened to this and nodded, more or less resigned to the fact that they would be watching their son die any day now.”

    To cut it short…

    July 8th 1981.

    “The statement has now been read and we await provo reactions..”

    July 29th 1981.

    “….and Gerry said he had just told all the stailceoirí,* including Kieran, that there was no deal on the table from the Brits, no movement of any sort and if the stailc continued Doc would most likely be dead within a few days…”

    * Hunger Strikers.

  • Dixie Elliott

    From Duddy’s notes…

    TRANSCRIPTION:
    Send on 5 of July
    Clothes = after lunch
    Tomorrow
    and before the the afternoon visit
    as a man is given his clothes
    He clears out his own cell pending the resolution of the work issue which will be worked out [garbled] as soon as the clothes are and no later than 1 month.
    Visits = [garbled] on Tuesday. Hunger strikers + some others
    H.S. to end 4 hrs after clothes + work has been resolved.

    [This is accepted by Bik and Richard O’Rawe…Adams committee vetos it saying “more was needed”.

    July 7th: The Adams Committee has been given the draft proposal they sought; they showed it to the ICJP who note the inclusion of education – specifically Open University course – as described in the Mountain Climber’s notes.

    From Duddy’s notes…

    TRANSCRIPTION:
    5 demands

    clothes work
    assoc. visits
    letters re – XX

    Clothes at 12
    Visits on Tues.
    [Note: Tues, July 7, re Document 1]
    Parcels Next Monday
    Work over 1 month

    clothes = letters = visits
    Immediately
    New Gov. Plus to be decider
    Cunningham as Gov
    Plus
    Work = Each wing to decide a rota with prison staff
    A good order
    Association realistic with good prison discipline within each wing xxxx

    FOI Document 1: “Extract from a letter dated 8 July 1981 from 10 Downing Street to the Northern Ireland Office”

    “Your Secretary of State said that the message which the Prime Minister had approved the previous evening had been communicated to the PIRA. Their response indicated that they did not regard it as satisfactory and that they wanted a good deal more.”

    “That appeared to mark the end of the development, and we had made this clear to the PIRA during the afternoon.”

    DM: “Late afternoon: Statement from PRO, H-Blocks, Richard O’Rawe: “We are very depressed at the fact that our comrade, Joe McDonnell, is virtually on the brink of death, especially when the solution to the issue is there for the taking. The urgency of the situation dictates that the British act on our statement of July 4 now.”

    FOI Document 1: “This had produced a very rapid reaction which suggested that it was not the content of the message which they had objected to but only its tone.”

    [My note…PIRA were holding up the negotiations not because of the content of the message but because of it’s tone.]

    The 8th of July Joe McDonnell dies…

  • 241934 john brennan

    The Hunger Strike lost impetus and ended in the autumn of 1981, not because of any further improvements in the British offer, but because:
    a. Owen Carron was elected Westminster MP for Fermanagh-W. Tyrone on 20 August 1981.
    b. INLA Hunger striker, Michael Devine, (the last to die) died on 20 August 1981
    c. Fr. Denis Faul held meeting with relatives of Hunger Strikers and advised them that they, and no one else, was empowered to make the ‘life or death’ decisions after their next-of-kin had gone into a coma. At that point they could authorise medics to feed their relative.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    I provided a detaled response to some of the others posts, it included a link to interviewer between Padraig O’malley and Sir John Belloch. It appeared briefly and then disappeared, can a mod explain why?

  • Mick Fealty

    Pat,

    There’s no sign in the back end of you making that post. The last one of yours I personally pulled off was on the McIntyre book review thread, which you posted at 8.31am on the 21st.

    I’ve not noticed you posting anything since. And there is no trace in the back of it having taken on Slugger. A technical error perhaps? Swallowed by the cloud. Please feel free to repost?

  • Suzanne Breen article in the Sunday World

    It was later revealed that the Army Council committee never briefed the entire Army Council itself on the details of the offer.

    The hunger-strike had become “a cynical PR exercise to gain votes”, O’Rawe claims. It had to continue at least until Owen Carron won the Fermanagh and South Tyrone Westminister by-election in August, holding Bobby Sands’ seat.

  • sliabhluachra

    John Brennan: You forgot some of the main reasons the hunger strike protest lost impetus. The main one was the Sinn Fein Johnny Come latelys, who stopped people campaigning for IRSP prisoners dying on hunger strike as the IRSP recognised Leinster House etc.
    Beyond benefitting from the hunger strike, Sinn Fein had no strategy except self advancement.
    In so far as Rusy Nail, O’Rawe et al posit this, they are stating the obvious.

    Just how much money did Sinn Fein make selling their badges of the INLA volunters who died on hunger strike, you know the ones whose comrades they would later repeatedly beat up as they moved to sititng in various parliaments?

    Fr Faul was honest, something few could accuse Sinn Fein leaders of. The game was up and Fr Faul, unlike Sinn Fein, cared.

  • I would like to begin my comment by stating that I very much admire Rusty’s series of posts on this story. Rusty has provided us with a detailed analysis of all of the evidence and left us in no doubt about the truth of what happened 30 years ago. I dont know what your identity or gender is, Rusty, or how you chose your blogging name but you have certainly “nailed” the facts on this piece of history.

    Over the years, a number of people, like me, have had conversations, from time to time, with Republicans about what happened in 1981. Sinn Fein were successful in building up mythology around the deaths of the hunger strikers. For many Republicans, including some of those that I have spoken to, the hunger strike was to Republicans what Pearl Harbour was to the Americans. A rallying cry for the cause.

    How will the truth affect the beliefs of Republicans?

    As far as Northern Ireland goes, perhaps not as much as many Unionists would like to think. Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness certainly benefited from the hunger striker myths but they have since, moved on and collected trophy after trophy. Most of their supporters wont like the fact that the story of the Hunger Strikers has returned from legend. However, they also know that they would not be where they are today, in terms of their political success, without Adams and McGuinness. That is why Adams survived the scandal relating to his brother and his niece. That is also why they will get away with what happened in the hunger strike and that is also why McGuinness was never under political pressure in Northern Ireland over the allegations that he executed Frank Hegarty.

    Recently, we had the presidential campaign in the Republic of Ireland. Rusty’s story was out there by this time and McGuinness chose, for the most part, to avoid a discussion about the Hunger Strikes despite the fact that the campaign was just after the 30th anniversary of the event.

    McGuinness may have come a respectable third in the race but he was also measured by the media, and the Irish electorate, in relation to other aspects of his past. He was found wanting.

    We will have to wait a few years to find out whether McGuinness’s presidential election campaign was a bridgehead towards further political glory in the South or the furthest extent of their success before a long-term decline. If I was to put money on it, I would bet that, at least in the Republic of Ireland, it is the latter.

  • Decimus

    Seymour,

    For the ROI’s sake I hope you are right.