THE HUNGER STRIKE
- NIO DOCUMENT
- STATEMENT BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND
- TRASCRIZIONE DEL DISCORSO DI WILLIE GALLAGHER
- GERRY ADAMS RISPONDE ALLE ACCUSE
- BRENDAN ‘BIK’ McFARLANE SMENTISCE OGNI ACCORDO CON IL GOVERNO THATCHER
- HUNGER STRIKE ‘TRUTH’ DOESN’T SUIT SINN FEIN di Liam Clarke (NewsLetter 26/05/2009)
- REPUBLICANS ROCKED BY HUNGER STRIKE CLAIM di Eamon Sweeney (Londonderry Sentinel 27/05/09)
- BRITISH ‘HAD NOT INTENTION OF RESOLVING THE HUNGER STRIKE’ – Intervista in esclusiva a Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane dal Belfast Telegraph
- FIVE CRUCIAL POINTS- Anthony McIntyre
- SF TO MEET HUNGER STRIKE FAMILIES OVER DEAL ‘MITH’ – The Irish News
- SON WALKS OUT OF SINN FEIN HUNGER STRIKE EVENT – The Irish News
- HUNGER STRIKE FAMILIES REJECT O’RAWE CLAIMS- The Irish News
- IRA HUNGER STRIKERS ‘COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED’ – U Tv
- DOCUMENTAZIONE SVELATA SU RICHIESTA DEL LONDONDERRY SENTINEL SULLA BASE DEL FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
Documento rilasciato in ottemperanza del Freedom of Information Act che rivela come nel luglio 1981, a metà strada dello sciopero della fame che è costato la vita a 10 prigionieri repubblicani, non solo la Thatcher autorizzò comunicazioni segrete con l’IRA, ma era anche disposta a offrire ai prigionieri il diritto di indossare i propri abiti e oltre ad accettare altre richieste in spregio della la sua precedente politica.
Documento rilasciato a Liam Clarke, giornalista del Sunday Tribune, come dimostrato da email introduttiva firmata dal Freedom of Information Manager. Il testo contiene l’elenco delle richieste sulle quali il governo britannico sarebbe stato intenzionato a cedere ad ulteriore prova della volontà del governo di mantenere e, ove possibile, di migliorare il regime umanitari nelle carceri.
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.
“What is the truth behind the Hunger Strike 23-05-09”
In early 2005 Richard O Rawe’s book ‘Blanketmen-An untold story of the H-Block hunger strike’ was published. In that book he made an explosive and controversial claim that he and Bik, on behalf of the jail IRA leadership, accepted a British offer made on 5th July 1981 to end the hunger strike. He claimed that four of the five demands were in effect conceded and that these were passed to him by Bik, who received them from Danny Morrison. He claimed he studied the comm for a number of hours and then shouted to Bik, who was two cells away, that there was enough there. Bik agreed and stated that he would comm outside accepting. The following day a comm from the outside IRA leadership rejected their acceptance.
Richard’s claims were immediately rubbished by SF leaders mainly Danny Morrison, Jim Gibney and Bik McFarlane in TV and radio interviews and also in the press. There was a multitude of interviews and press statements from them in what seemed an uncoordinated manner as there were glaring contradictions in their various positions on the claims.
Bik on UTV live on 1st March 2005 denied that any offer of any sort was ever made by the British at any point. Also in March 2005 in an interview with the Irish News Bik stated ‘’There was no concrete proposals whatsoever in relation to a deal.’’ He goes on to deny that the acceptance conversation with Richard ever took place.
Danny Morrison in the Irish Times on 5th February 2005 said ‘’It is telling that not once in 24 years has the NIO stated that before Joe McDonnell’s death it made an offer to the hunger strikers which was turned by the IRA’s army council.’’ Even though Danny contradicted Bik by saying that there were offers being proposed by the British but he stated that none of them were concrete. Bik later retracted his earlier claim in other press briefing that there were no offers and said he meant to say no deals.
Jim Gibney said in the Irish News on 12th May 2006 that ‘’Joe McDonnell died on 8th July –the British did not offer an agreement before he died.’’
Those are just some of the multitude of examples of SF’s public position on the O Rawe claims and the debate turned into one of semantics of what constituted an offer or a deal. They steered the debate away from the IRA jail leadership’s acceptance claim and focussed instead on semantics over the definition of deals and offers but maintained that there were no concrete offers and because there were no concrete offers therefore the IRA jail leadership could not have had, in Bik’s words, ‘’accepted something that didn’t exist.’’
During this period there was a demonisation campaign waged by SF against Richard using their old and tested tactic of demonising and smearing the messenger in order to rubbish the message.
During this period of 2005-2006 the IRSP, at first, were merely interested observers but were also very sceptical about the claims. We did not want to believe O’Rawe: we did not want to think that the IRA leadership would undermine the authority of the prisoners and reject the offer. Even more importantly we could see no concrete evidence that supported his claims despite the contradictory rebuttals by SF. A number of our ex-prisoners and some relatives of our hunger strikers began raising questions on the claims and asked us to investigate them. At that point we knew absolutely nothing at all and we set up a series of meetings with senior members of the IRSP and INLA Army Council members who were involved in the strike at that time as well as with Rab Collins, the INLA H-Block OC. All of them stated that they had no knowledge whatsoever about a substantial offer being made, nor of the acceptance by the IRA jail leadership or indeed of the mountain climber initiative.
The turning point in the controversy for the IRSP came after a publicised interview by Anthony McIntyre with Richard O Rawe which appeared on a website called ‘The Blanket’ on the 16th May 2006. A key paragraph in that interview jumped out at a number of us who were closely following the debate and it is worth quoting here again-
“Q: Indeed. I think you realise there is a bit more than that. As you know I have enormous time for Bik. It goes back to the days before the blanket. But I can only state what I uncovered. I am not saying that it is conclusive. These things can always be contested. But it certainly shades the debate your way. If Morrison and Gibney continue to mislead people that there is no evidence supporting your claim from that wing on H3 I can always allow prominent journalists and academics to access what is there and arrive at whatever conclusions they feel appropriate. That should settle matters and cause a few red faces to boot. We know how devious and unscrupulous these people have been in their handling of this. They simply did not reckon on what would fall the way of the Blanket. Nor did I for that matter. A blunder on their part. ”
ELABORATE. IRSP/confidentiality agreement.***Last night I done this part from memory but will give a summary here of what was said***
(There was contact between the IRSP and those who had possession of this evidence and after some negotiations we agreed to certain preconditions that were being placed upon us. Bear in mind that we did not believe O Rawe at this point, did not want to believe him and wanted to report back that there was no real evidence so that we could go round our Hunger Strikers families and say ‘’ignore what you hear and read about O Rawe’s claims-they’re not true.’’ We thought we would put the controversy to bed and little did we realise the opposite would happen. Jimmy Bradley, a senior IRSP person from Belfast were presented with this evidence which turned a sceptic and a non-believer in believing that there were indeed serious questions to be answered. In fact we believed Richard was telling the truth. We agreed beforehand that we could not talk about the content or nature of the evidence, until given permission to do so, but could only sum up whether we believed O Rawe or not. We believed him! We reported back to our leadership who instructed us to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate further.
In June/July 2006 the IRSP met with Colum Scullion, Richard’s cell mate, in the presence of Mickey Devine for over an hour. He sated a number of times that he could neither confirm nor deny the claims that Richard made. He said that there were some things about the Hunger Strike that he couldn’t talk about and that was one of them. I pointed out to him that if what Richard claimed was untrue then it was an outrageous slanderous lie which was having an adverse impact on Mickey, his family and all the other families and that could he not now reassure Mickey that the claims were untrue. He again stated that he would neither confirm nor deny the claims.
We then briefed the INLA Hunger Strikers families as to our investigation but due to our hands being tied with the confidentiality agreement we could not tell them the nature or content of the evidence that was presented to us.
The controversy then remained out of public viewing until March 2008 when Eamon McCann in a radio interview verified Richard’s claims. Eamon based his claims on conversations he had with Brendan Duddy who he describes as the mountain climber and Colum Scullion. This time SF learnt lessons from 2 years prior when they were full of contradictions and untruths. They remained silent but were able to produce Colum Scullion to counter the claims. Scully inadvertently, despite rubbishing the acceptance conversation, added weight to Richard’s claims by saying Bik did indeed make Richard aware of an offer on July 5th.
In March 2009 we became aware of documents that were released under the Freedom of Information Act prior to their publication in the media. Put together, these documents suggest that Margaret Thatcher proposed a deal with the IRA to end the hunger strike. This was first given “privately to the IRA on July 5th” according to the documents.
A further message was approved by Thatcher on the evening of July 7th and communicated to the IRA on the afternoon of 8th July. The documents further suggest that the IRA was cool at first but later in the day said that only the tone, and not the content, of the offer was unacceptable. As a result, a further draft statement, enlarging upon the previous British statement, was communicated to the IRA for their consideration. The documents say the IRA was advised that if they accepted this statement and “ordered the hunger strikers to end their protest” then the statement would be issued immediately. Otherwise a statement would be issued re-iterating the British government position of June 30th.
On the afternoon of July 18th the IRA asked for an official to go into the Maze to meet the hunger strikers. The British intention was that the official would explain the offer on clothes set out above and clarify a previous private offer on work. However, after some discussion, the British decided not to proceed without a prior indication of acceptance by the IRA. The documents clearly support Richard’s version of events and disputes the SF version of no offers of substance.
We once again spoke to senior members of the 1981 IRSP/INLA, the H-Block OC and the families of the INLA hunger strikers families and briefed them all on the documents. The IRSP executive then drafted a press release based on all the information uncovered in their investigation and stated that the 1981 leadership of the IRSP/INLA and the H-Block OC would have ended the INLA involvement in the Hunger Strike if they had have had this information at the time. All of them claimed that they were kept totally in the dark about the Thatcher negotiations or acceptance by the IRA prison leadership of an offer made on July 5th.
On the 6th April SF in the Irish Times denied the Sunday Times claims and bizarrely stated that the documents were a part of a British military intelligence conspiracy. The IRSP on the internet pointed out that the only evidence of a British intelligence intervention was that which SF promoted with the John Blelloch interview who they claimed was an MI5 agent. SF quickly done a U-turn on this claim and welcomed the documents claiming, again quite bizarrely, that they supported their version of events.
SF’s position is now shifting from ‘no offers whatsoever’ to ‘no concrete proposals whatsoever’ to according to Barbara de Bruin on 2nd May 2009-
‘’There were negotiations, there was an offer, in fact a number of different offers but as the British refused to sign anything or give a public commitment to move before the hunger strike ended there was no ‘deal’. Due to the way the British government had acted in the wake of the first hunger strike the hunger strikers wouldn’t end their fast without some form of public guarantee.
Indeed, the timeline published by the Bobby Sands Trust also shows that the British government refused to meet the hunger strikers and stand over their offer.’’
It is worth rewinding back to Jim Gibney’s public statement on March 2004 when during a speech on the anniversary of Bobby Sands 50th birthday said ‘’I was shown a comm written by Bobby Sands that had come out of the prison the previous day(the day the first Hunger Strike ended). The following sentence stuck out: “I will begin another hunger strike on the 1st January.” SF’s position now seems to be relying on British duplicity at the end of the first Hunger Strike by claiming that the British reneged on a deal therefore it was imperative that the Brits stand over any offer they made. Why would Bobby Sands be writing a comm on the night the first Hunger Strike collapsed about going on another Hunger Strike if there was an alleged deal? Danny Morrison appeared on RTE, the same day Jim received this comm, saying that Bobby was ‘’jubilant.’’ All the main players including of course the Brits knew that no deal was reneged on so why maintain this pretence and preconditions over an alleged deal that didn’t exist.
The day following the Sunday Times exposes Danny Morrison inferred that Kevin McQuillan knew about the mountain climber initiative as did Kevin Lynch and Mickey Devine. This was strongly denied publicly by Kevin as well as by Tommy McCourt and Seany Flynn, senior members of the 1981 IRSP who were in constant contact with the INLA Hunger Strikers, Liam McCluskey a former Hunger Striker and Rab Collins who was the INLA prisoners OC.
On the 7th April 2009 another ex-blanket prisoner confirms over hearing acceptance conversation. Elaborate ** Again last night I gave this account last night from memory but will give the following summary**
( An ex-blanket man phoned me the Tuesday after the Sunday Times article and confirmed Richards account. We met on Easter Sunday and in the presence of others once again confirmed Richard’s account of and stated that he heard the conversation between Richard and Bik accepting the offer and agreed to meet the families and others if they wished. ‘’He is in this hall tonight and perhaps he may want to talk about this later during the debate or I can arrange a meeting with some family relatives in private.’’
Part of the evidence presented to the IRSP on June 2006
Extracts from a taped conversation
I am going to reference four separate segments of this conversation. There are more which are just as powerful. These quotations, we believe, more than confirm Richard O’Rawe’s assertions. It should be borne in mind that the IRSP leadership had hoped that this day would never come; it was our honest desire that we would have been able to report that O’Rawe was either lying, or that his memory was playing tricks with him. While our investigation is still ongoing, clearly it is getting increasingly difficult to dismiss what O’Rawe is saying. Here are the quotes. Make your own minds up:
Mr A: I have said to people, yes… it’s true enough. A couple of people around here got at me about it, and I said ‘Well, I don’t want to get involved in this, but I do recall that conversation’.
Mr A: I can verify it, it fuckin happened; I don’t want fuck all to do with it. It did happen. O’Rawe’s telling the truth.…..
Mr A: Well, I can verify the first part of it, the offer …except I thought it was three points rather than four and I know it was rejected – but I don’t know who – and neither I do…
Mr A: The reply, the reply… well, I know it was turned down – but I don’t know by whom.
The IRSP are very conscious of the pain and hurt that has been revisited upon the families and wider republican community. We have had a number of lengthy meetings with four of the families in relation to this controversy which have been both heartbreaking and head-wrecking experiences but also very humbling experiences. If we, the IRSP, added any further pain and distress to the families then I unreservedly apologise for doing so but I must add that we were duty bound to fulfil the requests of the relatives who did ask us to investigate these claims and to tell them the truth. I hope others are likeminded and give us all the truth and finally closure to this controversy.
On a final note, we in the IRSP would like to salute the memory of the Hunger Strikers and praise the dignity and courage of the families.
Gerry Adams declina l’invito del Republican Network for Unity a partecipare al meeting ‘What’s the truth behind the Hunger Strike”.
Subject: Reponse letter from Gerry Adams
John a chara,
Thank you for your letter to me received on Wednesday 20th May about an event in Derry on Saturday 23rd May 2009.
You assert that your aim is “clarity for the families of the men who died”. It is presumptuous of you to presume that you speak for the families on this, or indeed any other matter. These families are well able to speak for themselves.
My understanding from recent conversations with family members of hunger strikers who died during the 1981 Hunger Strikes is that they are quite clear about what happened. I have never had concerns to the contrary raised with me by any family members.
Any family member I have spoken to in recent times has been angered by the politically motivated stories printed by the Sunday Times which was hostile to the Hunger Strikers from the outset and also to Sinn Féin. Other political opponents of Sinn Féin have been quick to jump on this anti-Sinn Féin bandwagon to propagate bogus claims for political objectives of their own. This is a disgraceful affront to the memories of those who gave their lives. It totally disregards the feelings of family members.
Your event, in my opinion, is part of that agenda. I will not be attending and will not send a representative.
Is mise le meas,
Gerry Adams MP, MLA
Bik McFarlane, successore di Bobby Sands alla carica di OC a Long Kesh, smentisce un qualsiasi accordo con il governo Thatcher
‘There was never any deal offered’ (The Irish Post)
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.
McFarlane succeeded Bobby Sands as leader of the political prisoners in the H-Blocks and has vehemently denied suggestions that a strikebreaking deal was put in place by the then-British Government that might have saved the lives of Republican prisoners.
A total of 10 men died on the strike and the story that a deal was rejected by the IRA was widely reported in the media in recent weeks.
The former Officer Commanding (OC) believes that the information is being deliberately fed to discredit Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin.
“There was never any deal,” he said, when speaking to The Irish Post in London over the weekend. “All this information is specifically being used to target Gerry Adams and discredit both him and Sinn Féin. “What it’s actually doing is accusing him of killing the hunger strikers, which is absolutely preposterous.”
He added: “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 assertion that there was a deal on the table in 1981 was made by former Republican prisoner Richard O’Raw who was held in the H-Blocks (Maze/Long Kesh) during the hunger strikes.
But leading Republicans have long denounced the testimony contained in his book Blanket Men.
“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.
HUNGER STRIKE ‘TRUTH’ DOESN’T SUIT SINN FEIN di Liam Clarke (NewsLetter 26/05/2009)
There is an instinctive cultural cringe in the unionist community when inquiries into recent history are mentioned. Many feel that their outcome is bound to be an exercise in republican propaganda, so the search for truth is best avoided.
The Maze stadium was opposed partly as a means of blocking parallel proposals to create a “conflict resolution centre” in the former prison. This was rejected as a “republican shrine” despite the opportunity to include the experiences of loyalist inmates and prison officers as well as the hunger strikers.
There were also civilians, like the Tiger’s Bay milkman Eric Guiney, who were killed during the unrest. The easiest way to get a one sided-account is to leave remembrance of the hunger strike in the hands of Sinn Fein alone.
The value of seeking the truth was brought home last Saturday night when I joined the panel at an event called “What is the Truth Behind the Hunger Strike?”, organised by the Republican Network for Unity, mainly made up of ex-prisoners. Other panellists included Richard O’Rawe, former PRO of the protesting prisoners in the Maze, and Brendan Duddy, the businessman who acted as go between for the IRA and the British Government for many years.
Duddy described receiving British messages, generally in phone calls from MI6, and handing them to “an IRA volunteer” who conveyed them to Gerry Adams. It was a vivid first hand testimony that is only possible now that the conflict is over.
The discussion focused on the days following July 4, 1981, when three hunger strikers had died and another, Joe McDonnell, had days to live. Bobby Sands had been elected MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone on a sympathy vote and Sinn Fein planned to field Owen Carron, a party member, in the by-election caused by Sands’ death.
Since Sinn Fein’s normal policy was not to contest elections, Carron would have to withdraw, and if he stood was unlikely to be elected, if the strike ended. The explosive question which O’Rawe raised was whether the protest was prolonged, with six more deaths in the jail and more on the streets, in order to get Carron elected.
The prisoners issued a statement on July 4 in which they dropped any mention of political status and instead asked for reforms in the prison regime which could apply to all inmates. Spotting a way out, Thatcher responded by activating her channel to the IRA through Duddy.
The authorised Sinn Fein account is that Thatcher would not commit herself and prevented a settlement. However, O’Rawe claims that on July 5 Brendan “Bik” McFarlane, the commander of the IRA prisoners, consulted him on a substantial offer in a conversation in Irish shouted from cell to cell.
O’Rawe says that he and McFarlane felt the offer was close enough to their proposals to end the strike and recommended acceptance but they were over ruled by an order from the IRA army council.
McFarlane denied this account.
There the matter rested until I obtained documents under the Freedom of Information Act which showed that, far from being disinterested and implacable as Sinn Fein had claimed, Thatcher had attended midnight meetings on the issue and had agreed an offer which would be read out to the prisoners and made public if the IRA leadership accepted it.
At the meeting Duddy confirmed that he had passed on the message I produced and that it had been rejected by the IRA.
Later another former Blanketman, Gerard Clarke, spoke from the audience to say that, after a great deal of soul searching, he had decided to speak out. He had been in an adjoining cell and had overheard the conversation. He confirmed O’Rawe’s account and believed that most prisoners would have accepted the offer.
A hunger striker, Gerard Hodgins, said that he had never been informed of what was on offer and former leaders of the IRSP and INLA, three of whose prisoners had died, said that their members had not been informed. In speeches heavy with emotion and regret, they told how hunger strikers had died believing the situation was hopeless. They made it clear that they would have recommended acceptance of the offer if they had known of it.
Unionists can’t count on every examination of recent history playing against Sinn Fein. In some instances the republican account will be justified, but we will be healthier as a society if we can seek the facts as honestly as possible.As Einstein put it “The search for truth is more precious than its possession”.
REPUBLICANS ROCKED BY HUNGER STRIKE CLAIM di Eamon Sweeney (Londonderry Sentinel 27/05/09)
Londoderry’s DUP minister, Gregory Campbell has said a republican meeting at which claims were made that the 1981 hunger strikes could have been halted before the fifth man died, shows the length to which the republican movement were prepared to go to pursue a political strategy.
Mr Campbell was speaking after a meeting at the Gasyard Centre last weekend heard allegations that an offer, alluding to granting four of the five demands of the hunger strikers, was communicated to the IRA inside the Maze, days before the death of Joe McDonnell.
But, there are allegations that the offer was rejected by the external leadership of the IRA despite being accepted within the prison. In the event, five more hunger strikers died.
Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O’Hara had died before Joe McDonnell-Martin Hurson,Kevin Lynch,Kieran Doherty,Thomas McElwee and Michael Devine, died after McDonnell.
The claims are centred on a 2005 book by Richard O’Rawe-an ex-IRA prisoner, who acted as public relations officer in the Maze. He has contended for many years that he and the IRA commander inside Long Kesh, Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane, discussed the government’s document and agreed there was enough content to halt the strike. McFarlane susequently denied that such a conversation ever took place.
The weekend debate was also attended by businessman, Brendan Duddy, said to be the ‘Mountain climber’, who ferried messages between the IRA and the government.
Mr Duddy was asked by journalist Liam Clarke if a document he had obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, outlining what would happen if the IRA called off the protest, was one of the communications he passed to the IRA.
Brendan Duddy said: “What Liam Clarke has is a fair and accurate report. I don’t disagree with the content.”
The document claims that the IRA had accepted the substance of an offer to end the hunger strike but objected to the tone.
The audience and panel also heard from Gerard Clarke, an IRA prisoner, who claimed the conversation between O’Rawe and McFarlane took place. He said: “I wasn’t supposed to hear that conversation, I was in a cell nearby. I haven’t said anything for nearly thirty years. But, I am saying now that conversation took place.”
Another former IRA prisoner, Gerard Hodgkins said that after initial scepticism he has become convinced by Richard O’Rawe’s claims.
Leading IRSP member, Willie Gallagher, said that his organisation were also initially sceptical. But, after approaches from members of the INLA hunger strikers’ families and ex-prisoners the party has come to believe the conversation about the acceptance of an offer took place. Mr Gallagher also said that he will release a taped conversation in the near future between two, as yet, unnamed sources, that will bolster claims the conversation took place.
Gregory Campbell told the Sentinel: “Being from the unionist community I was unfamiliar from a republican perspective about what went on at that time. But, from what I have read about this meeting and the wider subject, it demonstrates to me is that the republican movement were prepared to sacrifice their own people because they were viewing a long term strategy.
“They were prepared to put them out on a limb, which should tell a few people that may be prepared to get involved what they may face.
“It was a very traumatic time. They were attempting to hold the government and Margaret Thatcher to ransom. It could have been many more than ten that died, after all they were joining the hunger strike in wave after wave. We didn’t know that ten would be the final figure.
“It was a state quite close to anarchy. There was widespread rioting and mayhem on a daily basis. It got worse as these guys died. The tension was horrific.”
BRITISH ‘HAD NOT INTENTION OF RESOLVING THE HUNGER STRIKE’ – Intervista in esclusiva a Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane dal Belfast Telegraph
British ‘had no intention of resolving the hunger strike’
The IRA jail leader during the 1981 hunger strike today said the British Government never had any intention of resolving the notorious prison dispute in which 10 men starved to death.
Brendan ‘Bic’ McFarlane accused the then Thatcher Government of trying to resolve the prison protest “on their terms” while attempting to “wreck” the IRA in the process.
McFarlane, speaking in an exclusive interview for the Belfast Telegraph, again dismissed claims that he accepted an offer secretly communicated by the British that summer, but was overruled by the Army Council on the outside.
The suggestion first emerged in the controversial book Blanketmen — written by former prisoner Richard O’Rawe, who was part of the IRA jail leadership in 1981.
A British offer on the prisoners’ demands was communicated in the summer of that year through a secret contact channel which was codenamed Mountain Climber.
And, on Sunday, July 5, the senior republican Danny Morrison was allowed into the Maze to separately brief McFarlane and the hunger strikers.
“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.”
But he said he also made clear that more was needed — that the British had to “expand the offer, and they need to go into the prison hospital”.
McFarlane said this was key — that the Government detail its offer directly to the hunger strikers.
“They (the hunger strikers) were at pains to say the Brits need to come forward,” he said.
“They need to expand on it (the offer),” he continued, “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,” he said.
McFarlane said at the time this had also been made clear to the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace.
“They (the Commission) went directly to the British and urged them to send someone in,” McFarlane continued.
“The British indicated clearly that they were sending someone in?and it didn’t happen.
Looking back at the events of 1981, McFarlane said: “It seems very clear that they didn’t have an intention to resolve it to an acceptable degree — that we felt was acceptable.
“They were going to resolve it on their terms and wreck us in the process,” he said.
McFarlane: Key Dates
1951 – born Belfast.
1968 – left Belfast to train as a priest.
1970 – left seminary in Wales and later joined IRA.
1976 – life sentence for gun and bomb attack on Bayardo Bar in Belfast (August 1975, five killed).
1981 – IRA jail leader during hunger strike. Ten men died (7 IRA, 3 INLA).
1983 – he escaped from the Maze in IRA breakout.
1986 – re-arrested in Amsterdam, extradited and returned to Maze Prison.
1998 – release papers signed January 5.
Now – Sinn Fein party activist based in north Belfast
My crucial discussion with the Maze strikers
When Brendan McFarlane met Danny Morrison in the jail that Sunday afternoon in July 1981, four hunger strikers were dead and another Joe McDonnell “was in an appalling state”.
The jail leader knew that Morrison’s presence meant something was happening.
For months — since the first hunger strike of 1980 — he had been banned from the jail, and, now, on a Sunday when there were no visits the prison gates had opened for him.
The man from the outside was allowed in to explain the Mountain Climber contacts and the offer the British had communicated.
And the fact that the British were in contact — albeit through a conduit now known to be the Derry businessman Brendan Duddy — was progress.
After meeting Morrison, McFarlane met the hunger strikers.
“We went through it step by step,” he said. “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,” he continued.
The hunger strikers, according to both McFarlane and Morrison wanted the British to send someone into the prison.
McFarlane continued: “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,” he added.
FIVE CRUCIAL POINTS – The Pensive Quill (Anthony McIntyre)
In the conversations I have had with Richard O’Rawe on the alternative view of the 1981 hunger strike proffered in his book Blanketmen I have insisted to him that there are no knock out blows delivered in the type of battle he had entered into. Attrition rather than blitzkrieg would come to characterise his advance. He would face many setbacks, would be let down by those he expected a lot more from, and would at all times feel the breath of hostility hot on the back of his neck. Breakthroughs are always agonisingly slow in coming and when they do can seem anti-climatic. I suggested to him that he would find it a point by point slog first to retain his reputation and then to establish his narrative in the face of withering assault. His achievements would be incremental, his critics nasty and brutish. The hunger strike narrative was a coveted asset from which the fingers of its self-defined custodians would only be prised away one at a time; and with each one removed it would be free to try and gouge him in the eyes. He would be up against pugilists wholly unfamiliar with Queensbury Rules. But at the end of it all if he possessed the necessary stamina and was correct he only had to stay in the ring and the breaks would come his way.
While it might have taken four years it has come to pass. The Derry debate in the Gasyard Centre seems to have been a tipping point. And the narrative has firmly tipped the way of O’Rawe. Since that discussion almost a fortnight ago I have spoken with a number of people from different perspectives and political backgrounds and there is acknowledgement of a definite shift. They all accept that O’Rawe’s credibility as a witness in the eye of the storm, who testified to the turbulence he saw, is now beyond reproach, it being no longer plausible to contend that he manufactured his account. While few of them would go as far as to ascribe the malign or sinister motive, favoured by some, to those republican figures who overruled the prison leadership’s acceptance of the offer from the British to end the hunger strike, they agree that something happened which has yet to convincingly explained.
Despite claims to the contrary we have known for at least four years of the existence of evidence from the wing in which O’Rawe was housed during the hunger strike that would support his claims. Like all evidence it was inconclusive until tested by cross examination. But it at least shaded things the way of O’Rawe. So I was not at all surprised when the former blanket prisoner Gerard Clarke made the contribution in Derry that he did. He claims to have heard the conversation between O’Rawe and Brendan McFarlane, the jail’s IRA leader, on July 5 1981 in which they agreed to accept the British offer. This is nothing new from Gerard Clarke; merely the first time he has said it public. He volunteered it to O’Rawe two to three years ago in a shopping centre but O’Rawe never felt free to cite it until the man himself came forward. Moreover, during his Radio Foyle debate with Raymond McCartney days before the Gasyard event O’Rawe foresaw imminent egg on the face of the Derry MLA over the latter’s allegations that not one person on the wing heard the exchange between O’Rawe and McFarlane. It was a pregnant moment that burst to fruition in the Gasyard.
Important as Gerard Clarke’s intervention was, even more crucial was the contribution made by Brendan Duddy, the conduit between the British government and the IRA leadership in 1981. He not only confirmed that an offer had indeed been made by the British, the contents of which the journalist Liam Clarke produced on the night in documented form, he also claimed that he was told by his contact in the IRA leadership that the offer was not acceptable. The leadership asked for more concessions, not for a British official to be sent in to stand over what was already in the document. O’Rawe’s opponents often insist that a refusal by the British to send in a government representative was the ultimate deal breaker without which no deal could be nailed down.
The five crucial points to emerge from Derry are: documented evidence of a British offer; witness evidence that the document in question was the one handed to his interlocutor in the republican leadership; witness evidence that the offer was refused by the same interlocutor; witness evidence that the stumbling block was not the absence of a British guarantor but not enough on the table; witness evidence that Richard O’Rawe’s account of the conversation between himself and Brendan McFarlane in which they agreed to accept the British offer was correct. The aggregated weight of evidence from Brendan Duddy, Gerard Clarke and Liam Clarke provide a linear account wholly consistent with O’Rawe and seriously at variance with those who would rather Blanketmen had never seen the light of day. Only a rogue intellect could continue to claim that O’Rawe is a falsifier. Too much is falling into place for him.
Against this critics of the O’Rawe perspective are being sorely tested and increasingly found to be wanting. They now sound more raucous than reassured. No new revelation supports their case, not Blelloch, not anything.
SF TO MEET HUNGER STRIKE FAMILIES OVER DEAL ‘MITH’ – The Irish News
The Sinn Fein leadership has organised a meeting with families of the 1981 hunger strikers to discuss recent controversy about the period. Families of the 10 men who died were notified this week about the meeting at Gulladuff in south Derry on Wednesday. It is understood Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and others connected to the 1981 protest will attend. The discussion follows a number of claims in recent months about a possible deal which might have saved the lives of five or possibly six of the hunger strikers. The meeting will be the first time the party leadership has held direct talks with the families since the controversy arose. It is being seen as a bid to stop the issue gaining further momentum. Claims that a deal could have saved lives first arose in 2005 when Richard O’Rawe – who acted as publicity officer for the 1981 hunger strikers – published his account of the period. In his book, Mr O’Rawe said a deal was sanctioned by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher hours before Joe McDonnell died. However, Mr O’Rawe alleged it was rejected by the IRA leadership outside the prison because it wished to capitalise on political gains. This was rejected by the Sinn Fein group which managed the hunger strike from outside the prison, insisting the deal was not guaranteed. The dispute continued this year when a number of documents released under the Freedom of Information Act appeared to confirm details of a deal being offered to the IRA on July 8 1981. Next week’s meeting has received a mixed response from families of the hunger strikers. Tony O’Hara, whose brother Patsy died before the alleged deal, said his family and that of Michael Devine (both INLA hunger strikers) were considering whether to attend. The IRSP claimed the meeting was “another attempt to mislead and confuse”. Spokesman Martin McMonagle said a full inquiry into the issue – demanded recently by former hunger striker Gerard Hodgkins – was the only way forward. “We have come to this conclusion because of the weight of evidence from wide-ranging sources who were directly involved which clearly contradicts the Sinn Fein version of events,” he said. However, Oliver Hughes, a brother of Francis Hughes and a cousin of Thomas McElwee, supported the Sinn Fein leadership. He said while he could not attend because of business commitments his family would be represented. Mr Hughes said he was angry that the pain of the hunger strikes was being revisited on the families. “I would question what the motive is for bringing this up again 28 years on,” he said. “I support the leadership of the republican movement in arranging this meeting. I believe Adams and his colleagues feel they must make some reply.” Sinn Fein last night confirmed that a “private meeting” had been organised. A spokesman said the issue was raised a number of times during recent meetings organised by the party leadership. “As a result of these meetings it was decided that we should organise a meeting for all the relatives of the hunger strikers to allow them to come together as a group and discuss issues both amongst themselves and with the Sinn Fein leadership,” he said.
SON WALKS OUT OF SINN FEIN HUNGER STRIKE EVENT– The Irish News
A highly emotional meeting of families of the 1981 Hunger Strikers has failed to reach agreement over how to deal with recent controversy about the protest. Hight of the 10 Hunger Strikers’ families accepted an invitation to attend the meeting, organised by the Sinn Fein leadership. The families of Bobby Sands and Kevin Lynch did not attend the discussion in Gulladuff, Co Donegal. The meeting was addressed by Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams and former Sinn Fein publicity officer, Danny Morrison as well as Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane, who was officer in command of IRA prisoners at the time of the Hunger Strike. Michael Devine whose father, Derry man Mickey Devine was the last hunger striker to die, left the meeting early. Mr Devine claimed afterwards he did so because he could not put his point across. The meeting was organised in response to recent claims that a deal was offered by the British government in the hours before Joe McDonnell died. Mr McDonnell was the fifth of the 10 hunger strikers to die. Richard O’Rawe, who was publicity officer for the prisoners at the time, claimed in his 2005 book that the deal was turned down by the Sinn Fein committee outside the prison. He claimed Sinn Fein wished to capitalise on the political gains available through the Hunger Strike. He claimed the deal was sanctioned by then British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher and would have met three and possibly four of the hunger strikers five demands. Sinn Fein has always rejected his claims. Sinn Fein declined to comment on this week’s meeting but insiders said it was “highly emotional” with family members visibly upset. IRSP spokesman William Gallagher – who was not allowed to attend the meeting – said the whole debate had brought back painful memories for the families. “There was a call for a united statement from the families to end the recent controversy and there was also a counter-call for an independent inquiry into what happened and both failed to get full support,” Mr Gallagher said.
HUNGER STRIKE FAMILIES REJECT O’RAWE CLAIMS – The Irish News
The families of the majority of the 1981 hunger strikers have asked people to stop claiming a deal could have saved their loved ones’ lives. Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, former publicity officer Danny Morrison and former IRA prison OC Brendan McFarlane met eight of the hunger strike families on Wednesday to discuss the claims. The meeting was organised following claims the British government offered a deal which met most of the strikers’ demands hours before the 1981 death of Joe McDonnell. In 2005 former prisoner Richard O’Rawe said the deal was rejected by the leadership outside the prison. He said this could have been for a number of possible reasons, including an effort by Sinn Fein to make political gains. Following the meeting, IRSP spokesman Willie Gallagher said not all of the families agreed to make a united statement or call for an independent inquiry. But this was rejected by the Hughes, McCreesh, McDonnell, Hurson, Doherty and McElwee families last night. “All of the family members who spoke with the exception of Tony O’Hara (brother of Patsy) expressed deep anger and frustration at the ongoing allegations created by O’Rawe,” they said. While members of the extended family of Michael Devine supported yesterday’s statement, his son Michael Og told the Irish News he had not seen the statement nor added his support.
IRA HUNGER STRIKERS ‘COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED’ – U Tv
The Irish government had a mole inside Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison during the IRA hunger strike of 1981, former Irish Prime Minister Dr Garret FitzGerald revealed on Monday.
Dr FitzGerald said he was convinced a deal between the prisoners on hunger strike and the British Government could have been struck to prevent the last six of 10 deaths, but that it was vetoed by the IRA leadership.
The 83-year-old former Taoiseach revealed the behind-the-scenes activity during a brief window of opportunity which could have saved the lives in an interview with the Irish News for a series the Belfast newspaper is publishing about the hunger strike.
There has been deep division within republicanism about the hunger strike since the publication of a book, Blanketmen, by former IRA prisoner Richard O’Rawe, in which he suggested the Sinn Fein leadership blocked a deal for political purposes.
Sinn Fein always denied the claim, but Dr FitzGerald said: “O’Rawe’s account seems to me to be, within his framework of knowledge, honest and accurate.”
Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who has admitted having being in the IRA, also revealed for the first time that he was one of the conduits for the offer from the British Government, but he disputes, said the newspaper, that there was a deal on the table acceptable to the prisoners.
He accused Sinn Fein’s opponents of trying to portray the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as someone anxious to solve the hunger strike when she was what he called “a ruthless hypocritical enemy”.
Dr FitzGerald, who started the first of his two terms as Irish Prime Minister during the hunger strike, said the IRA prisoners in the Maze were ready to accept a deal if they had been allowed to by Sinn Fein.
“They were keen to accept that. We knew that. We had our sources within the prison.”
McGuinness disputes deal
He declined to elaborate and say whether the mole was a member of the prison staff or a prisoner.
When Dr FitzGerald came to power the Catholic Church’s Irish Justice and Peace Commission (IJPC) was working towards a possible resolution of the standoff between republicans prisoners in the Maze and the British government over the concession of ‘prisoner of war’ type status.
Dr FitzGerald was briefed on the efforts by the IJPC and told the newspaper he believed at the time they would lead to a solution before the next death.
At his request the IJPC was granted a meeting with Northern Ireland Office minister Michael Allison who gave the impression he wanted to be conciliatory.
Mr Allison cleared the way for the IJPC to visit the prisoners and afterwards the inmates issued a statement which was also more conciliatory than the messages that had been issued from outside the prison by Sinn Fein.
At around the same time Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was contacted by MI6 and a deal parallel to that of the IJPC worked out, said Dr FitzGerald.
“He was delighted the British were running to him and he did get an additional offer to the IJPC offer. It is my recollection that he got an offer (prisoner access) to the Open University which was not in the IJPC offer,” said the former Taoiseach.
Eventually the whole deal collapsed and another six men died before an end was brought to the hunger strike.
Dr FitzGerald told the newspaper that if it had been left to the IJPC a resolution could have been reached.
He said: “If the British had not intervened and brought the IRA back in again a deal could have been done.”
Occasione di fare chiarezza
Mostrano anche che, meno di due settimane prima della morte dell’uomo dell’INLA di Dungiven, Kevin Lynch, agli hunger strikers venne offerta la possibilità di chiarire le posizioni di fronte a parenti ed ecclesiastici, ma l’insistenza dei prigionieri di incontrarsi solo in presenza di McFarlane fu respinta dagli ufficiali del NIO, che lo ritenevano intransigente.
I 32 documenti recentemente rilasciati, insieme a molti altri rilasciati precedentemente, offrono un’incredibile comprensione dei patti del Governo con una vasta gamma di protagoni, inclusi il Governo di Dublino, Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, il Vaticano, e i leader della Chiesa Cattolica sia in Inghilterra sia in Irlanda. Mostrano anche che il Governo era coinvolto in approcci segreti e in tentativi per trovare una formula e le parole che avrebbero permesso di mettere in atto una soluzione – un predecessore della strada del Processo di Pace intrapreso poi negli anni Novanta.
I documenti mostrano che il Governo credeva consistentemente che i prigionieri agissero per ordine e che McFarlane non avrebbe considerato nulla di meno che la negoziazione delle “five demands”.
Queste richieste erano:
il diritto di non indossare l’uniforme della prigione; il diritto di non fare i lavori in prigione; il diritto di libera associazione con altri prigionieri, e di organizzare momenti di educazione e ricreazione; il diritto ad una visita, una lettera e un pacco alla settimana; pieno reintegro dei benefici persi durante la protesta.
I documenti mostrano che la posizione del Governo passavano dalla convinzione, in un primo momento, che ci fosse uno stallo su cui non si poteva giungere a compromessi, anche se erano consistenti le richieste di porre fine alla protesta prima che una qualsiasi mossa pubblica fosse fatta da parte sua. E mostrano che il Governo credeva anche di lottare in una battaglia propagandistica.
Un telegramma alla Santa Sede nell’aprile del 1981 insiste che il Governo non avrebbe potuto cedere ed esprime rammarico per il fallimento della personale richiesta del Papa affinché gli hunger strikers terminassero la protesta.
Mentre la morte del primo hunger striker, Bobby Sands, si avvicinava, un telegramma al NIO menzionava colloqui con i rappresentanti del governo irlandese, dicendo che : “Nally è d’accordo che mentre a Sud c’era preoccupazione sulle conseguenze per la morte di Sands, il supporto agli hunger strikers era molto limitato. Comunque, la morte di Sand, in particolare se seguita da quella di Hughes, poteva cambiare le cose.”
I documenti mostrano che un comunicato stampa era stato preparato prima della morte di Sands, con giorno e ora, e il numero di giorni per cui aveva rifiutato di mangiare da inserire dopo la sua morte. Ma a luglio la linea dura, che era stato l’approccio in pubblico, non era seguita in privato.
Un estratto da una lettera – in precedenza pubblicata dal Sunday Times – datata 8 luglio, dal numero 10 di Downing Street al NIO, diceva che il Primo Ministro aveva incontrato il Segretario di Stato Humphrey Atkins dopo che il messaggio da lui approvato era stato comunicato al Provisional IRA. Diceva che originariamente l’IRA non aveva ritenuto soddisfacente l’offerta, ma quando era diventato chiaro che questo poneva fine all’iniziativa, ciò “aveva prodotto una rapida reazione che suggeriva che non era il contenuto del messaggio ad essere obiettato, ma solo il suo tono”
Il Segretario di Stato “aveva concluso che avremmo dovuto comunicare con il PIRA nella notte per una bozza di dichiarazione che partisse dal messaggio della sera precedente ma che non si allontanasse da esso nella sostanza. Se il PIRA avesse accettato la bozza e ordinato agli strikers di porre fine alla protesta, la dichiarazione sarebbe stata resa pubblica immediatamente.
In caso contrario, la dichiarazione non sarebbe stata resa pubblica ma invece una dichiarazione alternativa che reiterasse la posizione del Governo come già detto nella dichiarazione del 30 giugno e in risposta alle discussioni con l’Irish Commission for Justice and Peace.
Se ci fosse stata una qualsiasi fuga di notizie sul processo di comunicazione con la PIRA, l’ufficio avrebbe negato.”
I documenti mostrano che il Governo venne consigliato da esperti su come formulare la dichiarazione in modo che l’IRA potesse accettarla.
Un successivo telegramma dal NIO diceva che nella dichiarazione era stata aggiunta la frase : “attendiamo le reazioni dei Provos (vogliamo permettere loro di vedere il documento prima che sia consegnato ai prigionieri e alla stampa). È stato chiarito che (come dice la bozza stessa) quella non è la base per la negoziazione.”
La comunicazioni tra l’ufficio del Segretario di Stato e l’ICJP, inclusa una del 6 luglio, suggeriscono che il corpo ritenne che una dichiarazione, “assieme ai chiarimenti ricevuti” incoraggiasse a continuare gli sforzi, con il NIO che diceva di non volere ancora che il pubblico sapesse di una lettera all’ICJP, perché “la conoscenza pubblica dell’esistenza di una lettera arrecherebbe subito pressione su di noi e farebbe rivelare loro i contenuti – ora questo potrebbe non essere utile.”. Aggiunse che all’ICJP era stato detto che sarebbe stata resa pubblica prima o poi, altrimenti il Governo sarebbe stato accusato di “patti segreti” ma che il tempo e i termini per rendere pubblico il tutto dovevano essere decisi di comune accordo.
I chiarimenti includevano temi come l’associazione, il lavoro carcerario, concessioni e vestiti.
In un altro documento si trova una dichiarazione letta ai prigionieri dal Segretario di Stato, che dice che nessuna mossa può essere fatta sotto la coercizione di uno sciopero della fame ma “certi che coloro in protesta siano consapevoli di che cosa è disponibile”.
Si legge: “Un piccolo aumento della libertà di associazione è contemplato, e il suggerimento di associazione con altre ali adiacenti (fatto dall’ICJP) sarebbe stato preso in considerazione. Sugli abiti ‘la possibilità di un ulteriore sviluppo’ non era stata decisa. Sul lavoro, nessuno sarebbe stato escluso ma ci si impegnava ad aggiungere alcune richieste alla gamma delle attività, includendo i suggerimenti dell’ICJP. Non veniva promesso altro che la restituzione agli ex hunger strikers dell’esistente 1/5 dei benefici persi .”
Dice che nessuna reazione fu mostrata dai prigionieri anche se Michael Devine eThomas McElwee chiesero che gli ufficiali potessero andare a discutere il documento dopo averlo letto.
Dice anche: “Ai prigionieri era stata data un’opportunità di discutere il documento tra loro e anche di vedere per una volta McFarlane. Lynch e Doherty – i due strikers più determinati – dopo dissero che in esso non c’era nulla per loro”
Il documento privo di data contiene dettagli sulla dichiarazione che si dice l’IRA abbia fatto uscire di nascosto dalla prigione l’8 luglio , dicendo che non era necessario che Joe McDonnell morisse e descrivendo la dichiarazione di Mr Atkins di quel giorno come “ambigua e auto-compiaciuta”.
Un telegramma mandato da Lord Carrington il 15 luglio diceva che Mr Atkins aveva dato istruzioni affinché un ufficiale del NIO andasse nel Maze a spiegare l’iniziativa “ICRC” (International Committee of the Red Cross) del Governo per gli hunger-strikers, e avrebbe risposto ad ogni domanda sulla dichiarazione di Atkins dell’8 luglio.
Una nota datata 16 luglio dice che Mr (John) Blelloch aveva visitato gli hunger strikers il 15 luglio. “C’erano tutti e otto. Doherty non riusciva a leggere ma sembrava capire in generale. Il governatore ha consegnato il messaggio e gli strikers hanno ascoltato con attenzione.
“I prigionieri hanno poi chiesto di vedere McFarlane. Il Governatore ha approvato un breve incontro. Mr Blelloch chiese ai prigionieri se avessero riflettutto sulla dichiarazione di SoS dell’8 luglio. Essi dissero che avevano un paio di questioni; ma non volevano perseguirlo e sembravano molto più interessati all’ICRC.
“Il Governatore e Mr Blelloch quindi se ne andarono e arrivò McFarlane. La sensazione del Governatore era che l’atmosfera fosse “mortalmente calma”. Si rendevano conto della serietà della loro situazione ma era improbabile che agissero senza ordini del Provisional Sinn Fein. Avrebbero probabilmente deciso quella notte ma volevano sentire la radio e possibilmente ricevere “messaggi” tramite i visitatori.
“Alle 8.45pm Mr Blelloch telefonò per dire che McFarlane era tornato nella sua cella e gli strikers si erano separati senza chiedere un ulteriore incontro.”
Un altro (già precedentemente reso noto) documento mostra che Margaret Thatcher voleva avere un altro approccio con l’IRA, attraverso un canale segreto, ma cambiò idea quando le fu fatto notare il rischio che l’offerta fosse resa pubblica.
Una lettera del 18 luglio inviata da Downing Street al NIO dice che Philip Woodfield era giunto a ragguagliare il Primo Minsitro circa la situazione e che dopo l’ultima dichiarazione dell’IRA, Mr Atkins sentiva il bisogno di rispondere o con una dichiarazione o con l’invio di un ufficiale a chiarire nuovamente la posizione.
“L’ufficiale avrebbe parlato con gli strikers facendo una proposta in cambio del loro abbandono della protesta. Lo avrebbe fatto seguendo le linee guida discusse con il Primo Ministro la settimana precedente. Avrebbe detto che ai prigionieri sarebbe stato permesso indossare i loro vestiti, come già avveniva nella prigione di Armagh, a condizione che quei vestiti fossero approvati dalle autorità carcerarie (Questo sarebbe stato in vigore in tutte le prigioni nel Nord Irlanda).
“Avrebbe stabilito la posizione sulla libertà di associazione; sulla possibilita di ricevere pacchetti e lettere; sui privilegi e sul lavoro. Su questo ultimo punto, avrebbe chiarito che i prigionieri avrebbero dovuto compiere i lavori di base necessari al funzionamento della prigione, come in precedenza: c’erano compiti che, per nessuna circostanza, potevano essere fatti dallo staff della prigione. Ma per quanto riguardava il lavoro nei negozi della prigione, sarebbe stato implicito che non ci si aspettasse che i prigionieri li svolgessero ma che, se si fossero rifiutati di farli, sarebbero stati puniti con la perdita dei vantaggi, o alcune penalità simili, piuttosto che in modo più severo..
“La dichiarazione avrebbe messo in chiaro quello che era stato implicito della dichiarazione pubblica del Governo e già spiegato in comunicazioni precedenti.”
Il Primo Ministro approvò che un ulteriore sforzo fosse fatto per spiegare la situazione agli hunger strikers, ma poi , dopo ulteriori discussioni, “fu portato all’attenzione del Primo Ministro che ogni approccio del tipo chiesto dagli strikers sarebbe diventato inevitabilmente pubblico sia che funzionasse o meno e il Primo Ministro rivide la proposta con il Segretario di Stato al telefono e decise che i pericoli nel prendere un’iniziativa sarebbero stati tali da non essere preparato a correre il rischio.
“L’ufficiale che andò in prigione poteva solo ribadire la posizione pubblica del Governo, ma senza andare oltre.”
Altri documenti mostrano la “rete di contatti” che era seguita.
Ci sono due documenti con dettagli di una visita di Mr Belloch e Mr Blackwell al carcere il 20 luglio, la settimana dopo la morte di Martin Hurson, il sesto dei dieci uomini che morirono.
Entrambi dissero che la visita fu chiesta dal prete di Kevin Lynch che disse che Lynch e i parenti di Kieran Doherty volevano che un ufficiale del NIO visitasse il Maze per chiarire la dichiarazione del Governo del 19 luglio. Entrambi gli strikers negarono di aver chiesto una visita ma “erano contenti che un ufficiale vedesse il gruppo di hunger strikers”.
Mr Blelloch diede ai parenti un riassunto della posizione del Governo. L’assistente Governatore visitò ciascuno degli hunger strikers per dire loro della presenza dell’ufficiale del NIO ma tutti dissero che lo avrebbero incontrato solo in gruppo e “tutti tranne Lynch avevano detto che McFarlane doveva essere presente”.
“Mr Blelloch per primo parlò con le famiglie e spiegò la posizione in merito a McFarlane. Chiarì che avrebbe parlato agli hunger strikers come individui o come gruppo di fronte ai parenti o ai preti, secondo quello che volevano. Visitammo quindi ciascun hunger striker a turno e Mr Blelloch spiegò di essere un ufficiale del NIO e di essere là per vedere se poteva aiutare. In ogni caso, la risposta degli hunger strikers fu la stessa – lo avrebbero incontrato solo in gruppo e con McFarlane presente. Anche Lynch che in precedenza non lo aveva menzionato, ora richiedeva McFarlane…Fu deciso di non incontrare gli altri tre strikers nel blocco H.3 visto che quello era il blocco di McFarlane ed era molto improbabile che accettassero un incontro senza la sua presenza.”
Un altro documento sulla visita dice che: “Lynch disse che avrebbe voluto che un ufficiale lo vedesse e il gruppo e Doherty aveva che avrebbe voluto incontrare l’ufficiale e il gruppo e McFarlane.”
Mr Blelloch e Mr Blackwell arrivarono: “L’ufficiale della prigione disse che tutti e cinque gli hunger strikers nell’ospedale del carcere (eccetto Lynch) insistevano sulla presenza di McFarlane.”
Comunque dissero che dopo aver parlato con Lynch, anch’egli aveva insistito per la presenza di McFarlane quindi nessuno accettò l’incontro. Agli Ufficiali fu detto che lui e gli altri erano troppo deboli e avevamo bisogno di un porta voce.
Dopo i titoli di legge “Background briefing”: “La ragione per cui non vollero accettare l’offerta era che insistevano per la presenza di McFarlane, il quale aveva messo in chiaro che tutto quello che voleva era stracciare le dichiarazioni del Governo e negoziare le ‘5 demands’.”