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national | arts and media | news report Saturday January 07, 2012 18:03 by Terence McSwiney - The Hunger Stikers Strike Back
Today PK with Pat Kenny RTE Radio One 6 January 2012
Very interesting discussion on Today PK (RTE Radio One) of how media misinformation, most of which originated during the 1981 H Block hunger strikes resurfaced during the release of state papers in 2012. Allegations that: - Bobby Sands told the Pope's representative that he would come off the hunger strike; - that Raymond McCreesh's family forced him to remain on hunger strike; - that the British agreed the substance of the prisoner's demands between the death of the fourth and fifth hunger striker; are discussed, by journalist Eamon Mallie, historian Eamon Phoenix and 1981 prisoners' spokesperson Danny Morrison.
One claim was originated by a former prisoner who, with help from Ed Maloney, spread the story that the republican leadership outside the prison turned down a British concession of most of the prisoners' demands.Though discounted by most prisoners and by other contemporary witnesses, O'Rawe's allegations were amplified by a combination of pro-British journalists, anti republican Irish journalists and newspapers, plus journalists who oppose the peace process. Now, that allegation is firmly put to bed.
The state papers release includes, besides a time line that undermines the allegation, a typewritten text with Margaret Thatcher's handwriting on it, crossing out even the most minimal of concessions.
Thatcher and the British government were broken by the hunger strike that reverberated throughout the world. The hunger strikes saw Bobby Sands elected as MP in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, former SDLP leader Gerry Fitt was defeated in the 1981 local council elections and also lost his West Belfast seat to Gerry Adams in 1983. In the June 1981 southern general election, hunger striker Ciaran Doherty was elected a TD in Cavan Monaghan before he died. Another H Block prisoner, Paddy Agnew, was elected in Louth.
The prison authorities conceded the substance of the prisoners' demands after the last hunger striker died, after a campaign that lasted seven months. Morrison points out on the programme that when he was imprisoned on a trumped up charge during the later 1980s the prisoners had control of their own affairs and the prisoner governor recognised republican leadership structures.
The policy of 'Criminalisation' was broken.
Files 'demolish' claim IRA spurned hunger strike dealBrian Rowan Belfast Telegraph Saturday 31 December 2011
Some of the secret Government papers published yesterday under the 30-year rule appear to demolish claims that the lives of six of the 1981 hunger strikers could have been saved if the IRA had accepted a British 'deal'.
For years the republican leadership has been locked in a war of words with former prisoner Richard O'Rawe, author of the controversial book Blanketmen. In it he claims that in July 1981 the jail leadership, of which he was a part, accepted a British deal to end the hunger strike, but were overruled by the IRA 'army council' on the outside. Four men, including Bobby Sands, had already died. Six more would follow.
The secret British Cabinet papers dating back to the period shine a light on important telephone contacts over the weekend of July 4-6. Businessman and former Policing Board member Brendan Duddy, who had the codename 'Soon', was the key contact in a chain linking the Government and the republican leadership. His identity and role were not publicly known at the time.
The papers reveal negotiations to get the Belfast republican Danny Morrison into the Maze Prison.
"The foundation of his (O'Rawe's) allegation, upon which his book stands or falls, is what exactly happened on Sunday, July 5 when I visited the hunger strikers in the prison hospital and, separately, 'Bik' McFarlane," Morrison said.
"In his book he claims that I brought a message in from the British Government, a message that amounted to a 'deal', that I confided the details of this 'deal' to Bik McFarlane, who upon his return to his cell that Sunday night wrote down the details and sent it to O'Rawe," Morrison continued.
"However, with the publication of British papers from 1981 the British position which emerges is the position which I and Sinn Fein have been stating all along.
"At the time of my visit to the prison on the afternoon of Sunday July 5, 1981, the British Government had yet to even formulate its position, never mind proposing a 'deal'."
Morrison - a senior figure in the republican leadership at the time - points to a paragraph in the just-published Government papers. Brendan Duddy is speaking to a British contact, and advises that Martin McGuinness has just arrived. The papers read: "He (Duddy) said that time was of the essence and asked what the current HMG position was. We explained that it was important before drafting any document for consideration by ministers that we should possess the Provisionals' view. "'Soon' (Duddy's codename) then undertook to seek clear views on their position, which would be relayed to us later after discussion in the light of Morrison's visit."
The paragraph seems to suggest that whatever possibilities there were, there was no formal British position when Morrison visited the jail.
"This statement demolishes Richard O'Rawe's claims of a deal, claims that have caused unnecessary suffering to the families of the last six hunger strikers to die," the veteran Belfast republican told this newspaper.
AUDIO in two parts – TODAY PK Friday 6 January 2012 with Pat Kenny - listen herePART One audio - Time 14:28 PART Two audio – Time 20:54
PART ONE Danny Morrison Eamon Mallie Eamon Phoenix discuss media misinformation 1981 H Block hunger strikes 2.49 Mb
PART TWO Danny Morrison Eamon Mallie Eamon Phoenix discuss media misinformation 1981 H Block hunger strikes 2.39 Mb