Hunger strike dispute goes on
Hunger strike dispute goes on

Former IRA prison leader Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane has declared that a document from the 1981 hunger strike proved that republicans did not reject a British government deal to end the 1981 Hunger Strike.

McFarlane was responding to fresh allegations about the role of senior republicans in mangaging the hunger strike, in which ten republicans prisoners lost their lives fighting for political status.

Earlier this week Richard O’Rawe, who was the IRA press officer in the H-blocks during the Hunger Strike, published his second book ‘Afterlives: The Hunger Strike and the Secret Offer that Changed Irish History’.

In it he argues that prisoners had been willing to accept an offer to end the protest but this was rejected by the IRA leadership outside Long Kesh prison.

He claims that, as a result, six hunger strikers died needlessly.

“In Blanketmen I put forward two possibilities as to why the last six hunger strikers died,” he said.

“The first was that the [Gerry] Adams committee [outside the prison] had made a mistake.

“The second was that the Hunger Strike was prolonged to get [republican candidate] Owen Carron elected [to Westminster],” he said.

He has bow concluded that there is now enough evidence to show the latter suggestion is true.

“I am either telling the truth or I am telling lies and I do not tell lies,” he declared.

“People are entitied to know what it is they are fighting for.”

Mr McFarlane said yesterday than an IRA comm (communication) written by Mr O’Rawe during the Hunger Strike, in which he accused the British government of trying to prolong it, contradicted O’Rawe’s claims.

The communication, known to hunger strike historians, was intended to be sent as a letter by the prisoners to the national and international press.

In it, Mr O’Rawe writes: “It is vital also that everyone realises that the ICPJ [Irish Commission for Peace and Justice negotiators] have been victims of British perfidity and that the ambiguity which accompanies all British government statements is deliberate, so that at a later stage they can abdicate their responsibility.”

In another part of the communication sent between republicans in and outside the jail, Mr O’Rawe comments on a British decision to send officials into the prison to speak to hunger strikers.

“Understand this development for it is an extension of the cunningness that has marked the Brits’ role in this issue,” he writes.

“The Brits know our stand in relation to their July 8 statement but they saw the possibility of gaining in the propaganda field, so they sent two NIO men in on their publicity mission to explain a totally rejected statement.”

Mr McFarlane said he rejected Mr O’Rawe’s claims that the IRA had allowed six of the ten hungerstrikers to die needlessly.

“I have deliberately resisted engaging in personal attacks on Richard for the last five years,” he said.

“But I feel it is now time, once and for all, to show beyond doubt that what he is saying is totally untrue.

“These comms are written in Richard’s own handwriting and show quite clearly that he believed that the British had no interest in a deal.

“The idea that a deal came from Thatcher and was rejected by the outside leadership for political expediency is a total fallacy.

“His claims of an alleged conversation with me in which I said we’d agreed to a deal is a complete myth.

“Richard’s own comms show that the Brits were never serious about a deal.”

Mr McFarlane said his former comrade’s claims had caused major distress to hunger strikers’ families. “I hope these comms will prove once and for all who is telling the truth,” Mr McFarlane said.

Responding to his former cell mate’s criticism, Mr O’Rawe said Mr McFarlane should “tell the truth about the Hunger Strike rather than regurgitate this nonsense once more”.

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