Prison comms contradict book’s hunger strike claims

Daily Ireland

Sinn Féin’s ex-publicity chief releases notes written by Richard O’Rawe, negating deal allegations

by Mick Hall

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSinn Féin’s former head of publicity Danny Morrison has released a number of prison “comms” written by the former blanket man Richard O’Rawe that contradict claims the republican leadership had rejected a deal that could have ended the 1981 hunger strike.
Richard O’Rawe caused controversy last year when he claimed in his book Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike that republican leaders had rejected a deal from the British government that could have ended the protest shortly before the death of the fifth hunger striker, Joe McDonnell, on July 8, 1981.
Mr O’Rawe, a former senior IRA officer in the H-blocks during the protest, wrote that a subcommittee of the IRA’s army council rejected the deal.
However, writing in today’s Daily Ireland, Danny Morrison said a series of comms written in Long Kesh during the hunger strike by Mr O’Rawe paint a different picture to that described in his book.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usMr Morrison said that, because of British duplicity on negotiating the end of the 1980 hunger strike, prisoners wanted senior republicans outside the prison to test the bona fides of any offer presented by the government and that no such offer had been made.
He said: “The 1981 hunger strike came out of the 1980 hunger strike. The British sent a document to the prisoners which they claimed could be the basis for a settlement. However, the prisoners had already ended the strike before they received the document.
“The British reneged on their assurances almost immediately. That was why the second hunger strikers were to demand verification of any deal to end their hunger strike.”
Mr Morrison claimed that the British government had privately outlined two different positions offering terms for ending the protest — one to the clerical Irish Commission for Justice and Peace and another to the republican leadership.
Before Joe McDonnell’s death, republican negotiators had unsuccessfully tried to seek clarification on the offer given to republicans, he said.
“I was one of those who described to the hunger strikers, including Joe McDonnell, on July 5 what the British were saying to us.
“The prisoners told me they wanted the offer clarified and verified in person through a senior British representative. We passed this onto the British.
“However, the British would not verify to the hunger strikers their various ‘offers’. Six times they were asked by the ICJP to explain their position to the prisoners and six times they refused before Joe McDonnell died,” said Mr Morrison.
According to Mr Morrison, Mr O’Rawe had made clear there had been no deal when he sent communications from the prison in July, August and September 1981 in his capacity as IRA public relations officer.
“On July 23, two weeks after Joe McDonnell’s death, he accuses the British of deliberate ambiguity and demands clarity, yet in his book he claims that, on July 6, the republican leadership rejected ‘a deal’.
“Richard’s comms — which are contemporaneous accounts of the time — contradict the allegations he is making a quarter of a century later,” Mr Morrison said.
“Mr O’Rawe had never raised his claims with the leadership in prison or the leadership outside. After Richard’s release, he worked with me in the Republican Press Centre for a year and never mentioned the allegations he now makes.”
Mr O’Rawe was unavailable for comment last night despite attempts by Daily Ireland to contact him.

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