Hunger strikers' families call for 1981 inquiry

Derry Journal
16 June 2009

The families of two Derry hunger strikers are calling for an independent inquiry into the events of the 1981 prison protest during which ten republicans died.

The families of INLA hunger strikers Patsy O'Hara and Michael Devine made the call after a meeting held in south Derry last week between Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and relatives of a number of the men who died in Long Kesh.

The call for a new probe into the period comes amid the debate over controversial claims by former blanketman, Richard O'Rawe, who claims that the IRA leadership outside Long Kesh rejected a deal which could have ended the fast and saved the lives of six of the hunger strikers, including Michael Devine.

The claim was backed by a number of former prisoners at a public meeting held in the Gasyard Centre several weeks ago but denied by Sinn Féin.

Tony O'Hara, brother of Patsy, and Mickey Og Devine, son of Michael, in a joint statement, said an independent probe is the only way the families can get peace of mind about what happened in 1981.

"At a recent meeting in the Gasyard, Derry City, which we attended, compelling and disturbing evidence (was put forward] revealing that an offer made by the British which conceded four of the five demands, was accepted by the prison IRA leadership and rejected by elements of the outside IRA leadership.

"These claims, which have been supported by former blanket men and ex-hunger striker,s have led us to conclude that only an independent Republican Inquiry, free from party political affiliations, can heal the wounds of our families that this controversy has re-opened. We are only interested in the facts, the evidence and the truth, and we would hope that all republicans would support us in our call and bring and end to this controversy so that we, the families, have peace of mind as to what really happened during this period," the statement said.

Their call was backed by IRSP Ard Comhairle member Martin McMonagle.
"Given the contradictory statements emanating from various spokespeople from Sinn Féin on this matter and the refusal of these people to partake in the recent discussion held in the Gasyard centre in Derry, we are firmly of the opinion that such an inquiry is the only course of action open to the republican community," he said.

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