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8th-Sep-2016 01:34 pm - Time for Sinn Fein to come clean on secret deal that may have saved hunger strikers
Mrs Thatcher offered concessions to the inmates, but proposal was rebuffed, writes Alban Maginness

Alban Maginnis
Belfast Telegraph
7 Sept 2016

Every year, the British Government releases secret papers relating to Northern Ireland under the 30-years rule, and as time goes by we get to know a little bit more about the truth behind the Troubles. It can be a fascinating insight into the workings of the direct rule administration.

Recently, the Government released a memo from a British civil servant, Stephen Leach, to a more senior civil servant, John Blelloch, who served as a deputy permanent secretary during the hunger strikes in 1981. He had a crucial involvement at that critical time with Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister. The memo confirms that a "good offer" was made that could have ended the hunger strike and saved four or maybe six of the republican prisoners.

The official Sinn Fein narrative of the hunger strikes is that Margaret Thatcher was the Iron Lady, inflexible and immovable throughout, who was by her very inflexibility directly and solely responsible for the deaths of the 10 republican prisoners who were on hunger strike in Long Kesh.

Richard O'Rawe, who was PRO of the republican prisoners in Long Kesh during the hunger strikes, has courageously put forward in his books Blanketmen and Afterlives an alternative narrative which disputes that and which is much more credible.

Bobby Sands

O'Rawe makes it abundantly clear that Danny Morrison of Sinn Fein told Bik McFarlane, the IRA leader in the prison, the terms of a British offer to end the hunger strike and that McFarlane then told O'Rawe and that both of them agreed that the offer was good. However, he points out that the hunger strikers themselves were never consulted on the terms of this "good offer". He argues strongly that Adams and a committee of leading republicans, for self-interested political reasons, refused this "good offer" from the British Government in early July 1981 and when it was repeated again on July 21, 1981.

The main reason for this, he suspects, was to ensure the safe election of Owen Carron in the by-election to fill the seat left vacant by the late Bobby Sands MP. If the hunger strike continued, electoral victory was assured.

If there was no continuing hunger strike, then the seat could have been lost to another nationalist candidate, or on a divided nationalist vote to a unionist, thereby depriving Owen Carron of victory. This would have prevented the emergence of Adams' political strategy for the republican movement. If that was the IRA strategy at the time, then it was both cunning and ruthless, involving the additional and unnecessary deaths of the six remaining hunger strikers.

This "good offer" was confirmed to intermediaries the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP) by Adams at a meeting in a house in Andersonstown in early July 1981. This is also referred to in Leach's Government memo.

The commission confirmed that Adams admitted to them in July 1981 that a "good offer" had been made by the British Government through a back channel whose code name was Mountain Climber. Adams also warned the ICJP to stay out of the process.

Richard O'Rawe has kept track of previously released Government papers and says that they substantially support his narrative. The recent Leach memo reinforces his argument.

He believes that Adams should apologise to the hunger strikers' families and the wider community.

He is adamantly of the view that, "the British were broke, the hunger strike broke the British".

As O'Rawe succinctly puts it: "The hunger strikers broke Thatcher's resolve."

In essence, that's why the British made a good offer, which met almost in full four out of the five demands of the prisoners. The most important concession made was the right to wear their own clothes and not be forced to wear the prison uniform, the very symbol of criminalisation. Criminalisation of the IRA prisoners was at the centre of the hunger strikes.

For years now, the republican leadership has rejected O'Rawe's account and has systematically tried to discredit both him and his version of events.

Fearlessly, he has countered their arguments and refuses to be bullied by them. He and his family have had to endure persistent vilification and criticism.

He has continued to examine the evidence that has come out through Government papers to strengthen his arguments. He has challenged senior republicans to debate with him publicly, but they have refused.

He has supported the idea of an independent inquiry into the hunger strikes and would be willing to give evidence to it. Sinn Fein has refused to participate in such an independent enquiry. The party has even refused to go on TV with him to debate the issues arising from the hunger strikes.

Now he says that they should have, "A bit of humility after 35 years - it's the decent thing to do".

The problem is, neither Adams, nor Sinn Fein understand either humility, or the truth.
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20th-Jul-2015 04:34 am - Police raids follow Peggy O’Hara funeral
Derry Journal
19 July 2015

Police say they seized a number of items following raids carried out in Derry following incidents at the wake and funeral of the mother of INLA Hunger Striker, Patsy O’Hara.

Peggy O’Hara was the last of the Hunger Strikers’ mothers to die, and was laid to rest yesterday in one of the largest paramilitary style funerals seen in the city for many years.

The PSNI confirmed that they carried out searches in Derry this morning in connection with a number of recent events in the city.

Chief Inspector Tony Callaghan said: “This morning’s searches follow a number of recent incidents linked to the wake and funeral of Peggy O’Hara. A number of items have been seized and police enquiries are ongoing.”

20th-Jul-2015 04:29 am - Masked republicans at Derry funeral of hunger striker’s mother
David Moore
News Letter
19 July 2015


Image from Belfast Telegraph

Members of terror group the INLA stood guard at the funeral of a hunger striker’s mother in Derry on Saturday.

The DUP have questioned the policing of the funeral, which they say “seemed to take place without a police officer in sight”.

However, one photo of the event shows a PSNI vehicle with a CCTV camera observing ranks of masked men as they parade past.

The funeral cortege of Peggy O’Hara, mother of the hunger striker Patsy O’Hara, who died in the Maze Prison in 1981, was accompanied to the graveside by a ‘colour parade’ of 50 men and women in paramilitary dress.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said that prior to Saturday’s funeral, his party colleagues had alerted the PSNI to the potential for paramilitary displays at the funeral after members of the illegal republican group fired shots over the coffin of Mrs O’Hara outside her home in the Templegrove area of the city on Wednesday.

“Despite our efforts with the police, it would seem that there were no visible signs of police in close proximity to the funeral cortège on Saturday,” he said.

Mr Campbell said that, in contrast with recent convictions for loyalist bandsmen breaching Parades Commission determinations, it seemed INLA members could discharge guns “without fear of prosecution”.

The East Londonderry MP called on the PSNI to explain the extent of the policing operation and what action will be taken against the illegal parade.

“It seems, however, that the police are treating some groups in some areas with kid gloves, thus leaving the impression that there is a two-tier justice system.”

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said there is no “one size fits all” approach to policing but strongly denied allegations the PSNI are biased.

“We absolutely reject any suggestion of bias in policing.

“Such remarks are inaccurate, unhelpful and ill informed,” he said.

The PSNI said that items were seized during searches as part of its investigation into the wake and funeral.

A republican speaker at the funeral said that the O’Hara family supported the INLA show of strength.

In comments reported online by the Derry Now website, Martin McMonagle of the Irish Republican Socialist Party told mourners that the O’Hara family had asked him to “thank the INLA for the magnificent show today in bringing Peggy to her resting place”.

However, UUP MLA Ross Hussey said people would expect to see convictions after “this brazen display of paramilitary thuggery”.

“People will feel intimidated and shocked that this is allowed to happen in 2015,” he said.

The West Tyrone MLA added that the presence of paramilitaries on the streets “tarnishes the name of the city of Londonderry”.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton responded sarcastically to a Twitter user who questioned the policing of the funeral.

“Clue might be in the police Land Rover complete with evidence gathering facilities! Like we said earlier – an investigation ongoing.”

The PSNI were unable to provide details of how many convictions have resulted from intelligence gathering operations at funerals.

18th-Jul-2015 08:51 pm - Patsy O’Hara’s mother is laid to rest in Derry
Derry Journal
18 July 2015



Photo by Hugh Gallagher

There was a large turnout for the funeral of the late Peggy O’Hara in Derry as people from across the country gathered at the Long Tower chapel to say farewell to the much loved mother of INLA hunger striker Patsy who died in Long Kesh in May 1981, 61 days into his protest.

The remains of Mrs O’Hara, 86, were brought to the funeral mass in a horse drawn carriage; a tricolour flower arrangement on top said simply “friend”.

In his eulogy the Reverend Brendan Collins said that he had learned much about Peggy as he sat with he family during the wake and added that he had been particularly struck by the “high esteem” in which she was held by all who had known her.

“She was well known in the community and beyond, with people coming to today’s funeral from far and wide and was a huge source of comfort and support for so many,” he said.

“When we reflect on Peggy’s life we think of the question ‘how did she do it’?

“How did she keep her spirits up? She was a strong person of great faith. Father Paddy O’Kane who brought communion to Peggy every month and is in Lourdes today told me that he is celebrating mass there for her as well. He told me that he first met Peggy when her son Patsy was in prison just a few days before he died. He described Peggy as a very kind, sincere and good natured lady. A woman who loved her family and whose strong faith had sustained her through the darker days in her life.”

Mrs O’Hara’s remains were flanked by a 50 man colour party who escorted her to her final resting place in the city cemetery via Bishop Street and the Brandywell.

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