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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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9th-Dec-2014 02:27 am - US believed FBI mole passed secrets to IRA in Thatcher murder plot, files reveal
Jon Swain
The Guardian
8 December 2014

Margaret Thatcher was prime minister of Britain between 1979 and 1990. (Photograph: Photonews Scotland/Rex)

The US government suspected that a mole inside the FBI was passing secrets to Irish republican militants who repeatedly plotted to assassinate Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and 90s, files released to the Guardian showed on Monday.

A series of investigations by federal agents into alleged plots to murder Thatcher during visits to the US are detailed in hundreds of pages of FBI files involving the former prime minister, which were made public following a freedom of information request made after her death.

One trusted source told the FBI that a “female, secretary type” in the agency’s New York bureau was giving the provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) “access to computers, name checks and ID” – a claim that agents said tallied with independent allegations of a leak.

Fears that the New York field office may have been compromised led William Sessions, then the FBI director, to order that all material relating to an apparent plot against Thatcher by a two men linked to Sinn Féin must be restricted to a pair of senior officials.

The precautions followed several years of alleged plots detailed in the files. In February 1981, two men with “English or Irish accents” were overheard by an FBI source “of proven reliability” in the cocktail lounge of the Boar’s Head restaurant in Falls Church, Virginia, seemingly discussing a “hit” during a visit by Thatcher.

“This will even the score for H,” one man was overheard saying. FBI agents took this as a reference to the H-blocks of the notorious Maze prison in Northern Ireland, where IRA members were being held. “The Iron Maiden [sic] is no better than any other bloody PM,” the man went on.

The man was also said to have been heard referring to Bloody Sunday, “war” and “blanket men”. Several IRA prisoners carried out a protest against their uniforms, in which they wore only blankets for several years. The man’s drinking partner was said to have tried to “quiet him down”.

The FBI carried out surveillance of the restaurant while interviewing staff and alerting field offices around the region. New York said that “three known IRA terrorists” were known to be in the area. Suspects were identified, but their names were redacted in the files released on Monday. Also included were poor photocopies of photographs of the suspects that were circulated between agents. Delta airlines was co-opted to help locate their flight records.

As agents scrambled to find the alleged plotters, the source who overheard the conversation was asked to undergo hypnosis and take a lie detector test to help determine whether he was telling the truth. However, he refused and was angry at his integrity being called into question.

Despite some fraught nerves among FBI officials, in the end Thatcher’s visit to New York and Washington, where she was to collect an honorary degree from Georgetown University, passed without incident. By March 1981, the case was declared closed, the files show.

Several more threats against Thatcher – of varying significance – emerged in the following years. In 1987, a suicidal man from Florida was said to have threatened to kill Thatcher but “got lost” on his way to Camp David, the presidential retreat where she was staying with Ronald Reagan.

In December 1989, a man with an English accent called the FBI from Southampton to warn that Thatcher and then president George Bush Sr were the targets of an assassination plot by a group going by the name “God’s Soldiers”. Neither threat amounted to much investigation.

However, a fresh plot emerged in July 1992, following Thatcher’s departure from 10 Downing Street and in advance of a speaking trip to the US. A tipoff arrived from a trusted FBI asset based in Boston, who was apparently working undercover in American-based IRA circles and had learned of the plot in a New York bar identified as a “hotbed” of IRA activity.

The investigation was taken very seriously. Dozens of pages of files were created, and the mole inquiry was launched. Two known IRA operatives thought to have been behind past attacks in the UK and said to have fled California for New York, were identified as the prime suspects – although their names were also redacted in Monday’s release.

However, Thatcher’s visit again passed without an attack. She was able to complete her 12-day itinerary, which as well as a visit to Bush in the White House and lunches with high-powered American officials included six separate hair appointments.
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