Monday, May 01, 2006


Monday Madness - Hunger Strike deal?

It's 25 years since the Hunger Strikes The IRA were offered a deal by the British government that could have saved the lives of at least six of the Hunger Strikers back in 1981, according to Denis Bradley, former deputy chairman of the NI Policing Board. (Hat tip Slugger)

Mr Bradley makes the astonishing claim in an RTE documentary to be broadcast this week and says the deal offered by Margaret Thatcher’s government was similar to the one that was eventually accepted.

He tells the programme that his information came from people involved directly:

"The memory, and there is some dispute about this, is that there was a phone call on a particular night direct to Maggie Thatcher as she was on her way to a conference in Portugal.

"What she was offering that night was basically what the hunger strikers settled for. There are some disputes around that, and I wasn’t there and I can’t be authoritative. But the story I heard is that the representative of the republican movement who was in the room was offered the settlement basically on the grounds of what was ultimately settled for."

The British government representative recommended that Republicans "should take this offer", but Bradley says it was left to the prisoners in the Maze to decide:

"It didn’t happen, and it went on. I think at that stage about three people were dead on the hunger strike, and it went on to become more."

Bradley’s comments support claims made last year in a book by Richard O’Rawe, the IRA spokesman in the Maze prison at the time. O’Rawe said he and Brendan "Bik" McFarlane, the IRA prisoner’s commanding officer, accepted concessions offered by the Foreign Office on July 5, 1981, before Joe McDonnell, the fifth prisoner, died. O'Rawe has now claimed that Bradley has vindicated his position:

"One of the points that I was denigrated on was the fact that I said that the offer came from the horse’s mouth, ie Maggie Thatcher. Bradley has now confirmed that.

"It was an offer. McFarlane had been adamant that there was no offer whatsoever. Bradley has now said that there was. Gerry Adams has yet to say. Who rejected this offer and by what authority did they do so?"

O’Rawe suspects that Adams himself may be the Republican to whom the offer was made:

"It is time Adams got off the fence and came out and told us what happened here."

I really don't know what to make of all this. Before it was a case of former Provisional IRA men sticking to their respective stories but now Denis Bradley, who has always struck me as a decent, honest sort of fellow, has come out and backed up O'Rawe's claims. If what Mr Bradley is saying is true then it is outrageous that the Hunger Strikes were allowed to go on.

With that being said, I am always sceptical of revisionist interpretations of history and Mr Bradley's comments do come across as very vague. Look at the way he phrases things: "The memory, and there is some dispute about this", "I wasn't there and can't be authorative", "But the story I heard" etc. It's hardly concrete stuff.

I guess we'll all have to watch the programme on RTE to get a fuller perspective of things.

What are your thoughts though on Mr Bradley's comments?


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