Monthly Archives: May 2013

Boston Appeal Court Drastically Restricts Handover From Boston College Archive

Joint statement from Ed Moloney & Anthony McIntyre on First Circuit court’s decision to heavily truncate the number of Boston College interviews to be handed over to the PSNI:

From the very outset of the serving of these subpoenas over two years ago we have striven to resist completely the efforts by the PSNI, the British Home Office and the US Department of Justice to obtain any and all interviews from the Belfast Project archive at Boston College.

These were academic and journalistic documents of considerable historical importance to students of Irish politics and to conflict researchers to which no-one, outside of the interviewees themselves and ultimately Boston College had any right of ownership.

The interviews were given in strict confidence and on the understanding that they would eventually help everyone to understand why and how Ireland went through such a violent and traumatic period.

That they should be used to compensate for the investigatory incompetence and uncaring attitude of a police force stretching back over forty years or be used to further the reactionary politics of intransigent elements in Northern Ireland politics is not just unacceptable but in our view was a flagrant abuse of the legal process.

And in the context of the Obama White House’s current intolerable assault on journalistic and media rights in the United States, the co-operation of the US Justice Department in this disgraceful exercise deserved more condemnation and opposition from American academe than it ever got. Indeed the silence from that quarter during the last two years was almost deafening.

Nonetheless we do welcome today’s decision by the First Circuit to reduce from eight-five to eleven the number of interviews that qualify for handover under the terms of the subpoenas served on Boston College, a mere thirteen per cent of what the District Court in Boston had initially ordered to be surrendered.

The court instead said that only interviews that deal directly with the disappearance of Jean McConville can be handed over as opposed to the indiscriminate consignment of the entire contents of interviews with eight of our interviewees. We see this judgement as at least a partial indictment of the whole process.

Doubtless elements in the security apparatus in Northern Ireland and their allies in Britain were looking forward to a show trial in which almost the entire panoply of IRA violence during the Troubles would be the subject of proceedings in a Belfast court room. Now, that is not going to happen and to be sure there will be disappointment in these circles.

Cameron’s Lunatics Are Running The Asylum Again, This Time In Syria

It has come as no surprise to observers of the Cameron government in Britain that once again the neocons who helped put him in Downing Street have got their way on a foreign policy matter that could turn out to be even more disastrous than the war in Iraq, if such a thing was possible.

Last week, on the urging of Cameron and French President Fancois Hollande the EU let drop its arms embargo on Syria, which means that European powers can start supplying weapons to the Syrian rebels.

When Cameron began urging this course it was at the start of the uprising against Assad’s government and the rationale was simple: arm the pro-Western rebels so that the jihadists, who have been receiving truckloads of weapons from Gulf states, don’t get the credit for overthrowing Assad or become a major player in whatever emerges from the political ruins afterwards.

At the time it made a certain amount of sense but that was then and this is now. The war against Assad is not going well but even so the gains that have been made by the rebels have been won primarily by the jihadists. In contrast their pro-Western, moderate allies have little profile and less credibility.

In other words it is probably too late to alter the balance of power in the rebel camp in a decisive way while assisting Assad’s downfall at this stage can only be to the benefit of the jihadists. As in Libya, the impact of Western intervention and meddling in Syria will likely be not to buttress an “emerging democracy” but to strengthen the forces that the West most fears, that is militant Islam.

None of this has, of course, deterred the neocons who cluster around Cameron, both inside and outside his Cabinet. As a breed and species the neocons are fiercely resistant to common sense and rather like the ‘carved in stone’ Marxists that they came into being to banish, they are prisoners of their own rigid ideology. More on that further down but first a brief primer on the neocons in the Tory bit of the coalition government that is currently blighting Britain.

This rundown on neocon influence is from that sometimes excellent, sometimes infuriating conventional online daily, (the Henry Jackson Society is the British version of American neoconservatism):

Cameron’s campaign (to win the leadership of the Tory party) was masterminded by a triumvirate of MPs: Michael Gove, Ed Vaizey and George Osborne.

Gove, who believes the invasion of Iraq was a “proper British foreign policy success”, is the author of the polemic Celsius 7/7, which has been described as a “neo-con rallying cry” for its attacks on Islamism, which he describes as a “totalitarian ideology” on a par with Nazism and Communism, and says must be fiercely opposed.
He, along with Vaizey, is a signatory to the principles of the ultra-hawkish Henry Jackson Society, an organisation founded at Peterhouse College Cambridge in 2005 and named after a warmongering US Senator who opposed détente with the Soviet Union.
The Society supports the ‘maintenance of a strong military’ with a ‘global reach’; among its international patrons are the serial warmonger Richard ‘Prince of Darkness’ Perle, a former staffer of Henry Jackson who was considered one of the leading architects of the Iraq war, and Bill Kristol, the influential American journalist, formerly with the New York Times, who called for military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities in 2006.
As for Osborne, Cameron’s Shadow Chancellor and right-hand man; he praised the “excellent neoconservative case” for war against Iraq.
There are other strong neocon influences on Cameron. Policy Exchange, which has been described as the Tory leader’s ‘favourite think-tank’, and which will have an open door to Number 10, was set up in 2002 by Michael Gove and fellow hawk Nicholas Boles, a member of the Notting Hill set who the Tories plan to parachute into the safe seat of Grantham and Stamford at the next election. Dean Godson, the group’s research director and adviser on security issues, has been described as “one of the best connected neoconservatives in Britain”.
When Godson, a former special assistant to the disgraced publisher Conrad Black, was dismissed by the Daily Telegraph, the newspaper’s editor Martin Newland said of him (and Black’s wife, fellow neocon Barbara Amiel, who also wrote for the paper): “It’s OK to be pro-Israel, but not to be unbelievably pro-Likud Israel. It’s OK to be pro-American but not look as if you’re taking instructions from Washington.”
In 2007, Policy Exchange was accused of deliberately stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment in Britain after a controversy over the veracity of some of the evidence it used in its report ‘The Hijacking of British Islam’.

The rigid ideology of neoconservatism of which I wrote above is nowhere more visibly cretinous and laughable than when its proponents are, or rather were, dealing with the peace process in Northern Ireland. I say ‘were’ because their interpretation of key aspects of the process were rendered so imbecilic by events that they have, rather sensibly, stopped talking about them.

The neocons have a way of dealing with and explaining situations like Northern Ireland which are both utterly simplistic but innately appealing, especially to those of an imperialist bent of mind. Terrorists are terrorists, they say, and can never be anything else so any effort by the terrorists to present themselves in a different light or to take a course that is not violent is just trickery and should be dismissed out of hand. The only way to treat terrorists is harshly and with a gun.

It is, of course, no accident or chance that American and British neoconservatives are amongst the stoutest supporters of Likud-style Zionism in Israel where politicians like Benjamin Netanyahu have made an art form out of their implacable refusal to negotiate with the Palestinians. And just as the PLO can never change its spots then neither can the IRA.

Except in the case of Ireland the neocon theory is demonstrably and, if it wasn’t so serious, hilariously wrong.

I cite as an example of how wrong, this article by David Frum from a June 21st, 2004 issue of the online version the conservative magazine National Review. David Frum was one of George W Bush’s inner circle and famously helped write Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ State of the Union speech on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. This article should be flourished in the face of every neoconservative who ever again proposes military action on foreign soil and it especially should be flung in the faces of Cameron’s neocon coterie:

Irish Lesson
The 1990s were an era of seeming peacemaking. In Israel, in Colombia, in Northern Ireland, enduring quarrels were being negotiated to apparent compromise. Nobel Prizes were awarded the Arab and Israeli peacemakers in 1994, and then the Irish peacemakers in 1998. We seemed decisively moving toward a better world—in my opinion, for what it is worth, one reason that the stock market managed to rise so high and fast in the mid-1990s despite the Bill Clinton tax increases of 1993.

I must confess that I was as caught up in the enthusiasm of those times too. Yet through it all, my phone kept ringing—and there on the other end was my friend Dean Godson, for many years the chief editorial writer of Britain’s Daily Telegraph, and as thoroughly unillusioned an observer of politics as exists on either side of the Atlantic.

Dean kept pointing out that the Israeli, Colombian, and Irish processes all shared a dangerous defect: They were attempts to make peace with terrorist adversaries who were not sincerely committed to peace. As US President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair lavished their patience and ingenuity to bring the two sides together, Dean kept perceiving that Clinton and Blair were engaging in a massive self-deception—refusing to see facts as they were, because those facts were too ugly and depressing.

Dean was an editorialist, so you might have expected him to ventilate this insight through fierce little polemics of 600 words or so. His father was an American Jew born in Russia, so you might have expected him to concentrate his attention on the Arab-Israeli dispute. Instead, for no reason that any outsider could easily discern, Dean became profoundly concerned with the Irish quarrel—and passionately committed to the lonely struggle of what may qualify as the world’s least popular political constituency, the predominantly Protestant Unionists of northern Ireland. He has devoted the past five years to a colossal biography of the Unionist leader, David Trimble, co-winner of the 1998 prize. The book was published last week to almost unanimous acclaim in Britain and Ireland. It may be the only book ever to win glowing reviews from the leading papers of both northern and southern Ireland, the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish Times.

“Himself Alone”—the title is a punning reference to the Irish Republican group Sinn Fein, “ourselves alone”—is much more than just the story of one politician’s career. It is an attempt through very close study of day-by-day events to show how democratic politicians can be sucked into a process of concession-making to those who intend to destroy democracy.

Like Yasser Arafat’s PLO and the Colombian Marxist insurgents, the Irish republican negotiaters won concession after concession with promise after promise—only to pocket the concessions and break the promises.

The longer the process lasted, the further the democratic politicians drifted from their original intentions.

British politicians who entered the process intending to protect the union between northern Ireland and mainland Britain—a union cherished by a large majority of the population of northern Ireland—ended by inventing a new kind of multinational structure in which northern Ireland would somehow be jointly governed by Britain and the Republic of Ireland together.

Northern Irish politicians who entered the process to defend the union found themselves contemplating independence for northern Ireland—and estrangement from Britain—in order to protect themselves and their interests.

The elected politicians of southern Ireland—who privately recognized that northern Ireland could never be democratically united with the South—found themselves deputized to provide democratic legitimacy for terrorists they despised.

Well, I needn’t tell regular readers of this blog that since that Frum piece appeared, the IRA gave up all its weapons and de facto Sinn Fein has accepted the principle of consent, that there cannot be Irish unity without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. They have also accepted the police forces and state institutions of both sides of the Border and have begun to describe the IRA’s campaign as ‘murder’.

Its senior personnel help to govern the state which a few years before they were pledged to destroy. A party which once defended throwing mortars into the back garden of 10 Downing Street now proudly boasts about persuading colleagues in the power-sharing Assembly to impose a five pence levy on supermarket plastic bags.

Now for my money you can’t really get more constitutional in your politics than that. And you can’t be more wrong than David Frum, Dean Godson and the Cameron allies who shared their analysis of Northern Ireland. The only remaining question is, why do such people still have influence over decisions that could cost lives?

Boston College, The AP & James Rosen Cases And The Wikileaks Connection

From the outset of the affair over the Boston College archives one aspect of the business has puzzled me and that was the apparent failure or refusal of the Obama Department of Justice (DoJ) to realise that the PSNI subpoeanas had the potential to cause big problems for one of the US’ few positive foreign policy successes in recent years (as opposed to negative successes like winning a war in Iraq at the cost of alienating and angering half the world).

It is, I would submit, undeniable that the peace process in Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement that it produced were in large measure the result of direct US involvement in Northern Ireland, firstly by the Clinton White House which broke the ice by giving Gerry Adams a visa to visit New York and then by the Bush administration, whose ambassador to the process, Mitchel Reiss arguably forced Adams and the Provos to complete IRA decommissioning, thus paving the way for the power-sharing, DUP-Sinn Fein government that currently sits at Stormont. Without these efforts it is very questionable that the process could have succeeded.

So why was the Obama DoJ, the Attorney-General, Eric Holder and the US Attorney’s office in Massachusetts so uncritically bent on going down a road that a few moments of due diligence would have revealed was littered with political tank traps that could quite readily destroy or seriously harm a project that American diplomats and politician were justifiably proud of, a project that set a positive example elsewhere in the troubled world that America polices?

After all we have all known since at least 2002 that any serious probe of the disappearance of Jean McConville would lead back to Gerry Adams, the principal architect and instigator of the IRA’s journey out of war but also the man, according to Brendan Hughes, who gave the order to disappear the alleged British Army spy. A threat to Adams, the Kim Il Sung of the Provos, is by extension a threat to the process. And to those who would say that the British would never countenance such a move I ask: well then why have they persisted with the subpoenas?

And it has also been evident since 2010 that if the British finally do shrink from prosecuting Adams, which is of course very possible, then there are others in the wings all too ready to take on the task. One of those is ex-Chief Superintendent Norman Baxter, the PSNI’s former liaison with those nice fellows in MI5, who  publicly called for Adams’ prosecution for war crimes in 2010 and failing that  endorsed Helen McKendry’s threat to sue Adams in a civil court for her mother’s murder and secret burial.

Indeed there are reasons to suspect Baxter’s hidden hand at work somewhere in this whole business and that a civil action was always the real if hidden goal of the action. He was the senior detective in the failed Omagh bomb trials which ended when the families, frustrated at the failure of criminal prosecutions, successfully took a civil case against the chief suspects. Is it beyond the bounds of credence that this subpoena effort had its genesis in his Omagh experience and the knowledge that if criminal proceedings fail or never materialise there is the alternative of a civil action against Adams, a person whom Baxter makes no secret of loathing?

Baxter knows that in a civil case the standard of proof is much less rigorous than for criminal trials: ‘on the balance of probabilities’ as opposed to ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’, a very telling advantage in a case that would be reliant almost entirely on peoples’ ancient recollections. And he knows that in all the important ways, for instance evidence would be presented in court by police witnesses, the proceedings would differ from a criminal prosecution only in the punishment available to the court. And if you don’t believe that, go ask O J Simpson.

Assuming the DoJ did its due diligence – and I am not assuming that it did – all this would have been quickly apparent to Eric Holder’s people but notwithstanding the risk that Obama’s White House could be remembered, at least in Ireland, for undoing all the good that Clinton and Bush did, it perservered. And not just perservered but pursued the case relentlessly even when opportunities to retire gracefully presented themselves (as with the death of Dolours Price).

One possible explanation of why the Obama administration has acted so evidently against US’ foreign policy interests by pursuing the BC tapes has emerged in the last fortnight or so with the chilling stories of the DoJ’s pursuit of the American news media for doing its job, i.e. unearthing government secrets and telling the public.

First there was the revelation that the DoJ had secretly acquired the work, home and cell phone records of some twenty journalists at the Associated Press in an effort to trace the leaker of a story that the government was planning to make public anyway, that it had, with the help of an agent, sabotaged a plot by Al Qaeda in Yemen to bomb a US-bound aircraft.

The government complained that the story endangered the life of its agent but it was going to do that itself by boasting about its achievement, something that automatically would have alerted Al Qaeda to the possible presence of a traitor in its ranks. (Ask the IRA: whenever a plot is interdicted in such a way the automatic assumption is that it was betrayed internally)

Then in the last day or so we have learned that in 2010 the same DoJ used a search warrant to acquire the email and phone records of a Fox News reporter, James Rosen in pursuit of a leaker who told him….now hold your breath….that North Korea might respond to new UN sanctions with more nuclear tests. Now even I, whose knowledge of North Korea is confined to writing stories about some dodgy bank notes that circulated in Ireland a while back by people not a mile away from the current leadership of the Irish Labour Party, could have written that story but nonetheless the brave folk in DoJ pursued Mr Rosen undaunted.

The worst aspect of the story however is that in order, it seems, to avoid a court challenge to the search warrant the DoJ accused Rosen of being a co-conspirator of the leaker and had aided and abetted the alleged breach of security. What Rosen did is what every journalist does, or, if they have any sense of self-worth, what they should do, which is to encourage holders of secrets to let them go.

The Obama DoJ’s action effectively threatens to criminalise the media in an unprecedented way. Obama had already, pre-Rosen, chalked up the worst record since Richard Nixon of pursuing journalists who had gotten hold of government secrets and leakers who provided them. But arguably Obama is worse. With Nixon you got what you expected and at least in his case he was fighting for his own survival. Obama, he of “Change We Can Believe In” and “Yes, We can”, was supposed to be different but now the hypocrisy (or is it cowardice, as in the act of a Black President seeking to assure the White establishment of his trustworthiness?) is breaking through, becoming visible even to his most zealous supporters.

The action against Rosen unquestionably pushes Obama ahead of Nixon in the creepy president stakes but it also sets the stage in a very convenient way for the prosecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, if or when he is extradited from Sweden, via the UK, to the US. Assuming Bradley Manning is convicted of the spying charges he faces then Assange could, like Rosen, be accused of aiding and abetting Manning’s treachery. That compelling case is outlined here.

Which brings me back to the Boston College case. I am not arguing that it is on the same level as Wikileaks or the AP and Rosen cases but it does strike me that a DoJ in hot pursuit of Wikileaks, that is determined to bring Assange to his knees and, with threats and intimidation, to plug for evermore leaks from government – and in the process is ready to alienate what is normally a tame, well-behaved media and outrage both left and right –  is more likely than not to take a very uncompromising line in any legal action it is involved in which undermines the ability of non-government agencies, like Boston College, to claim the right of confidentiality. Even more so if the foreign government behind the action is one the US is dependent on to send Assange to Sweden and thus to a federal court.

And if all that implies a willingness to do damage to something like the Irish peace process then so be it. As the man said “Yes, We Can”.

‘Thatcher’s Archive Finally Settles Dispute Over Hunger Strike Deal’, Says IRA Prison Leader

Following the recent disclosures from Margaret Thatcher’s private papers compiled during the 1981 IRA hunger strike while she was Britain’s prime minister, asked Richard O’Rawe to assess the importance of what has been revealed and to recall how he got involved in this lengthy but pivotal controversy over a key moment in the Provisional IRA’s history:

The Rock Bar on Belfast’s Falls Road was the place to be on a Saturday afternoon if you’ve a few pounds in your pocket and a penchant for the horses.  I was at the bar on just such a day, buying our company another round of drinks (my generosity was boundless) when my cousin approached me.  After some small talk, he asked if I would like to participate in an oral history project.  He went on to explain that the purpose of the project was to record for posterity, the participant’s role in the war against the British.

Richard O'Rawe, IRA public relations officer in Long Kesh during the 1981 hunger strike

Richard O’Rawe, IRA public relations officer in Long Kesh during the 1981 hunger strike

My initial reaction was negative and that was where the matter stayed for months.  But a seed had been planted.  Why not, I thought, give my testimony?   After all, it would not be published until after my death and hopefully that would be in the distant future.  Moreover, I would not be identifying comrades or referring to specific operations.

During the 1981 IRA/INLA hunger strike, I had been one of the IRA prison leaders and since my release from prison in 1983 I had told quite a few people that I felt the IRA leadership had mishandled the hunger strike.  But did I want to put that criticism on the record?  No.  Yet something drove me on to do the interviews.  Perhaps, unconsciously, I wanted to get the story out, as I knew it to be.  After all, ten of my comrades and friends had died horrible deaths, and the last six hunger strikers, in my opinion, should not have died at all.

Anthony McIntyre, who we all knew as Mackers, was the researcher and we began the sessions at the start of 2001.  We slowly built up to the period of the hunger strike.  I was still resisting going over the top and telling my version of what happened during that awful period.

In the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, the public relations officer of the IRA prisoners was charged with drafting press statements and advising the prison O.C. on policy. Such was the case when, at the start of the 1981 hunger strike, I became the IRA prison PRO. While in that role, I became Bik McFarlane’s closest confidante (Bik had been O.C. of the IRA prisoners). Consequently, I had intimate knowledge of the hunger strike.

Mackers and I went through the deaths of our first four comrades: Bobby Sands MP., Frank Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, and Patsy O’Hara.

The ten Republican hunger strikers who died during the 1981 protest. O'Rawe says the last six could have lived had the deal he and prison OC Brendan McFarlane  accepted had been endorsed by the committee which ran the protest from outside the jail. L to r: Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Patsy O'Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Thomas McIlwee, Michael Devine.

The ten Republican hunger strikers who died during the 1981 protest. O’Rawe says the last six could have lived had the deal he and prison OC Brendan McFarlane accepted been endorsed by the committee which ran the protest from outside the jail. L to r: Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Patsy O’Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Thomas McIlwee, Michael Devine.

But when we got to Joe McDonnell’s death, I broke down. Perhaps it was frustration. Perhaps it was because I had known Joe from before our time in the H-Blocks and had regarded him as a good friend. Perhaps it was because I couldn’t understand how things had reached the stage where he had had to die – especially since Bik McFarlane and I had accepted an offer from the British which should have honourably ended the hunger strike.

I think it was the mere mention of Joe’s name in the context of historical accuracy which triggered the opening of the floodgates: from that point on, there was no holding back. I wanted to tell the truth as I knew it, of what happened at the time of Joe’s death. And so Mackers recorded my story of what happened in July 1981, how I believed senior figures outside the jail had killed off a proposal that would have handed the hunger strikers a famous victory over Margaret Thatcher and saved six of our comrades’ lives.

Afterwards I felt a burning urge to do more than that. The Boston College tape would stay secret for many years but I now wanted the world to know what I knew; I wanted those republican leaders on the outside, who took the decisions that I believe doomed six of my comrades to horrible deaths, to answer for their actions.

And so I wrote my first book, Blanketmen, in which I said that the British government had made an offer to end the hunger strike in the days before the fifth hunger striker, Joe McDonnell, died.  (At the request of those involved in creating the archive I did not reveal Boston College’s role in my journey to writing the book) I added that the offer, communicated to Bik McFarlane during a prison visit, had been accepted by Bik and myself because it meant we could end the fast with honour. And I described how a committee, headed by Gerry Adams, had rejected this offer, despite the prison leadership having endorsed it. The message came in a terse comm smuggled into the jail which said that he was ‘surprised’ that we had accepted the offer and that it did not validate the loss of the first four hunger strikers’ lives.

Gerry Adams headed the committee which O'Rawe says rejected the British offer.

Gerry Adams headed the committee which O’Rawe says rejected the British offer.

I can sum up in a single sentence the question my book posed to Gerry Adams and his colleagues on the committee: Why had they turned down a deal that we, the prisoners’ leaders, had approved and which would have saved the lives of six of our comrades?

The book’s publication caused ructions, with defenders of the committee lining up in the media to attack me.  Ed Moloney had advised me against publication, saying that I would be savaged those who supported the Gerry Adams/Sinn Féin leadership.  He had been right.  But I stood firm behind what I knew to be true.  Simply put, I had nowhere else to go.

From the start, those shouting the loudest in defence of the committee, principally Bik and Danny Morrison, were in opposite corners.  While Bik publicly said there had been no British offer ‘whatsoever’, Danny, a committee member, said there had been an offer and it ‘…was a better offer than that which the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace [a body which tried to mediate between the parties] believed they had secured.’  These two positions are irreconcilable and indicative of the malaise that infected the committee’s position.  Of fundamental importance is Danny’s contention that the prison leadership and the hunger strikers ran the fast, and not the committee.  We’ll come back to that.

For eight years now the battle for the truth about the 1981 hunger strike has raged.  I have never altered a word of my account of what happened as I saw it in the H Blocks that awful July of 1981.  In fact, I reiterated and expanded upon my position in my second book Afterlives in 2010.

One by one, my opponents dropped off until only Danny Morrison and I were left.  The evidence mounted in my favour: in 2010, a journalist secured a Freedom of Information request and received a copy of a draft 1981 statement from the British Secretary of State, Humphrey Atkins, in which he outlined the offer.

Also in 2010, Brendan Duddy, the man who acted as intermediary between the British and the committee, authenticated the offer and said that the committee had sent word back to the British that ‘More was needed.’   Then, in 2011, with the publication of the thirty-year government papers and Brendan Duddy’s private records of the exchanges between the parties, and in the face of overwhelming evidence, Danny altered his position and said that there had not been an offer after all.

The irony in this whole saga is that it is Maggie Thatcher, speaking from beyond the grave, who has now proved to be the decisive voice.   Upon her death in April 2013, her private papers were published and they showed that the hunger strikers – by the force of their sheer courage – had broken her resolve.  Amongst her documents is a copy of a letter that is also in the Brendan Duddy files (dated 11.30pm 6 July 1981) entitled HUNGER STRIKE: MESSAGE TO BE SENT THROUGH THE CHANNEL .   The substance of the offer is outlined in this message.  Notably, the message contains amendments to the offer in Margaret Thatcher’s own hand-writing.  Undoubtedly Thatcher’s amendments would have been incorporated in the final text that was sent to the committee (minus her hand-written notes, of course).  The question therefore arises: why would Thatcher bother to amend a text if she never intended it to be read by those with whom her government were negotiating?   At the end of this message there is a very telling paragraph:

‘If we receive a satisfactory response to this proposal by 9.00am on Tuesday 7 July, [a day before Joe McDonnell died] we shall be prepared to provide you [the committee] with an advanced text of the full statement [SOS Atkins’ statement announcing the new prison regime].’ Full text of statement with Thatcher’s written amendments:

So, if the committee had told the British by 9.00am on Tuesday 7 July that they accepted their offer, the choreography would have been kick-started: the British would have shown the committee Atkins’ statement; the committee would have been obliged under the agreement to ‘advise’ the hunger strikers to end their fast (which I believe they would have done); Atkins’ statement would have been released; Joe McDonnell and the five brave hunger strikers that died after him, would have survived the fast.

The committee’s reply to the British offer was nothing if not stark: ‘The position outlined by you is not sufficient to achieve this [an end to the hunger strike].’

So the committee rejected the offer and Joe McDonnell and the five heroes who perished in his wake, followed to needlessly early graves.

Brendan Duddy - The Derry-based intermediary who said of his efforts to get a hunger strike deal: "The British are asking for their plan to be accepted.  ‘A’ won’t move."

Brendan Duddy – The Derry-based intermediary who said of his efforts to get a hunger strike deal: “The British are asking for their plan to be accepted.  ‘A’ won’t move.”

What is striking in both the Duddy and Thatcher papers is that the prisoners have no input into what was or was not acceptable and if these papers demonstrate anything it is that Gerry Adams and those around him had absolute control over the hunger strike.  Neither the prison leadership, nor the hunger strikers, were ever shown any of these communications between the committee and the Brits.  In fact, it was not until the 2009 Freedom of Information revelation, that this writer became aware that the British were prepared to release a statement from their Secretary of State containing the offer.

At the conclusion of the negotiations, on 20 July 1981, a frustrated and weary Brendan Duddy observed: ‘The British are asking for their plan to be accepted.  ‘A’ won’t move.’  I wonder if this is the same ‘A’ who went into the hunger strikers nine days later (29 July 1981) and told those courageous men that ‘…there was no deal on the table from the Brits, no movement of any sort.’  I wonder what type of man could look those great men in the eye and not even blink while he proffered such an abominable lie?

‘A’ knows who he is. Does he have the courage to stand forward and explain just why he turned down Margaret Thatcher’s offer and why six more of his comrades had to die?

Margaret Thatcher's private papers show that a deal was offered but rejected. According to O'Rawe the deliberations between Thatcher's office and the committee were kept hidden from the prisoners.

Margaret Thatcher’s private papers show that a deal was offered but rejected. According to O’Rawe, the dealings between Thatcher’s office and the committee were kept hidden from the prisoners.

In the meantime the Thatcher archive confirms the truth of what happened in July 1981: there was a deal and it was the deal that myself and Bik McFarlane accepted but which the committee threw out.