Archive for March, 2005

Bobby Sands for MP

Posted in marcella on 26 March 2005 by micheailin

CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1981

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Click to view

Thursday 26 March 1981

Bobby Sands was nominated as a candidate in the by-election in Fermanagh / South Tyrone on 9 April 1981.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Richard O’Rawe – Blanketmen

Posted in marcella on 25 March 2005 by micheailin

Daily Ireland

Hunger strike revisited

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Think you know the story of the 1981 hunger strikes? Think again. We’ve all seen Bobby Sands’ emaciated body, the footage of people honking car horns in glee at his election, that priest comparing conditions to an open sewer in Calcutta. You might even say that Richard O’Rawe’s Blanketmen (New Island), is – whisper it – old news.
All this is playing in the shallow end of a powerful tale. O’Rawe pulls the reader into the deep water till they’re gulping for air.
Rather than the ‘skin and bones’ Bobby Sands, the 2-D icon for a thousand murals, you meet a “man for all seasons”; softly spoken with a flair for sing-songs.
We are told that some prisoners weren’t so happy about the downside of the “dirty protests”, and were more than happy to face the wrath of the prison leadership rather than share their cells with maggots.
Such earthy images bring O’Rawe’s time in Crumlin Road to life. The mounting brutality of the ‘screws’ is ever-present. One tale tells of a prisoner who begged for salt to gargle away the mouth ulcers that tormented him. The guards pinned him down and force fed him two massive handfuls of salt.
The touch isn’t always so heavy. O’Rawe describes with great affection the prisoners smuggling in tobacco (brought in by a priest – hidden where no tobacco should go), and blowing the forbidden smoke under the doors to infuriate the guards. In one hilarious anecdote, O’Rawe describes the false sacrament of confession that experienced prisoners would trick rookies into, with the old hand posing as a priest.
Once the venial sins had been dealt with, they would probe into intimate details about the young prisoner’s love life. The joke was on the veteran: O’Rawe’s partner in sin was none other than the his companion’s daughter.
However it is the hunger strikes that dominate the book. O’Rawe steers clear of the traditional Irish, us versus them perspective.
Instead, he paints the story as a three way struggle between the “bosses” of the British, the “shop stewards” of the IRA army council, and the “workers” of the prisoners. To quote O’Rawe’s socialist father, “the workers always get shafted”.
He portrays the army council as intransigent as the British – insisting the prisoners stick to their demands, even when it was clear that the British wouldn’t move an inch.
As O’Rawe puts it, this policy of “no compromise” meant “no strategy”. He describes a decline in prison morale, the frustration of the situation and the overwhelming guilt in harrowingly matter-of-fact prose.
Even if I had wanted to put the book down, there wasn’t a chance.
O’Rawe was, and is, a committed republican. Yet he pulls no punches, saying the strategies of both hunger strikes was “fatally flawed”, and he is unrelenting in his criticism of the Army Council and the outdated elements of IRA ideology.
Even Gerry Adams, a “messianic figure” and a tireless negotiator, is seen to be covering his own back at times.
Any who think of the IRA as an inherently criminal organisation should read this book. So should people who think they can do no wrong.

Richard O’Rawe

Posted in marcella on 23 March 2005 by micheailin

The Blanket

**via IRA2

A Must Read

To fully appreciate the controversary surrounding the book, it must be read

BLANKETMEN

An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike

RICHARD O’RAWE, New Island Press

Book Review

Mick Hall • 18 March 2005

I once asked a former member of the British Army Intelligence Corp if there was any substance in the British Government’s fears if they announced their withdrawal from the Six Counties the Loyalist Paramilitary’s would conduct an OAS* type campaign in England. He replied he could not see this happening, as the Loyalist terror groups, the UDA, LVF and the UVF, unlike the Provisional Irish Republican Army, simply did not have the stamina necessary to conduct a bombing campaign on the British mainland. The book Blanketmen, An Untold Story of the H-block Hunger Strike written by former Blanketman Richard O’Rawe, more than adequately answers the question what gave the Provos such tenacious stamina to fight a thirty odd year war against not only one of the world’s major military powers, but also the most experienced army in combating insurgencies…

>>>Read on

Hunger Strike poster

Posted in marcella on 22 March 2005 by micheailin

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hunger Strike

Posted in marcella on 22 March 2005 by micheailin

Random Ramblings from a Republican

“Today, 24 years ago, Patsy O’Hara and Raymond McCreesh joined Bobby Sands and Francis Hughes on hungerstrike.”

**Biographical links on site


Raymond McCreesh


Patsy O’Hara

——————–

‘Raw truth’ of Hunger Strike

Posted in marcella on 20 March 2005 by micheailin

Times Online

Comment: Liam Clarke: Raw truth of hunger strike fights its way past myths

March 20, 2005

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
(photo: artybhoy1916)

Anybody who wants to understand the history of the Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein should read Blanketmen, Richard O’Rawe’s searingly honest account of the events surrounding the 1981 hunger strike.

O’Rawe gives us something new in modern republican history: a participant’s account that attempts to face the facts without romanticising them.

Up to now we have had mostly anodyne accounts, in which every dead IRA man was good at Gaelic games, fearless on active service and loved his mother. Every decision taken by Gerry Adams, the infallible helmsman of the movement and founder of the peace process, was not only correct but also designed to save lives and bring about a ceasefire.

We have also been treated to cod biographies in which Adams never joined the IRA, and a book of lives of IRA volunteers in which well-known informers are revered for their dedication. In this alternative universe, the IRA never committed a crime and even when it made mistakes it was forced into them by the Brits. As Goethe noted, “patriotism ruins history”.

O’Rawe was a public relations officer for IRA prisoners and later for Sinn Fein, so it should not surprise him that the full weight of the republican propaganda machine was deployed to drown the simple truth that many of the later hunger strikers wanted to end the protest around the time when Joe McDonnell, the fifth of the 10 prisoners to die, reached the critical stage.

I know the feeling. I still remember the call from Danny Morrison to my home in North Belfast nearly 10 years ago. He was appealing to me not to write a book about the hunger strikes. He implored me not to slander the memory of the dead or bring distress to their families.

I had just conducted an interview with Geraldine Scheiss, the girlfriend of Kieran Doherty, the eighth hunger striker to die. She told me that he wanted to call off the strike and that, in his final two hours of life, asked her to get tablets to save him from death. Tom Toner, the prison chaplain, confirmed that shortly before Doherty died Scheiss had come out of his room to say he was asking for tablets “for his body”. Doherty’s mother wouldn’t agree until her husband Alfie got back to the jail. Scheiss tried unsuccessfully to get the tablets herself. By the time Doherty’s father returned to the prison, his son had died.

It was clear to me that Kieran Doherty was unhappy about the hunger strike and had expressed his doubts about continuing. He had told Mary McDermott, the mother of Sean McDermott, a close IRA comrade, that “there was a lot more to it than the five demands”. It was clear from her and from other prisoners that Paddy Quinn, another hunger striker who was taken off by his mother when he became unconscious, had spoken in favour of ending the strike.

I sent a copy of my taped interview with Scheiss to her for comment, mentioning in a covering letter that one or two passages were not clear. I got a solicitor’s letter back denying she had said any of it and saying the tape must all have been faulty. As a result I put in only what was independently confirmed.

Sinn Fein had stymied me at every turn in writing the book. I was invited for interviews and kept sitting for hours in a room with prisoners’ wives and relatives waiting for the Long Kesh minibus, only to be told that nobody was available to speak to me. Eventually two liaison people were appointed — Morrison later told me that the only purpose was to see what I was up to — but they proved quite helpful.

One was the former hunger striker Pat “Beag” McGeown, a republican of tremendous dedication, haunted by survivor’s guilt because his wife had taken him off the hunger strike when so many others had died. “You can’t really be sorry to be alive, but yes it does trouble me,” he said.

He hinted at things that would be confirmed and fleshed out in O’Rawe’s account. McGeown told me he had wanted the strike to end and that “a certain number of hunger strikers had arrived at the same conclusion and were saying, ‘Look, possibly the whole thing should be reviewed’.”

It was also clear to me that, although the IRA leadership had not wanted the hunger strike to start in the first place, once Bobby Sands was elected to Westminster things had changed. They wanted it to continue until Owen Carron, a Sinn Fein member who stood as “proxy prisoner” could be elected to the seat left vacant by Sands’s death. At the time there was a republican policy of not contesting Westminster or Dail elections and this was the leadership’s way round it. As Adams said in a 1985 Bobby Sands memorial lecture: “The hunger strikes, at great cost to our H-Block martyrs and their families, smashed criminalisation and led to the electoral strategy, plus the revamping of the IRA.”

O’Rawe puts it more bluntly. The hunger strikers, he said, may have been “cannon fodder” and six of them may have died just to get Sinn Fein’s political project under way.

The hunger strike was prolonged despite an offer to the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP), which would have been guaranteed by the Catholic church’s hierarchy, that met many of the prisoners’ demands. Substantially the same offer was repeated through an MI6 officer with whom Adams was liaising, and was accepted by the prison leadership as the best deal available. When the hunger strike did eventually end, the same offer was at length implemented and greeted as a victory by republicans.

O’Rawe reveals that McGeown had been warned to keep quiet about his doubts when Adams visited the hunger strikers after many of their families asked him to end the strike. Adams made it clear the visit was a formality, saying that he had come because he “felt duty-bound to satisfy the clergymen and all those who were pressurising their families”.

Most tellingly of all he was accompanied by Carron, who was dressed in what the prisoners referred to as his “election suit”. The implied message was that they would be letting the movement down if they did not hold out until polling was over. Doherty did not attend because he was judged too ill. Instead Adams visited him in a private room and came out saying that “Big Doc” was determined to continue.

The price was deaths in the prison and on the streets, as hunger strike rioting continued. An honest debate on Sinn Fein’s entry to politics was avoided, and Adams’ strategy was advanced.

Some may say it was worth it. Ending the hunger strike after three or four deaths on the basis of the offer to the ICJP, and the parallel offer through MI6, would have set the Sinn Fein political project back. The Catholic church and the SDLP, who were to the fore in the ICJP, would have shared the credit, with little going the way of Sinn Fein.

Adams would then have had to argue openly for a political strategy. He might have faced a split.

Of course it is the duty of military leaders to take such decisions. Generals send men to their deaths after weighing the lives of soldiers against their overall strategic objectives.

It can be argued that Adams and the republican leadership made the right choice but it is an argument that they never had the courage to make. Certainly not to the families of the hunger strikers.

Brendan McFarlane denies Hunger Strike deal

Posted in marcella on 18 March 2005 by micheailin

Irelandclick.com

McFARLANE DENIES HUNGER STRIKE ‘DEAL’ WAS STRUCK

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
**from Bobby Sands Trust – Brendan McFarlane, OC H-Blocks

Brendan McFarlane, the leader of the H-Block prisoners during the hunger strikes of 1981, has rejected any suggestion that a deal was rejected before the death of Joe McDonnell.

The North Belfast man said the claims in Richard O’Rawe’s book entitled Blanketmen: The Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike had caused distress among the families of the hunger strikers.
In his book O’Rawe claims the final six men to die were sacrificed for political reasons and to help the election of Owen Carron to Bobby Sands’ Westminster seat.
“All of us, particularly the families of the men who died, carry the tragedy and trauma of the hunger strikes with us every day of our lives.
“It was an emotional and deeply distressing time for those of us who were in the H-Blocks and close to the hunger strikers,” said Brendan McFarlane.
“However, as the Officer Commanding in the prison at the time, I can say categorically that there was no outside intervention to prevent a deal.
“The only outside intervention was to try to prevent the hunger strike.
“Once the strike was underway, the only people in a position to agree a deal or call off the hunger strike were the prisoners – particularly the hunger strikers themselves.
“The political responsibility for the hunger strike, and the deaths that resulted from it, both inside and outside the prison, lies with Margaret Thatcher, who reneged on the deal which ended the first hunger strike.
“This bad faith and duplicity lead directly to the deaths of our friends and comrades in 1981″.
Raymond McCartney, a former hunger striker and now Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle, also said O’Rawe’s claims lacked credibility.
“Richard’s recollection of events is not accurate or credible.
“The hunger strike was a response to Thatcher’s criminalisation campaign.
“The move to hunger strike resulted from the prisoners’ decision to escalate the protest after five years of beatings, starvation and deprivation.
“The leadership of the IRA and of Sinn Féin tried to persuade us not to embark on this course of action.
“At all times we, the prisoners, took the decisions.”

info@irelandclick.com
Journalist:: Staff Reporter