IRA whistleblower faces hate campaign

Sunday Times

**Via Newshound

Carissa Casey
May 21, 2006

A FORMER republican prisoner who revealed that the IRA was offered a deal that could have saved the lives of at least six of the 1981 hunger strikers has been targeted by a graffiti attack near his home in west Belfast.

Richard O’Rawe said he had been the subject of a hate campaign by a small group of former IRA prisoners since the recent broadcast of an RTE documentary supporting his claims about the hunger strike. A wall near his home has been daubed with the slogan “Richard O’Rawe, H-Block Traitor” in red paint.

“Whoever wrote that would have been influenced by those who have been vilifying and demonising me,” O’Rawe said.

Two weeks ago, in a documentary to mark the 25th anniversary of Bobby Sands’s death, Denis Bradley, the former deputy chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said he believed the British government had offered a deal to the hunger strikers after three or four of them had died. Bradley said the deal offered was similar to the one that was eventually accepted.

O’Rawe says that since he published a book making similar claims last year, he has been ostracised by former friends. But the attacks have become more ominous since the documentary. “There had been a swing towards me, backing up the veracity of what I’m saying in my book. Then the assaults came like a wave for the best part of two weeks — verbal and written assaults in the media,” he said.

In his book, O’Rawe said he and Brendan “Bik” McFarlane, the IRA prisoners’ commanding officer, accepted concessions offered by the Foreign Office on July 5, 1981 before Joe McDonnell, the fifth hunger striker, died. O’Rawe claims that the IRA army council rejected the deal.

At the time Owen Carron, a Sinn Fein candidate, was contesting a by-election for the Fermanagh/South Tyrone seat left vacant a few months earlier by Sands’s death.

O’Rawe’s claims have been disputed by several former ex-prisoners including McFarlane, who says no offer was made.

O’Rawe, who grew up on the Falls Road, says he now lives an isolated existence. “Guys I have known all my life walk by me. I have learnt not to say hello to people unless they say hello to me. People I used to drink with before don’t want me in their company because they don’t feel comfortable with me. There’s a feeling I’ve broken with the leadership.”

O’Rawe describes himself as a committed republican. “I think Gerry Adams is owed a huge debt. I don’t think anyone other than Adams could have brought an end to an unwinnable war and kept republican communities united. But six of my comrades died that should not have, and it’s important the truth comes out warts and all.

“The thing that gets me is that there are republicans out there who are saying, ‘O’Rawe’s right’, but rather than stand up and ask questions they’d prefer to attack me. It’s almost as if it’s okay that the leadership in 1981 let six men die to get Carron elected. I find that absolutely atrocious.”

O’Rawe considered moving away but decided against it. He is writing a novel about Al-Qaeda.

An all-party committee is likely to be established at Stormont this week to examine what issues are preventing the restoration of devolution.

A motion to establish the committee is set to be tabled on Tuesday by Sir Reg Empey, the Ulster Unionist leader, after the expected failure to elect a first minister and deputy.

The committee would have two members from each of the main unionist and nationalist parties, and one from the alliance.

The SDLP is in favour of the idea, depending on the terms of its remit. The DUP has also expressed interest, while Sinn Fein says it will support the proposal if the committee is given sufficient substance.

Empey’s move follows dissent within his party over its alliance with David Ervine, leader of the Progressive Unionist party, the political wing of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

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