25 June 2009 Edition
Hunger Strikers' families challenge false claims over deaths
THE families of the majority of the men who died during the 1981 Hunger Strike have rejected as “false” the claims being made about the fast and the deaths of six of the H-Block prisoners.
The families are particularly incensed at the claims – raised by former H-Block prisoner Richard O’Rawe and repeated by the British media – that Margaret Thatcher’s government offered the protesting prisoners a deal and that this was rejected by the leadership of the Republican Movement out of political expediency.
According to a statement released by members of the Hunger Strikers’ families who attended a private meeting in Gulladuff, County Derry, last week (Wednesday 17 June) “our loved ones made the supreme sacrifice on hunger strike for their comrades. They were not dupes. They were dedicated and committed republicans. We are clear that it was the British Government which refused to negotiate and refused to concede their just demands.”
The Gulladuff meeting was attended by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison (who liaised with the Hunger Strikers in 1981) and prisoners’ O/C Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane as well as family members of eight of the ten dead Hunger Strikers.
None of Kevin Lynch’s family could attend the meeting but sent a message of support.
In their statement the Hunger Strikers’ relatives repudiated the account, which were blatant lies, of the Gulladuff meeting circulated by IRSP spokesperson Willie Gallagher who maintained that Michael Óg Devine (whose father Mickey was the last Hunger Striker to die) and Tony O’Hara (brother of Patsy) were shouted down.
Gallagher alleged his account was based on a report of the meeting relayed to him by Michael Óg Devine and Tony O’Hara.
The Gulladuff meeting allowed the families of the dead Hunger Strikers the opportunity to ask questions or raise any concerns they may have had about the period.
The majority of those at the meeting were satisfied with its outcome but were angry at the false account circulated by Gallagher.
In their statement, members of the Hughes, McCreesh, McDonnell, Hurson, Doherty, McElwee and Devine families repudiated the Gallagher version of the meeting and rejected any suggestion that Michael Óg Devine, who remained silent throughout, was ‘shouted down’ or ‘bullied’.
Michael Óg Devine did not in fact speak during the meeting.
Below is the full text of the families’ statement
“Wednesday evening’s meeting was a very emotional and difficult occasion for all of us, particularly in light of the allegations coming from Richard O’Rawe and the IRSP.
“All of the family members who spoke, with the exception of Tony O’Hara, expressed deep anger and frustration at the ongoing allegations created by O’Rawe.
“Tony O’Hara’s suggestion that we should meet with Richard O’Rawe and Willie Gallagher got no support and we asked Tony to express to Richard O’Rawe and Willie Gallagher our wish for them to stop what they are doing and to give us peace of mind.
“The account of the meeting published by Willie Gallagher is inaccurate and offensive.
“Our loved ones made the supreme sacrifice on hunger strike for their comrades. They were not dupes. They were dedicated and committed republicans. We are clear that it was the British Government which refused to negotiate and refused to concede their just demands.”
Danny Morrison who liaised with the Hunger Strikers in 1981 attended the meeting