Saturday, May 18, 2013

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55 Hours: Wednesday 8 July 1981

Tonight the Pensive Quill carries the last of a four part series by guest writer Carrie Twomey that takes readers through a day-by-day account of the events of early July, 1981.

Sunday ● Monday ● Tuesday ● Wednesday

Using the timeline created with documents from ‘Mountain Climber’ Brendan Duddy’s diary of ‘channel’ communications, official papers from the Thatcher Foundation Archive, excerpts from former Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald’s autobiography, David Beresford's Ten Men Dead, Padraig O’Malley’s book Biting at the Grave, and INLA: Deadly Divisions by Jack Holland and Henry McDonald, Danny Morrison’s published timelines, as well as first person accounts and the books of Richard O’Rawe and Gerry Adams, the fifty-five hours of secret negotiations between British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Gerry Adams’ emerging IRA leadership group are examined day by day.
I accept in a situation like that there has to be secret talks, has to be secrecy of some sorts, but when you are talking about men's lives that are just dwindling away, they were entitled to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  - Brendan Hughes 


Early Morning

Death's Brother, Sleep

Gerry Adams decided he needed some rest. He explains in Before the Dawn that he 'started cat-napping during the day in order to be relatively fresh for negotiations at night'. Ten Men Dead details that Adams 'had taken a break Tuesday evening' and did not return to the safe house where the channel communications were conducted until 'the early hours of the morning'.

A Time for Many Words and A Time for Sleep

According to Danny Morrison, at this point "Republican monitors [were] still waiting confirmation from Mountain Climber," and he claims that "[t]he call does not come." This is repeated in Ten Men Dead, where a member of the Adams Group in the safe house tells Adams upon his return from his cat-nap that nothing has come through. The impression is that the channel line had gone dead and the British were done with the communications. 

Brendan Duddy's notes, however, offer a radically different perspective. In his diary, he has a series of times listed:

  • 11:58
  • 11:59
  • 12:00 midnight
  • 1:00 am
  • 1:33 am
  • 2:10 am
These times are then followed in the diary by the details of the offer made by Thatcher that could have ended the hunger strike.

It is unlikely that those times are a record of attempts made by the Adams Group to contact Thatcher, given they were waiting for her response to their 8pm messages, and Adams was not available.

Could it be that the list is an accounting of the amount of times Duddy had attempted to contact the Adams Group with Thatcher's offer before Adams returned from his nap?

The calls from the Mountain Climber did come, it seems, numerous times, while Joe McDonnell was breathing his last four hours. Adams was not there to receive them until after 2 in the morning.

When he had finally been contacted, the British were still hopeful. The NIO telegraphed Thatcher:
The statement has now been read and we await provo reactions (we would be willing to allow them a sight of the document just before it is given to the prisoners and released to the press). It has been made clear (as the draft itself states) that it is not a basis for negotiation.
The choreography was in place. Everything the Adams Group had asked for was there, such as the rephrasing on Work and Association. They were even given their added demand of the veto of sight before the prisoners were to be given the agreed statement and it was released publicly.

All that was needed was for the Adams Group to say it was enough to end the strike, and the process of saving the men's lives would begin.


The offer sent to the Adams Group on the eve of Joe McDonnell's death was as follows:
[British] The management will ensure that as substantial part of the work will consist of domestic tasks inside and outside the wings necessary for servicing the prisoners, such as cleaning and in the laundry and kitchen, construction work for example on building projects or making toys for charitable bodies and studying for Open University or other courses. The factory authority will be responsible for supervision.
The aim of the authority will be that prisoners should do the kind of work for which they are suited. But this will not always be possible and the authorities will retain responsibility for decisions.
“Little advance is possible on Association”
It (Association) will be permitted within each wing under supervision of factory staff.
(English language you can’t do any more than give freedom in a wing)
Statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
  1. In the light of discussions which Mr Michael Alison has had recently with the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, during which a statement was issued on 4 July on behalf of the protesting prisoners in the Maze Prison, HMG have come to the following conclusions.
  2. When the hunger strike and the protest is brought to an end (and not before), the Government will:
    1. extend to all male prisoners in Northern Ireland the clothing regime at present available to female prisoners in Armagh Prison (i.e. subject to the prison governor’s approval);
    2. make available to all prisoners in Northern Ireland the allowance of letters, parcels and visits at present available to conforming prisoners;
    3. allow the restoration of forfeited remission at the discretion of the responsible disciplinary authority, as indicated in my statement of 30 June, which hitherto has meant the restoration of up to one-fifth of remission lost subject to a satisfactory period of good behaviour;
    4. ensure that a substantial part of the work will consist of domestic tasks inside and outside the wings necessary for servicing of the prison (such as cleaning and in the laundries and kitchens), constructive work, e.g. on building projects or making toys for charitable bodies, and study for Open University or other courses. The prison authorities will be responsible for supervision. The aim of the authorities will be that prisoners should do the kinds of work for which they are suited, but this will not always be possible and the authorities will retain responsibility for decisions about allocation.
  3. Little advance is possible on association. It will be permitted within each wing, under supervision of the prison staff.
  4. Protesting prisoners have been segregated from the rest. Other prisoners are not segregated by religious or any other affiliation. If there were no protest the only reason for segregating some prisoners from others would be the judgment of the prison authorities, not the prisoners, that this was the best way to avoid trouble between groups.
  5. This statement is not a negotiating position. But it is further evidence of the Government’s desire to maintain and where possible to improve a humanitarian regime in the prisons. The Government earnestly hopes that the hunger strikers and the other protesters will cease their protest.
It would be two hours until the Adams Group came back with any answer, and it was not the one anyone had hoped for.

Bad Faith

At 4am in the morning, the Adams Group send their first response to Thatcher's latest offer through the channel. A request is made for Adams to go into the prison.

The purpose is listed as '1. To ensure success 2. To achieve'    the notation in the diary is brief and vague, but asking for Adams to go in at that point  knowing the British had repeatedly rejected him when he was previously suggested was a bold request. Was it really necessary for Adams personally to go in for the strike to end? Would that be something worth rejecting the offer over?

At 5am, the Adams Group sends a further new demand through the channel. In addition to the public document that Thatcher has drafted, they now want a private document to be drawn up as well. This private document, they demand, should be a 'detailed nitty-gritty' of work, association, and the rest of the prisoners' demands.

They had already agreed that these details would be worked out after the hunger strike was called off. Now, at the exact moment while in the prison hospital Joe McDonnell's sister Maura was shaking his still-warm body crying for him to not be dead, the Adams Group demanded even more upfront before they would consider ordering an end to the strike.

The Ante Raised

The British response to the new demands was not long in coming. The communication on the channel was over.

Adams imbues an air of mystery to the termination of the channel communication in Before the Dawn:
“Very early one morning I and another member of our committee were in mid-discussion with the British in a living room in a house in Andersonstown when, all of a sudden, they cut the conversation, which we thought was quite strange.”
Perhaps it was not so strange. Duddy's diary contains the British reaction to the new demand   and the explanation for why the contact ended when it did. The response, which according to Adams came at 5:30am, is terse:
The management cannot contemplate the proposal for two documents set out in your last communication and now therefore the exchange on this channel to be ended.
At the last minute, acting in bad faith, the Adams Group demanded too much.

The Death of Joe McDonnell

Danny Morrison gives the time of Joe McDonnell's death as 4:50am; that is when Father Murphy woke up Joe's family, who were sleeping in the prison hospital, to tell them he had died, and his sister Maura, shouting and shaking him, desperately tried to bring him back.

Word confirming his death was slow in getting out, and somewhat confused. Duddy's diary puts Joe's death 17 minutes later, at 5:07, though it was not known he had died until the morning news broadcast; the Bobby Sands Trust as well as various other websites including the Sinn Fein bookshop, list his death at 5:11am; Padraig O'Malley writes that Joe died at 5:40am.

The Adams Group and the British, unaware he had died, were in discussions until 5:30am, and did not hear of his death immediately; it was a number of hours before they knew: "We first heard it on the 7:00am news," Duddy records.
Adams' autobiography confirms they did not know Joe had died while they were conducting the channel discussions: "Then, later, when we turned on the first news broadcast of the morning, we heard that Joe McDonnell was dead."

Without divulging that at the time Joe was dying he was inserting another new demand into the process of settlement, Adams lets his readers believe the reason the British had ended their communication was because they had been informed of Joe's death. But the times noted in Duddy's diary, combined with the Adams Group's new demand and the British reaction, make this impossible.

It was not Joe's death that caused the British to end the channel discussion; it was the new, bad faith demand for more detailed documentation; details that the British believed had already been agreed could be worked out once the men had come off their strike, in order to save their lives.

By 6:30am the NIO finally sent in an official to read a statement of the British position to the prisoners.

As promised, given the rejection by the Adams Group of Thatcher's offer, the statement was absent of any indication of the strides made in either the ICJP or Adams Group discussions.

According to Garrett Fitzgerald, Adams contacted the ICJP fifteen minutes after the NIO went into the prison, and immediately blamed the British. He 'rang the commission to say that at 5:30am the contact with London had been terminated without explanation'.

Garrett Fitzgerald:
When we heard the news of Joe McDonnell’s death and of the last-minute hardening of the British position, we were shattered. We had been quite unprepared for this volte-face, for we, of course, had known nothing whatever of the disastrous British approach to Adams and Morrison. Nor had we known of the IRA’s attempts – regardless of the threat this posed to the lives of the prisoners, and especially to that of Joe McDonnell – to raise the ante by seeking concessions beyond what the prisoners had said they could accept.  

The Fatal Wings of Time

"Don't you worry about Joe McDonnell," he said to Bik McFarlane in the canteen after Danny Morrison's Sunday visit.

It was the first time Bik and Joe had ever met each other. Joe was 'confined to a wheelchair', his 'head crouched low to one side', and he 'could barely hear' what was said. He was in 'an appalling condition'.

Yet he shook Bik's hand despite immense pain.

"I might only last a few days but I'll hang on as long as I can and buy all the time we need."

Previously: Tuesday 7 July 1981


AM said...

This is a great piece that takes the status quo narrative by the throat. When the tide goes out they say it is then that we really see who is naked. And the Emperor of lies has been wearing no clothes on this one.

The Committee strategically, wilfully and purposefully waited out the Brits to ensure that Joe McDonnell did not survive. Joe had no chance. Contrast his honour with the treachery of the Committee. If we do nothing else in the time left to us we should ensure that the full story of the hunger strike is told. Carrie Twomey and Richard O'Rawe between them have done so much to secure this end.

AM said...

Paul Little made this comment on another site:

A powerful narrative and should be read by all republicans, drives a coach and horses through the official Adams line that the hunger strikers were in control of their own destiny. The final 6 were not aware of the facts as they were withheld by Adams and Morrison.

sean bres said...

This amounts to a terrible, appalling indictment on those who failed to grasp the opportunity to end the situation in the H-Blocks before a second round of protesting prisoners went to an early grave - long, long before their time. What's certain now is that questions must be answered by those taking decisions behind the scenes in relation to the Hungerstrikes, history demands full accountability for all those concerned. They cannot get away with simply ignoring this. Carrie you deserve tremendous praise for this series of work

menace said...

Maith dhom but, the question rises, why did the brit's not circumvent the Connolly House mob and liaise with the men themselves through Bik or Richard?
Equally, the Commission could have brought the brit's comm into the gaol and relayed this to the men and families directly, just why rely on those sitting outside?

michaelhenry said...

A new low-

" The British,unaware he had died "

So the british that owned the H-Blocks in 1981-owned the governer and his deputys-owned the prison guards-owned the doctors and NIO who were in The blocks and prison hospital on the morning that Vol Joe McDonnell died stayed dumb and never told london-what kind of yarn are youse tring to sell now-thats the only reason the brits stopped talking-Because the brits knew the momment when Vol Joe McDonnell died-RIP-

RIP to your yarn now-

marty said...

Dixie mentions elsewhere that Mitchel Mc Laughlin,s son is demanding that Carries and Richards version of this willful act of treachery in allowing those men to die be suppressed, its understandable giving the mind blowing coldness that Adams and his cronies have shown in allowing comrades to die in such a fashion,if only the rest of the republican community were to wake up and realise the deciet,and treacherous behaviour of these people in their haste and greed for power that they surely did lay down their friends lives for the love of power,then justice for those men may be finally achieved,among the best posts that I have read on TPQ Carrie , brilliant work ,proven by quisling $inn £eins Mc Laughlins son rant,setting the truth free hurts those who have a lot to hide it seems , great work Carrie aris .

Dixie said...

This has to be published and the world must be told of the incredible cruelty inflicted on those men by the very people in whom they placed their trust, their very lives.

I cannot think of a greater act of treachery in the long history of Irish Republicanism.

Carrie you took all the pieces of evidence and brilliantly laid it all out so as to make it possible for the man and woman on the street to come to their own conclusion.

Not a bit wonder Adams and the Kitchen Cabinet hide.

The reading of this draws out the anger in me with every paragraph. Thatcher was our enemy; a cruel vindictive one at that, yet after four deaths she was beaten, she wanted it ended.

Little did we realize then that we had on our side so called leaders who were just as callous.

We do indeed owe a debt of gratitude to Ricky and Carrie.

Dixie said...

If Adams had to sleep, then surely he could have slept in the safe house to be near the phone instead of elsewhere?

Joe was near death and Adams decided to sleep somewhere else at such a vital time?

And according to Hugh Logue Bik also thought sleep was more important than a comrades life...

"O’Mahony and Logue went down to talk to him. “He listened to us for about two minutes,” says Logue, “and turned around and went back to sleep and Joe McDonnell was going to be dead within thirty-six hours and I never forgave him for that. He was not in the business of trying to get a solution.”

AM said...


as Carrie said to me last night this is just 55 hours out of 40 years. We can only shudder at what they were up to the rest of the time.

Boyne Rover said...

Well done Carrie a superb collation of all the information associated with the Hunger Strike
When reading this piece my mind was racing all over the shop trying to figure out how when what or how did do the great intelligent people that were supposed to have fought for Ireland not see that they were led by the nose by people who were more interested in getting on the public stage and using the easily lead people that were the hunger strikers. I am fairly sure if the men that died on hunger strike could see this document, some members of Sinn Fein would end up in the same place as Denis Donaldson.

AM said...


I understand the deep frustration that your party experiences with the lie allegation always landing in its lap and which probably goes some way towards explaining your need to try and spread it around a bit. But you could at least have tried to find a better example. Even if it was a wrong opinion it hardly amounts to a lie whereas your party leader denying he had any knowledge of the Mountain climber is clearly a lie which you remain silent about.

I would have some sympathy with your charge of an inaccurate claim made by Carrie had you read the pieces and came to a reasoned conclusion. It would be strange indeed were the Brits not to know that Joe McDonnell had died. The section of the article that has excited you is specific to the Brit negotiators at the time of the exchanges. Brendan Duddy was the interlocutor whom the Brits and the Committee were using as a channel. He says he was not aware of the death of Joe until 7 AM. We don’t know the precise times of the termination of the talks, how shortly after Joe’s death. We have a statement from Adams that they broke down but he doesn’t time it other than to say ‘very early one morning.’

Furthermore, it is now a matter of public record that the Brits did not cut the conversation unexpectedly but explained to the Committee exactly why it was ending the exchange – it was not going to buy into the Adams plan of upping the ante at 5am.

If you are really concerned with the hunger strikers then you will ask the same questions of your leaders that you ask of Carrie/Richard etc. Have you yet asked your party leader in public why he lied about his knowledge of the Mountain climber?

menace said...

AM, the problem is, it was too late for Joe, Patsy, Ray, Martin, Thomas and Mickey, six more brave men prepared to die for the lie propagated by elements within their own army leadership, and the many more, volunteers and civilians who died or suffered imprisonment thereafter.
I still cannot understand though why the brit's did not simply avoid the leadership and go to the men themselves with this offer, the lives saved and suffering discontinued would have been well worth it. You might remember in the old cowboy films the 'injuns' would say 'white man speak with forked tongue' I used to think it was just the brit's who were the 'white men' now we know better.

Boyne Rover said...

I have always felt that it’s bad enough someone telling lies but it’s much worse when people stand with them claiming that their lies are the truth. This smacks of the same ethics the Catholic Church apply to the paedophiles under their control, cover up at any cost. Why does Sinn Fein still let this man lead them when he has declared that the hunger strikers were wrong to be looking for political status as they were criminals to begin with? If Donaldson and Scappaticci were helping the British crush the Provo’s then its not any great stretch of the imagination to suggest that the same could apply to Adams and the Kitchen Cabinet in 81 ????

AM said...


the Brit attitude was determined by where they saw the real power lying. They believed with good reason that the outside leadership was running the show and that any approaches to the prisoners outside of leadership approval would amount to a failure. This is why the entire Brit emphasis was on getting a deal that the leadership would not block.

The whole negotiating process from our side had been set up in such a way as to prevent the prisoners taking any decision. And on the one occasion that the camp leadership did accept a deal (between themselves and not in the presence of the Brits) it was overruled by the leadership on the outside.

Had the Brits made the approach you suggest the hunger strikers were directed not to listen to them or speak to them without Bik being present. And there would have been allegations from us of a Brit attempt to split.

And the Brit view of Bik was that he was an extension of the outside leadership into the ranks of the prisoners rather than a representative of the prisoners. He certainly did not want anything done that would undermine the leadership or not gain its approval.

Tain Bo said...


at first glance Mickey your comment sounds and reads well that is until one reads the line you minced to sound clever. You even go as far as to suggest your minced line puts an end to the entire hunger strike narrative.
I combed over all the information I could find again as the subject deserves critical scrutiny. Believe it or not Mickey I have been looking at it trying to find flaws in Richards’s narrative and have went over Carries translation looking for flaws in the timeline.

It was your comment that I thought might have something that I overlooked I went through it and didn’t find exactly what you stated.


" The British,unaware he had died "

Unfortunately is not the same as what is stated below?

“The Adams Group and the British, unaware he had died, were in discussions until 5:30am, and did not hear of his death immediately; it was a number of hours before they knew: "We first heard it on the 7:00am news," Duddy records.”

There is a great deal of information Mickey in the 55 hours unlike you I can honestly say I have been trying to pick it apart.
The notion that republicans shouldn’t discuss a pivotal part of our history only undermines the version you readily believe and that is the version I would prefer to believe but in honesty Mickey as long as the narrative stands the only profit to be made is truth.

Suspicious that you would mangle a line to lie in order to make a point about what you and your camp view as yarns and lies.

michaelhenry said...

Tain Bo-

Carrie clearly states-

" and the British,unaware he had died,were in discussions untill 5:30am,and did not hear of his death immediately;it was a number of hours before they knew:"

And you expect people to believe this-its the number one lie that the british did not know that Volunteer Joe McDonnell was dead for a number of hours-is Carrie going to stand in front of a Republican inquiry and state this in front of the Hunger-Strike familys-in front of Joes family-they would run her out of the court-its over-but argue on-

AM said...


unfortunately for yourself, your party leadership has lied to republicans, the families of hunger strikers and Joe's family for years. It is well and truly over and there is no longer a case that can be made against the O'Rawe narrative. As Tain Bo says it would be comforting to think that Carrie and Richard had somehow got it wrong. But the weight of evidence is too compelling.

But we had it before. Think of Ballyseedy.

Tain Bo said...


I have no expectation of what people may believe I am merely stating my opinion on the prison struggle.
You are partially correct Mickey as Carrie does clearly state:

The Adams Group and the British, unaware he had died, were in discussions until 5:30am, and did not hear of his death immediately; it was a number of hours before they knew: "We first heard it on the 7:00am news," Duddy records.

Adams' autobiography confirms they did not know Joe had died while they were conducting the channel discussions: "Then, later, when we turned on the first news broadcast of the morning, we heard that Joe McDonnell was dead."

Adams seems to have less trouble acknowledging he was unaware are you calling your leader a liar?
Again you are trapped repeating several words from a sentence.
Mickey I am disappointed that I couldn’t find the golden spike and if I had or do I would happily post it here.

If I do follow your logic and agree with your weak point a greater issue arises.
After Joe died why did it take so long for negations’ to prevent further loss of life?
People will draw their own conclusions Mickey the loss of life does not speak well for the skill of the negotiators.

I can’t speak for Carrie but I would have been more than willing to put the timeline to sleep if I could find direct problems that would contradict it.
As for a republican inquiry the onus would be on others to disprove the narrative and I would again be happy if they did.
Until then a very dark cloud looms over a sad and tragic part of our history.

Dixie said...

michaelhenry aka mcivor has been on every forum carrying Carrie's piece throwing his 'startling' discovery about.

All the brains in the Adams' Kitchen Cabinet couldn't break Ricky's story yet our michael the humble councilor who spends his time online has gone and blown it apart.

Phone Gerry or Danny Michael with your exposé, surely now they'll feel save to face Ricky instead of hiding.

MLA Michael McIvor...It has a ring to it.

itsjustmacker said...

Tain Bo:

"The Adams Group and the British, unaware he had died, were in discussions until 5:30am"

I am going to have to go through everything again , have I missed read some of Carrie's time line, Adams wasn't there at 05:30 , although he should have been, and , in my opinion he must have had ulterior motives not to be there , I have no doubt whatsoever that Ricky O' Rawe is telling the truth , When Bik released those comms from Ricky , after all those years , they looked like they were so pristeen and transcribed the same day, and , bik states that Ricky worked in PSF press for one year, why didn't he mention any of this then , and why did he wait so long to bring it into the public domaim via a book , my question to PSF is , Why did Adams leave that very safe house to have a kip! , when the British rep was there and adams always stayed there with him. If it was for something for a female , then he didn't give to hoots about who was next to die , or , his plan was going well and he was well informed by the Brits of the situation , VIA ANOTHER SOURCE.

I firmly believe that Bik was in on all of this dirty work , and I'm speaking of as a person who knew him and his whole family, Holy than holier. Father Bik?.
I will go through Carrie's time line and , If I'm wrong , then I will rectify and apologize..

itsjustmacker said...

Boyne Rover:

" If Donaldson and Scappaticci were helping the British crush the Provo’s then its not any great stretch of the imagination to suggest that the same could apply to Adams and the Kitchen Cabinet in 81 ????"

On that one we are on the same wave length. I have ultimately come to the conclusion that the kitchen cabinet must have been working with the British , "FOR THE BRITISH". imo that is, unless someone finds a more logical explanation. as far as I'm concerned , they might as well sit in the British Parliament , or , who knows, they may even reach the "HOUSE OF LORDS"!

marty said...

Mickeybroy the whole point around your argument seems to be around what time the management and the shop stupids were informed about the death of vol Joe Mc Donnell,and I thought the whole point of Carries post was that this mans death and the subsequent deaths were needless as is quite clear in both Richard and Carrie,s narrative, I have called for a republican inquiry under Green Book rules before ,do you think a cara that the bearded one your president for life ,Bangers ,Gorbels Gibney Tombstone Hartley et al would be willing to support that call I seriously doubt it,given the evidence piling up against them and the possible or definite consequences for their treacherous actions at that time .the whole point Mickeybroy was not the moment Joe died but rather what time was wasted in saving his and the others lives.

sean bres said...

I think we have to be careful here when suggesting things like Bik McFarlane may have been in on some secret agenda, frankly it's totally out of order and does a disservice to the excellent work Carrie has done here. Let's not forget the man's a human being too. You can't look at all this retrospectively in the context of his opinion on the Good Friday Agreement or the peace process. Hindsight's a wonderful thing. I couldn't read in any of the stuff I've come across, even the damning critique we have of the true narrative of what went on, that Bik done anything other than follow agreed protocol. Sure he may have been under pressure from the outside leadership but any suggestion that he willingly conspired in any nefarious plan to hijack the Hungerstrikes for political gain is unacceptable from my point of view and grounded in subjection not fact. Being honest I just don't think it's fair at all. It has to be remembered also that he was a soldier in an army following orders to a certain extent and given the way the British behaved in the first Hungerstrike it made the decision-making process much more difficult for those inside Long Kesh - it's little wonder there was a greater dependency on those outside the prison's strategic thinking. Fully expect to get the head ate of me for saying all this but I just feel we have to be careful not to twist some of this stuff to suit our own political agenda or to see it in a context far removed from that of the times that were in it, the truth's more important than that. At the very least we should stick to what the evidence tells us and that's that the republican leadership has serious, serious questions to answer. If we start to widen this out to make claims that some would rightly see as incredible then they won't be obliged to answer any of it and the narrative can be dismissed. If I'm wrong here about Bik then fair enough, some of you's know him - I've only met him the once and everything else I'm saying is just my opinion of him

sean bres said...

This is all explosive stuff with feelings running high, probably because a lot of people were involved in this at the time and rightly are demanding answers. I'm thinking now I should have sat back and said nothing so I'm sorry if I've spoken out of turn. I just think it would be sad to see the tremendous investigative work involved here get lost in acrimonious allegations. There ARE questions to be answered and the effort should be placed on forcing those with questions to answer into answering them. We should pose the questions rather than make allegations, that way the information can speak for itself. Just my opinion

sean bres said...

Ultimately what I'm trying to say here is that regardless of who Bik sided with years later, whatever his reasons for doing so and let's face it he's not alone, at the time of the Mountain Climber negotiations in early July 1981 he was just as much used, just as much a pawn in a wider game, as the rest of you's. The disgraceful decision to engage in brinkmanship, using Joe McDonnell's desperate condition and knowing the political ramifications of entering a second phase of the Hungerstrike, I don't feel is attributable to Bik - even Carrie's narrative suggests the same. He wanted it ended but others kept it going. Why they did so given that they knew the likely consequences is something they will hopefully be forced to explain

marty said...

Sean a cara ,He turned his back and went to sleep,some might suggest the actions of someone wrecked with guilt,whatever his reasons he knows that the version supplied by Richard O Rawe and backed up by the brits agent Duddy and excellently collated by Carrie is the definitive truth,he has opted to lie and wriggle with the other worms who allowed these men to die, he is part of the problem ,no amount of sugared words will ever sweeten that bitter truth ..

sean bres said...

It seems to me he was powerless to do anything about it, the situation wasn't under his control - if only it had been the brinkmanship strategy of the 'shop stewards' preceding Joe McDonnell's death would not have been entertained. It seems Bik had the strategic wherewithal to recognise this was as good as it gets but allowed the assumption, so many of you's shared in, that Adams was an intellectual colossus by the standards of you mere mortals and was better placed to decide on such things. Like the rest of ye's he was probably too trusting of Adams or whatever clique was with him in the Belfast 'leadership' (it seems clear that there was an alternative leadership dealing with the situation than the actual leadership of the republican movement - the Army Council). I agree though Marty he hasn't helped his cause by continuing to provide cover for those who took the decision to prolong the Hungerstrikes - partly because to do so would probably mean he'd be out in the cold with the rest of you guys. Perhaps people like Bik are trapped now because they've made their bed and have no choice but to lie in it. For sure that's no excuse. But I don't believe that means he was in on the decision to keep it going, that responsibility lies elsewhere and we need to be careful who we attribute that responsibility to in all this no matter what anyone's position is now today. For sure Bik McFarlane has questions to answer about why he behaved as he did, then and now, but to my mind he has assisted the cover-up, probably unknowingly at first, rather than being a central agent in the conspiracy. So yeah he is one of those with questions to answer but ultimate responsibility lies higher up and Bik himself was probably used and abused like the protesting prisoners themselves

AM said...


I have long had difficulty reconciling myself to the possibility that Bik was part of the committee strategy to sabotage an end to the hunger strike. It is easy to accept that Adams would do it at the drop of a hat and that he got the hat to do the dirty work in the jail on the 5th of July. After listening to the range of lies from Morrison in his bid to smear O'Rawe, there is little room to conclude anything other than he knew exactly what he was doing. Those two are in the frame but others I am not so sure of.

But as you point out the evidence leaves Bik with lots of questions to answer and while he does not answer them a head of steam will continue to grow against him.

I think he needs to unhitch himself from Morrison's garbage wagon and openly state his own case.

sean bres said...

I agree Anthony he needs to state his own case and give a full, truthful account of the goings on - wouldn't it be marvellous if he had the courage to do so. But we both know it'll probably never happen, his wagon as you rightly point out is firmly hitched to the Morrison counter-narrative and he's likely past the point of no return. He's imprisoned by his own unwillingness to confront the true nature of those in the upper echelons of the republican leadership - for whatever reason be it loyalty, fear or something else. But in that respect he's far from alone. Whatever it is about Gerry Adams he was and is able to inspire tremendous loyalty in those around him. So in that respect we also have a lot to thank Richard O'Rawe for, given it was him who first brought this damning narrative into the open. Otherwise it might have been concealed forever from history. I only hope that the mainstream media pick up more on this, personally I'm determined that as many people as I can possibly speak with should be made aware of the black goings on at the time and the questions that need answered, it should be discussed far and wide and we should have no shame in making it a topic for conversation. Republicans need to be prepared to countenance the "appalling vista" Richard refers to that men were allowed to die although it had been recognised that the Hungerstrike could not succeed but that a viable offer was in place to resolve the situation without loss of face. That's not really in dispute anymore given all the recent revelations, not even Michael in his blind loyalty can say otherwise, he can only attempt to move the conversation away from this inconvenient fact. The only thing that needs answered now is why it continued on regardless and who was responsible. Seems to me we don't have to look too far past Gerry Adams to answer the second part of that but the real question people need to consider is why. Why did he veto Bik and Richard's decision to accept the Mountain Climber, why did he have Pat McGeown silenced, why was information withheld from the prisoners, why was all reference to the Mountain Climber to be erased from the files, why was the comm in relation to the prison leadership accepting the Mountain Climber offer disappeared? These questions need answered and Adams and those who bear responsibility with him can't be allowed to dodge all this

Dixie said...

Sean bres said...

"...and given the way the British behaved in the first Hungerstrike it made the decision-making process much more difficult for those inside Long Kesh..."

Sean this is another of the many lies by the Adams committee that keeps coming back no matter how many times it's been disproved.

There was no offer by the Brits at the end of the First Hunger Strike. A document came in via Fr Meagher but it stated that, 'Prisoners could wear 'civilian type' clothing during the working week'
That was merely another name for prison clothing.

I heard Bobby say on his return to the wing that 'WE GOT NOTHING'.
Go to the prelude in 'Nothing but an unfinished Song' it says the above on the very first page. Morrison now admits it and the Thatcher documents contains a message from Duddy which stated that the Provisionals believed that HMG acted sincerely in trying to implement their side of the agreement at the end of the First Hunger Strike.

Dixie said...

In regards to Bik. I believe had Brendan Hughes been in his position he would have accepted the offer no matter what Adams said.

Bik was telling Pat Beag to keep his opinions to himself and not to air his opinions in front of Adams. Fuck me this was a man on Hunger Strike being told to keep his mouth shut. Bik should have been putting pressure on Adams instead of the men on Hunger Strike.

And he sent this comm out while men were dying...

"To Brownie from Bik Sun 26.7.81

The climate now is ripe to make significant progress and establish a firm base down there which is a necessity for future development and success in the final analysis.

To allow opportunities to slip by [opportunities which may not present themselves again] would be a grave mistake. We are examining the possibility of contesting elections and actually making full use of seats gained-ie participating in Dail. Such an idea presents problems within the Movement. How great would the opposition be and what would be the consequences of pursuing a course which did not enjoy a sizeable degree of support?''

Most importantly, he, Laurney, Pat Sheenan, McCartney among others know that they are lying for Adams yet they continue to do so.

In fact Jake Jackson in my opinion has been an Adamsite for years, he also advised Bik on the Blanket but never once that I know of has he come out and backed Adams or called Ricky a liar.

Jake might be a lot of things but he's not stupid, he knows the lies will catch up with them someday and he doesn't want to caught in the headlights when it does.

Tain Bo said...


there is a lot to read so it is plausible overlooking something or other. As for Adams leaving a safe house that would beg the question why not just sleep there knowing that a life(s) depended on it.

It is a tough question as to why Richard waited it would be reasonable to suggest it boils down to foot soldiers and generals loyalty to the cause versus personal conscience. In the court of republican opinion who would believe his version of events?
As for Bik he is undoubtedly a loyal foot soldier who followed orders without question and maintains that loyalty even with a very well documented narrative that defies it.

As I said to Mickey I would have preferred to poke holes in the narrative there are too many questions left unanswered.

Dixie said...

Clearly had Ricky brought this up earlier he would have ended up as one of the disappeared. Don't forget that Ivor Bell was court-martialed for exposing the fact that Adams and McGuinness were running down the war in favour of politics.

Also, as I pointed out, Pat Beag McGeown did a harrowing interview for a book, The IRA and Armed Struggle, some years before Ricky wrote his book. On reading his interview in that book it was clear that he was having difficulties with what happened during the Hunger Strikes.

He was still with Sinn Fein but obviously some years had passed before he too brought his thoughts to the fore.

sean bres said...

It seems certain Dixie that saving Joe McDonnell was at the very least not the no.1 priority for Adams or whoever was working with him on the outside but to credit Bik with the same motives, although perhaps understandable given how so many are annoyed with his failure to stand up and be counted as Richard O'Rawe has done, I still think is unfair. I can agree he was not in the business of getting a solution with Hugh Logue as Marty referred to, for as Carrie has already determined the ICJP was to be excluded at the behest of the outside leadership - I'd say that's why he rolled over on Logue. But that doesn't mean he was against a solution per se, Ricky himself has stated otherwise. It honestly seems to me the man was caught in a Catch-22 situation - he probably still is to this day.

I honestly believe for Bik the Hungerstrikes were about political status and nothing else, as a Blanketman himself it's very difficult to imagine he'd have been operating to another frame of reference. That doesn't preclude the idea that he could have envisaged outside political gains for the wider movement as you allude to, in fact I'd go as far as to say he'd probably have found a degree of comfort in this given the stark picture Adams painted for him of the 'two options' solution and that at least the men weren't dying for absolutely nothing. As far as I can see yes he's been wrong to cover for Adams and deserves all the criticism coming his way as a result but it's unlikely he led men to certain death so Sinn Fein could benefit politically. It's more likely that like the rest of you's he was being led along by the same external influences. And let's not forget it took many republicans years before finding the gumption to walk away from this leadership, plenty of us didn't go along with the idea that the Shinners were a sell-out when those like Mackers first spoke out. That's worth considering.

I wonder has Bik read the 55 Hours narrative and if he has can he take any of it on board. Cognitive dissonance we should remember though is a very powerful emotive force, when the human mind hears something that contradicts a fundamental belief system it seeks to preserve current understandings and can be incapable of processing the information no matter how powerful the evidence to back up the contradiction. This is the biggest obstacle I see facing the 55 Hour narrative - most people in this society are already apathetic and don't really care to delve too far into this but for the republican community, that does care and has a vested interest in this, a lot of it is just too uncomfortable, too difficult to process and cognitive dissonance kicks in. It's almost too incredible to believe that any self-respecting republican leader would place strategic considerations above the lives of the Hungerstrikers. In that respect it's important that the discussion continues and continues on and on however long it takes until we see some form of accountability. It's something we might never see

itsjustmacker said...


It was that Comm to Brownie and other things which made me bring Bik into the forefront , Turning around and going to sleep whilst men were dying , denying he had received the Comm with an offer which would have ended the hunger strike and saved 6 men's lives , denying he shouted down the wing to Richard details of offer, denying Richard replied , There's enough there , yet , he sent a Comm accepting the offer and got a reply , "there's not enough there , we need more".

Tain Bo:

I have no doubt Bik was a dedicated Soldier , as i stated above , that Comm from Bik to Brownie made the hair on the back of my neck stand up , Knowing what was planned for the big political drive for SF. I firmly believe he has got himself into a quagmire by all the denials just to cover for Adams and Co, and he has no way out of it , other than speak the truth , part of that truth is within the Comm he sent accepting the offer.

AM said...

I think the only way out for Bik is to just state what happened. He would win enormous admiration for it. It would not merely be a way out but a way up from the mire that is pulling him down.

I knew him quite well and would have serious difficulties with the idea that he just decided to do what Morrison and Adams did - sink the hunger strikers. If he made a mistake in that white hot crucible he should not be pilloried for it. Once Joe died the die was cast and he rolled with it. Yet his agreement with Richard to settle up is what redeems him. He did the honourable thing but he is losing it all by not distancing himself from the Committee. And he must know in his mind that the murder machine would do to him as it did to the six men.

As the evidence mounts he should bite the bullet. Hard to do but much better than being associated with the swine responsible for this foul enterprise.

Pauline said...

Carrie's work on the time-line documents has been excellent. I’ve had to print off loads of copies for my technophobe friends and family members. Thanks Carrie.x

itsjustmacker said...

Tain Bo

Sorry for the delay in replying regarding the timing of events re 05-30 am.
I have gone through a lot of documents, in my view, I am in favour of carries comments regarding mountain climbers time line, he was trying to contact Adams, the only evidence that we have regarding that timeline is Adams book, which I have not read, and, have never purchased any of his books, how are we to believe an habitual liar, stating that he was there at 05-30 am, when others were there "RA" to ensure he phoned no one else. I would say that is logical.