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Republicans reject Hunger Strike claims

28 February, 2005

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 Brendan McFarlane responding to claims made by former prisoner, Richard O Rawe, in today's Sunday Times, said,

"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. 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, and 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 commented on the claims,

"Richard's recollection of events is not accurate or credible. The hunger strike was a response to Thatcher's criminalisation campaign, now being revived by Michael McDowell. The move to hunger strike resulted from the prisoners' decision to escalate the protest after 5 years of beating, starvation and deprivation. The leadership of the IRA and of Sinn Fein tried to persuade us not to embark on this course of action. At all times we, the prisoners, took the decisions." ENDS

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