Documentary: The Hunger Strikes

Press.TV Documentaries

Broadcast Date: 2012-11-03

In the early 1980s, several Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners went on hunger strikes demanding to be treated as political prisoners. This program explores the reasons behind those events.

Danny Morrison
Pat Sheehan MLA
Bik McFarlane
Gerry Adams
Raymond McCartney MLA
Richard O'Rawe

Ahmed Alizadeh
Shadi Alizadeh
Rebeca Narváez Román
Ed Augustin


  1. As they say Richards contribution will be worth the price of admission.

  2. This is a powerful documentary. It takes no effort to see whose narrative proved the strongest. Richard O'Rawe was very persuasive. Some of the others would look as if they were lying even if they were telling the truth. Watch it through to the very end and make up your own minds.

  3. At the end of that short film make no mistake, you are looking into the eyes of a sociopathic liar. Whether it's the case that Gerry Adams has convinced himself of his own lies and as such for him it is now the truth or he is as cold and as calculating as others have said of him there can be no doubt that the truth is there for all to see. He could have stopped this but for whatever reason he chose not to. And that is a heinous crime, the man is unfit to lead the republican movement, if indeed we can even describe his party as such these days anyway.

    Those in Sinn Fein unconnected to that Belfast leadership of the time, such as the MLA's and Councillors from round here and everywhere else for that matter, need to open their eyes to the reality of what has transpired here. It is simply unacceptable and no excuse, no excuse whatsoever, can be made for allowing Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Tom McElwee and Mickey Devine to die an unnecessary death and such a horrible, horrifying death that they were forced to endure. It is a crime of the highest magnitude, how that man sleeps in his bed is beyond me.

    As I say, how those in Sinn Fein can carry on with this man at the helm despite these revelations, as though they had never been made never mind the fact they're now proven, is something I can't understand at all. It's not a case of using the Hungerstrikers to bash Sinn Fein, these are very, very serious issues we're dealing with here and should never be about political point-scoring. Gerry Adams and those around him are totally unfit for purpose and are a disgrace to Irish republicanism - and that's putting it mildly. That six men were allowed to die without being told an offer existed that could have prevented this is just shocking, an unspeakable crime.

    My God it's just sickening, what's just as bad is the fact that he's still getting away with it. Those in Sinn Fein need to look themselves in the eye and ask the hard questions here because if Gerry Adams allowed men to die unnecessarily - for any reason, not just political gain - then we cannot just carry on as before. He needs to be exposed and thrown out of the movement and everything needs reassessed.

    Maybe then republicanism might actually begin the process of healing itself. Shocking

  4. How well and thoroughly convincing was Richard O Rawe in that documentary,the light he switched on into that dark period is getting stronger by the telling,while those who dispute Richards version are shown to be complicit in the charges leveled,ie that they allowed comrades to die in order to project psf onto the political scene,their guilt is compounded by the very positions they now hold,indeed in this matter they are looking as daft as bangers hat.

  5. Marty,

    he was very convincing. From the opening salvos in the debate he was out in front. I was in the BBC green room when it came up in conversation back in early 2005. Journalists openly said that while the case Richard was making was a controversial one there was simply no way in the world they could believe Morrison. That gave Richard the edge from the start. It prevented him from being knocked out of the ring and he simply went from strength to strength. Frankenstein sent Igor into the jail to get him bodies. Igor got him six. That's it broken down to its simplest.

  6. How do you feel history would have panned out were a settlement reached in July 1981? Would the resolve for armed conflict have lessened for a more political approach in anyway?

    It certainly seems that the Republican leadership on the outside were a lot more intransigent than either those held in the H-Blocks or even those from Whitehall.

  7. I have read the chapter 'Hunger for Power' in Rogelio Alonso's The IRA And Armed Struggle' numerous times and each time it gets harder. I am referring to interviews given to the Spanish author by Pat [Beag] McGeown. The 1st [Spanish] edition of the book was first published in 2003, 2 years before Richard O'Rawe's 'Blanketmen'.

    (These are notes I took from that chapter)

    Remember that Brendan Duddy brought the first offer from the Brits on July 5th...

    Pat who joined the Hunger Strike on July 9th had made his doubts known to Bik about the tactics handed down from above and regarding the pushing aside of the ICJP.

    On 26th July Bik wrote to Adams..."had a long yarn with Pat this morning and impressed upon him the necessity of keeping firmly on the line. I explained that independent thought was sound but once it began to stray from our well considered and accepted line then it became extremely dangerous. He accepted what I said alright. Also I stressed the need to have confidence in you lot."

    Other Hunger Strikers came to the same conclusion as McGeown and considered the need for a 'change of tactic'.

    McFarlane said in a message to Adams on July 28th.."I told them straight that the decision was theirs - either we pursue the course for Five Demands or we capitulate. No inbetween solutions."

    (But Bik knew that at least 3 if not 4 of the 5 demands, most importantly 'clothing', had been conceded since July 5th. Therefore men were dying to achieve one or two of the remaining demands)

    [Now don't forget the Hunger Strikers still weren't, by this time, told about the Mountain Climber [Duddy] offer. Lawrence McKeown confirms this in his own book 'Nor Meekly Serve My Time'. When he said that Adams told the Hunger Strikers on July 29th that there was no movement from the Brits]

    Pat Beag said to Bik..."How can the Brits know what we want - I don't even know." This was in reference to the constant 'spiral of silence.' Meaning that the Hunger Strikers weren't being informed what was going on...

    [Pat was by this time several weeks on Hunger Strike]

    Also the message sent by Bik to Adams on July 22nd regarding the IRAs rejection of the latest [2nd] British proposal proved that the decision was taken by Adams & the Kitchen Cabinet outside the prison. Bik asked Adams to explain..."How far the British went" [Beresford 1994 p.273]

    Pat lamented "not having been more honest' with Thomas McElwee, when he (Thomas) expressed his doubts about the decision to go on with the Hunger Strike. McGeown in fact shared his comrade's belief that the Hunger Strike should be ended but he did not admit this to McElwee because he thought this would flout the orders given by McFarlane, who had already warned him: "Don't make your opinions known."

    Another of the Hunger Strikers who died, Micky Devine, had confessed to McGeown his belief that the protest should be called off, as the latter explained when describing the consequences of the 'spiral of silence'...He (Micky) said, "After I die someone has to make the decision."

    Pat said to Micky..."That's crazy because if you think now that the decision has to be taken, then why not take it now before you die."

    To which Micky replied..."No" This boiled down to Micky not wanting to be the one to make the decision, to be the one who appeared to save his own life.

    This meant that men were dying because they didn't want to betray those who died before them.

  8. Dixie,

    a very cogent presentation. Would you consider a rewrite just to allow us to carry it as an article?

  9. The bastards who sacrificed their comrades for political gain,and who now hold sway over our lives in many ways should be not only hounded out of office along with their cronies but hounded out of this place altogether,some would say and it would be hard to argue against that they should be dispatched from this life altogether, those who talk of reconciliation with quisling $inn £ein need their heads looked at.

  10. Marty,

    imagine one of your children in such circumstances because of the machinations of the Committee. There would be no forgiving.

    If there was even the possibility of a more benign explanation for what the Committee did we would be duty bound to look at it. But there is none that I can see now. That moment has passed.

  11. The price of treachery,a seat in Stormont,property portfolios,lifestyles unaffected by recession or austerity, this must be a damning indictment of the nationalist/republican population here,if in light of the overwhelming evidence that decent brave men were cruelly allowed to die,the people of these communities continue to keep their heads buried in the sand and repeat over and over ad nauseum" move on the peace process at all cost"the peace at any price contract that is the GFA is tainted with the stench of treachery and deceit by almost all those who put their signatures on that masterpiece of ambiguity,none more so that those so called republicans who sold out their comrades in such a despicable fashion, who now can and will do the same to their friends and communities on behalf of the bitch Thatchers successors.

  12. In his final answer to the million dollar question Gerry's breathing was audible and he lowered his eyes at the very last second. In comparison, O'Rawe's passion and body language was totally convincing. Any republican viewing this can no longer ignore what Richard has been saying.

  13. Excellent Anthony and the pain those men endured was multiplied many times over by what their families endured before ,during and after their deaths,I have seen this at first hand,and that pain must have been just about endurable,with the knowledge that these men died for the most noble of causes i.e., the love of their comrades and a cause that is now an ancient one,how sick is it that these lives were wasted for political ambition,and it was not just the men who starved to death,whose lives were irrevocably changed in those few months when this place descended into a version of hell.

  14. Alec totally agree,Richards body language was completely relaxed,in a manner of a man at ease with his position and assured that his testimony was accurate and truthful.

  15. Rob Miller says:

    3:45 PM, May 07, 2013 Reply

    How do you feel history would have panned out were a settlement reached in July 1981? Would the resolve for armed conflict have lessened for a more political approach in anyway?

    It certainly seems that the Republican leadership on the outside were a lot more intransigent than either those held in the H-Blocks or even those from Whitehall.

    rob it would have panned out the way it has. by july bobby had been elected to fermanagh/south tyrone and the elections to the dail had seen two prisoners elected to the dublin parliament.

    that's what makes this such a sorry state of affairs; the political message and springboard had been well established by july 1981, there was no need for further deaths and adams and his co-conspirators know this, that is why they didn't tell us, on hunger strike, about the british offers.

  16. I have viewed Adams 7 times when asked about when he went in to see the Hunger Strikers, His expression is blank , his body movements say it all, "Pathological Liar".

    We through Richard know the truth.
    It's not us who have to change, Its the complete SF movement who have to change, and with a bit of luck it can be changed at the Ard-Fheis for a change of leadership.

  17. Itsjustmackers if you cut the head of a snake what remains is still a snake,quisling $imm £ein and I mean the lot have embraced the role of gamekeeper in Liz the Brits of shore pad, those who now infest that party are in biblical terms beyond redemption,to steal their president for life line "move on" we neither need nor want watery bastards in the struggle for truth and justice in this land,quisling $inn £ein have long ago given up the role of fighting to be part of the solution here instead they are more than content to be part of the problem..

  18. Dixie, your comments earlier are the saddest thing I've read on TPQ.

  19. The brits have a new uncle tom- O'Rawe named Gerry Adams as a IRA leader on spotlight- how many other names are on his tape in Boston that the cops are about to get there hands on-will O'Rawe point out Gerry Adams and others in a court room-its looking like that could be his next chapter-

  20. Going slightly of topic, I have re-watched, Insight, on the role of state informers..absolutely horrific!
    Whilst this thread is dealing with The Hunger Strikers one wonders what extent the leadership were aware of Scap's involvement with British Army intelligence?? Absolutely mind boggling!!

  21. Marty.

    "MOVE ON"?.

    I know for a fact, as i suppose you do as well, that at each Ard-Fheis Adams and Co had the votes fixed to enter into local elections in norn Iron, also in the Republic, hundreds of anti republicans could not get in to vote on those issues, as you well no , Its now time for all that to change , Its now time to get in there and change the leadership, if were not in, we cant win?.

  22. Michaelhenry,

    Gerry Adams was an IRA leader. The vaguest familiarity with Irish history or politics confirms that. In fact Adams has already said in public that if he was a member of the IRA people have a right to know. Which both invites and legitimises public discussion

    Your arguments become weaker the longer this goes on. I think you can do better but don't seem to try.

  23. Itsjustmackers you can either apply to remain or rejoin Q$£ if thats how you feel a cara,on your way in you,ll probably meet more coming out.Q$£ cannot be fixed from within a cara the whole fucking thing is now so corrupt and rotten from the core to the outside ,if its the name you wish to save well I suggest you wait a while they will probably dump that like their stick counterparts .. as for myself as they say I wouldnt piss on then if they were on fire,they accommodate and facilitate those who allowed men on hunger strike to die and I,m sure many others also, my advice to you a cara is your to decent a person to enter such a den of iniquity..

  24. MH-

    If you were a Unionist commentator you could be excused to some degree for your deliberate attempts to distort the facts and paint black as white! In fact, whilst the Unionists don't really want U's about the place, behind the scenes am sure they are jubilant in how PSF are doing the donkey work to re-inforce the Union!

    The quest for 'truth & justice' was a PSF strategy to win the hearts & minds of the nationalist/Republican electorate. And now those veiled promises, like the Irish Unity pie in the sky strategy, are being thrown back on the people.

    The very same people;

    1. who followed the Hunger strikers coffins one by one, and those of EVERY volunteer that followed, to their final resting places. Let us not forget every other innocent who was also caught up in the conflict!

    2.who took every word uttered by Marty & Co. as Gospel and went en masse to vote your party, election after election, into the lofty positions that you find yourselves in.

    3. and who kept faith with your Irish unity strategy through thick and thin (shoot to kill, collusion, etc etc).

    As a result U & your ilk were revered as God's in our communities and boy did U's milk that one dry under the pretense of the 'good of the cause'. By the sounds of things the British Army are not the only one's who can be accused of acting with IMPUNITY upon our streets, just ask Freddie Scappaticci!

    I am sure you watched Spotlight last night, and if so, U should be aware that the 'was he/wasn't he' argument of Adams involvement in the PIRA and this Hunnger striker debate, is only the tip of the iceberg regarding accountability for Republican involvement in the 'dirty deals' of the last 40 years!

    If the '10' had of been so coy about standing up and being counted as Irish Republicans, many of the political opportunities that PSF subsequently enjoyed would NEVER have materialised.

  25. Having read most of the documents associated with the Hunger Strikes it now seems so clear that Adams and his comrades really did let them all die to further his large ego as he tries to be remembered as the great statesman that he strives to be.
    Unfortunately for him he has so much blood on his hands not only of British and Irish civilians but now the evidence points to him that he also murdered his own comrades
    If Richard was to give evidence in court against Adams ( which he will not ) would he not be doing the country a service by exposing this man who committed treachery on a large scale against his own comrades.
    Something I can’t understand about the whole hunger strike process is
    If the Provo’s were supposed to be a highly secretive organisation why would they appoint a politician to run the prison protest especially as we all know the old saying
    “How could you trust a politician” it seems like they really got that one wrong.
    Surely the all conquering so called Army Council should have been in charge, why would they let someone who was never in their tight knit organisation make such decisions, maybe they were just too stupid to take on such a task

  26. AM-

    Sounds like you would be happy if O'Rawe stood in a court room pointing his finger at Marion Price for being a member of the armed dissos-your choice i suppose-
    who is going to protect O'Rawe if the ones that he named are arrested-you-dixie-Marty-i dont think Nula could support this-its shameful-you could write a book about it-

  27. I have just read that the great leader TD Gerry Adams is to meet with the family of Brian Stack murdered by the Provo’s outside the National Stadium in Dublin while attending an amateur boxing championship.
    If I had any religious belief I would pray for that poor family, have they never heard or seen of the lying treacherous tyrant ,what a ball shit he will spin to them how could they be so naive in the first place to even think he might be genuine .
    Grieving takes its toll on people for a long time, now this family want to try and get answers from someone who is incapable of telling the truth

  28. Michaelhenry,

    I guess it teaches you to not always judge a comment by its sound. At times you sound sensible but I would never employ it as a rule when listening to you.

    People like me always find it anathema when people stand up in court and point fingers at people for anti British activity. When I learn of former republican prisoners currently with SF giving evidence against rioters and getting them sent down it leaves me angry. Would you do it?

    So my view is simple, we take the witness box in court against neither Adams or Price.

    The bind you are caught in is that your party supports the policy of informing to the British on republicans engaged in republican activity no matter how futile or egregious we might find that activity.

    So, the one place you will find neither I or O'Rawe is in a court giving evidence against republicans about their republican activity. Can you say the same? If you can how do you reconcile that with breaching party policy?

  29. MH-

    Your attempts to draw a distinction between post and pre-GFA Republican activities, as in the former had political credence and the latter (dissident' activities) don't are absolutely futile!

    Your stance speaks volumes because it indirectly qualifies the simple fact that PSF have accepted British colonial rule and all it's trappings of power.
    Their ideological U-turn is now complete!
    Furthermore, to both secure and protect their colonial administration JOBS within the 06C statelet they are willing to take to the stand and condemn their own people to the wrath of the British justice system.
    Also, they are willing to sit back and allow the EXPENDABLES (Price, Corey et al) to be interned for the beliefs that they once espoused too and utter the odd mumble of disgruntlement for dramatic effect.

    In hindsight, if the Civil Rights movement had of been allowed to reach it's full potential coupled with the wave of global desire for equality, then we would undoubtedly be in a much better place now, socio-economically , politically and at much more peace with ourselves............ minus 3,500 + needless deaths!!

  30. MH - your ranting has me confusing myself now!

    the first paragraph of my previous comment should read :

    Your attempts to draw a distinction between pre- and post-GFA Republican activities, as in the former had political credence and the latter (dissident' activities) don't are absolutely futile!

  31. Having watched Spotlight last night I wasn't surprised by the non-appearance of Adams, McGuinness nor Morrison. After all how could they explain how a document which conceded at least 3 of the 5 demands not only existed but contained amendments in Thatcher's own handwriting?

    Clearly it conceded the most important of the 5 Demands; the right to wear our own clothing at all times. Therefore the question must arise, why wasn't this shown to the Hunger Strikers and their opinions sought on it?

    After all just days before, on the 4th of July, the prisoners released a statement pulling back from political status. This was an example that after 4 deaths they were open to concession if it meant bringing about an end to the Hunger Strike.

    Remember that Pat McGeown said to Bik..."How can the Brits know what we want - I don't even know."

    Remember that on 20th July 1981 Brendan Duddy the Mountain Climber noted; ‘The British are asking for their plan to be accepted. ‘A’ won’t move.’

    And as Laurney McKeown remembered in his book; Adams told the Hunger Strikers on July 29th that there was no movement from the Brits.

    Did Adams really fear that the Hunger Strikers would accept what the Brits were offering?

    After all why tell them over 3 weeks after the Brits had moved that they hadn't moved?

    It's now all there in black and white with Thatcher's blue handwritten notes. That's why I'm not surprised they didn't appear on Spotlight last night.

  32. Gerry, pick whatever one at the top table you like, McGuinness, Morrison, and a host of other celebrity figures within Sinn Fein and the republican movement, all have one thing in common - They are all wealthy individuals who amassed personal fortunes while supposedly either on the run or devoting all their time and energy fighting for a united Ireland. It amazes me how some republicans who have spent most of their lives in one British prison or another could have amassed such wealth on the £40 a month PDF that the johnny nobodies got. These same so called republicans and socialists have now become our landlords and destroyers of our once united and close knit communities. The same people who now kowtow to the people who claim ownership of half the world, they now embrace the privileged culture and the perfidious nature of those they once swore were Ireland and indeed all republicans enemy.

    Nothing surprises me anymore how low these people have stooped or indeed how low they will stoop in the future in order to keep the fiefdom going.

  33. Marty:

    I have no intention whatsoever of joining SF. RSF should now be campaigning for the resignation of all top echelon SF on the grounds of , Betraying the movement and letting Hunger Strikers die for there own personal political and financial gains.
    The name of the game is to persuade those within sf to the realities of there lying leaders.
    The recent released documents would be a starting point as to the proof that they let Hunger Strikers die for there own political agenda , "POWER" sharing. If you have any other solution I would love to hear it.

  34. Billy Bigot -lest we forget, Peter the *unt, & his cronies made a few quid in their time too..what with land deals and coffee shops by the riviera.. hence why working class Protestants voted him out last time in favour of the Alliance Party....a shared future should also mean shared criticism!

  35. itsjustmackers. a cara "its now time to get in there and change the leadership, if were not in,we cant win " your words.asking RSF to campaign for change in leadership of another political party ie., quisling $inn £ein would be as constructive as building a house out of ice cream.the alternatives are already out there take your pick either RSF or Eirígí, etc,this notion that has been circulating that somehow with the removal the leadership of q$£ will somehow change the mindset of the herd,well you need to ask yourself Do you really think these people,who have embraced MI5 the psni/ruc and support internment/are the sort of comrade you could trust?Do you think the leadership of q$£ will relinquish their hold over the eejits who follow them blindly,? the vision that I have for this country is the same one that I had as a young man of 19 years,that is a socialist republic envisaged by Connolly, Mac Diarmada.further away now than ever.

  36. Marty -

    I think by simply putting the current PSF leadership 'out to grass' so to speak will only be a short term solution to a problem that has dogged successive republican leaderships for decades. The biggest problem is one of ultimate control by a leadership and not knowing when to hand it on to the next generation. It is something that inherently 'Irish' with agrarian roots. For centuries Irish farmers held onto to the land until they were on their death beds. It was in effect a control mechanism to not only ensure the land successfully passed on to the next generation but also to ensure that they were cared for in the twilight of their lives.
    This attitude was also adopted in Irish political party's as well. However, if we look at every successful democracy a fixed term of office with a minimum number of terms.

    Every political leader has a shelf-life and the signing of the GFA should have been a cue to Adams & McGuinness to implement a succession plan. Their 'alleged' associations with militant Republicanism pre-GFA has continuously come back to haunt them ever since.

    What is needed is for the constituent parts of the Republican collective to take a long hard look at what exactly their individual strategies are achieving in bringing about Irish unity. Not only self-assessment but the courage to admit their weaknesses.

    Filling the jails with the next generation of Irishmen & Irishwomen is not the way forward. The principle justification for militancy by dissidents groups is that if it was acceptable for the PIRA to carry out a military campaign then it is for us as well. Yes, Partition still exists but the socio-economic conditions do not! Any successful revolutionary movement must be born from the people.

    Republicanism must start a fresh, with a new set of principles & goals which the man on the street can affiliate with. Ireland is now a multi-cultural country now and currently 1 in 10 children born here are not of Irish descent.

    When we look at the fact that PSF settled for little more than power sharing, which 'we the people' welcomed via GFA with open arms, then we must look within ourselves why we were so quick to embrace it.

    I think we all need start with asking ourselves what does the notion of Irish FREEDOM mean not only to us an individuals but more importantly what FREEDOM would constitute within a 32 County Republic.

    I think our individual notion of freedom is summed up in this piece of dialogue from the cult film, Easy Rider, where Dennis Hopper’s character, Billy, asks;
    “What the hell is wrong with freedom? That’s what it’s all about,”

    and Jack Nicholson’s character, George, replies;

    “Oh, yeah, that’s right. That’s what’s it’s all about, all right. But talkin’ about it and bein’ it, that’s two different things - they’re gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ‘em.”

  37. Fenian don't judge a book by its cover.

    What drives Robinson to do what he does is irrelevant, I have my own eyes and I can see quite clearly the opulence being displayed by former comrades who once believed in the benefits of socialism or the ideals of James Connolly but who are now engaged in a perpetual parley with their colonial masters for the right to share in the spoils of imperialism.

    Adams, McGuinness, Morrison during the hunger strikes and indeed the war, were the same people then as they are today, snakeoil salesmen who all along had their own personal agendas, they sacrificed brave men and women, corrupted others, fooled others and emotionally blackmailed others to follow and build for them the empires they have today.

  38. Billy Bigot -

    I was not assuming, but your comment was one sided and I understand from your own perspective what Robinson & Co. do is immaterial. But if we are to properly embrace the ideals and attempt to realise the vision of Connolly & Larkin then they must be taken into account.

    The Protestant community were taken for granted by Big House Unionism and the Whitehall to do their bidding to ensure Protestant state for a Protestant people.

    The Protestant & Catholic working classes need to take on board that the greatest irony of all from the 40 year conflict is that when it came down to the carving out of the spoils of war they didn't get a look in!

    Using the Animal Farm analogy, which Norn Iron is a carbon copy of, irrespective of religion they the modern day example of 'Boxer'!