In 2015, Vincent Browne contacted me about a documentary he was making on the life of Gerry Adams. Unhappy with the way he conducted our initial interview, I declined to participate in his project.
As a result, it appears, the segment in his broadcast programme on the hunger strike negotiations featured Danny Morrison’s viewpoint unopposed. This is regrettable, and curious; not only does Browne’s conclusion fly in the face of established facts, any number of people besides myself could have quite ably demolished any doubts as to the timeline of negotiations.
The substantive issue is whether or not Danny Morrison told prison O/C Bik McFarlane about a British government offer to settle the hunger strike. Here is what Mr Morrison said on the BBC’s Talk Back programme on 28 February 2005:
‘...by the way, the offer that we were being offered through the Mountain Climber [the intermediary] was a bigger and better offer than what the ICJP [Irish Commission for Justice and Peace] thought they had. Mr Morrison went on to say: After I had seen the hunger strikers, we all agreed that this [the offer] could be a solution, but we wanted it [the offer] guaranteed’.
Here is what Mr Morrison said in the Daily Ireland, on 7 June 2006:
‘In July 1981 the British government had various public and private positions. Privately they outlined two different offers, one to the ICJP and another to the Republican leadership. I was one of those who described to the hunger strikers, including Joe McDonnell, on July 5, what the British were saying to us. The prisoners told me they wanted the offer clarified and verified in person through a senior British representative’.Here is what Bik McFarlane, the IRA prison O/C said to Brian Rowan in the Belfast Telegraph on 4 June 2009, about events surrounding 5 July 1981:
‘And I said to Richard, this is amazing and I feel there’s the potential here [in the offer] to end this.’As Rowan describes what McFarlane explained:
‘The man from the outside [Danny Morrison] was allowed in to explain the Mountain Climber contacts and the offer the British had communicated.
And the fact that the British were in contact – albeit through a conduit now known to be the Derry businessman Brendan Duddy — was progress’.
Rowan wrote that, after meeting Morrison, McFarlane met the hunger strikers:
‘We went through it [the offer], step by step, he said. The hunger strikers themselves said: OK, the Brits are prepared to do business – possibly, but what is detailed, or what has been outlined here isn’t enough to conclude the hunger strike’.
And here is what the British said about activities around 5 July 1981:
Extract from a telegram from the Northern Ireland Office to the Cabinet Office:
Please pass to Mr Woodfield
MITP contains the text of a statement which SOSNI proposes to authorise should be released to the hunger strikers/prisoners and publicly. The statement contains, except on clothing, nothing of substance which has not been said publicly, and the point on clothing was made to the provos on 5 July’.
Here’s what the mediator, Brendan Duddy said to reporter Brian Rowan, at the West Belfast Feile an Phobail, on 1 August 2009:
‘I was totally happy that you [pointing to Danny Morrison, who was sitting in the front row] were well aware of what was being said and what was on offer, and so on. So getting Danny Morrison in [to Long Kesh] was, in my book, a major, major step’.
Duddy went on to say:
‘The republican leadership had the detail of the offer. There’s no argument about that’. When asked by Rowan if he had given the offer to Martin McGuinness, Duddy replied: That doesn’t matter. I’m telling you that the Republican leadership had the detail of that offer and at that particular point that offer was available to go into the prison’.
Vincent Browne’s hunger strike analysis is inexplicable and one-sided. He completely ignored a substantial body of hard evidence, not least Mr Morrison’s own admissions that he told the hunger strikers the details of the British offer when he went into Long Kesh.
Moreover, I made Browne aware of Duddy’s devastating presentation at Feile an Phobail in 2009, but he chose to ignore it. Why would he do that? Did he not think Duddy’s account of what happened on 5 July 1981, in his own spoken words, was important?
If Browne wanted a balanced programme, why not show what Duddy had said at Feile and let his viewers make up their own minds?
Lest we forget what Duddy did say at Feile:
‘I was totally happy that you [Danny Morrison] were well aware of what was being said and what was on offer, and so on’.Then Duddy emphatically said:
‘I’m telling you that the Republican leadership had the detail of that offer and at that particular point that offer was available to go into the prison’.
So, was Duddy lying in front of Morrison? If so, why didn’t Morrison stop him in his tracks and correct him? Why was Morrison silent? Why allow him, if he is mistaken on such an important issue, to go unchallenged? The only answer I can see to that question is: Duddy was telling the truth to Morrison’s face.
In light of all the evidence contrary to Browne’s conclusion on the hunger strike negotiations in his programme, I found Browne’s work to be shoddy and unprofessional. What was the man thinking? We can only conclude in this instance he wasn’t.
|Duddy's notes from the 5th of July show a draft of the offer from the British: "Clothes = after lunch tomorrow"|