Dixie ElliotI've often thought about it, more so when I see history being rewritten in front of my eyes.

Take the ending of the first hunger strike, we all knew it ended because the Dark told Sean McKenna that he wouldn't let him die.

Coming near the end of it three men, one being Raymond McCartney, told the Dark they were coming off it. The Dark saw Sean being wheeled out and asked the medics where they were taking him. They said outside to die. The Dark said he was not willing to watch Sean die then see the hunger strike fall apart anyway so he ended it.

There was no offer later reneged on by the Brits.

One only has to read any of the books like Bobby's autobiography or Ten Men Dead to see that Bobby returned to our wing that very night and told us in Irish that we had got nothing. He was then taken round the other blocks by the screws to inform the OCs of this.

Now tell me this, if the Brits had made an offer why did Bobby return and tell desperate men who were waiting on him back in the blocks that we had got nothing instead of saying that the British made an offer lads lets see if they are as good as their word.

Even Jim Gibney let it slip that Bobby had written a letter that night which he later sent outside telling the leadership he intended embarking on another hunger strike.

Why do that if there was even the slightest hope?

Father Meagher received a document from a courier at Belfast airport just as the hunger strike had ended and delivered it to Adams.

It contained nothing other than prisoners could wear civilian type clothing during the working week.

They had their civilian type clothing thrown back at them because it was another form of prison uniform.

At the recent funeral of a former blanket man, Mags Quigley, I asked some blanket men did they also remember men telling the Dark they were coming off the first hunger strike. They all agreed that was right. In fact one told me that Tomboy had told him that. While another said he remembers Pickles talking with him about it.

I'm not criticising men for not dying I'm criticising them for running with something everyone else knows to be a lie.

The lie wasn't even my problem. It was the fact that they let The Dark carry the can because others including McCartney were saying he took the Brits at their word and ended it.

Adams put the blame squarely on the shoulder of The Dark.

Even more shocking was Bernadette McAliskey's passing of judgement on The Dark when she stated that she would have let Sean die.

How the hell did she even know what was going on at the time never mind pass such a judgement on a great Republican leader, Brendan Hughes?

The Dark in fact replied to it saying that he had promised Sean he wouldn't let him die and had he done so he would have been guilty of murder.

I'm certain of one thing and that is: if Dark had been O/C instead of Bik six brave men would not have died. He would have accepted the July 6th offer made by a broken Thatcher, which included 'wearing our own clothes at all times, not as a privilege but as a right'.

He most certainly would not have let Adams do what he did from the outside, overrule the offer, saying it didn't go far enough.

Four brave lives was far enough. Those brave souls had broken Thatcher's resolve.

Bobby's election victory had smashed criminalisation in the eyes of the world as had the massive funerals.

The election victories of Kieran Doherty and Paddy Agnew in the South and others coming close sent shockwaves through Leinster House and also smashed the claim that we were criminals.

When Richard O'Rawe released a statement on July 4th pulling back from political status and stating that all prisoners could avail of the Five Demands, Thatcher had her way out and on July 6th she set up a line of communication via the Mountain Climber, Brendan Duddy.

The Home Office intended using the NIO and ICJP / the SDLP and the Church negotiations as a smokescreen to hide the fact that she was in contact with Adams and McGuinness aided by Ted Howell. The ICJP would take the credit for ending it but who cared as long as more brave men didn't die.
Adams decided that this didn't go far enough.

Thomas Dixie Elliot is a Derry artist and a former H Block Blanketman.
Follow Dixie Elliot on Twitter @IsMise_Dixie

Four Brave Lives Were Enough

Dixie ElliotI've often thought about it, more so when I see history being rewritten in front of my eyes.

Take the ending of the first hunger strike, we all knew it ended because the Dark told Sean McKenna that he wouldn't let him die.

Coming near the end of it three men, one being Raymond McCartney, told the Dark they were coming off it. The Dark saw Sean being wheeled out and asked the medics where they were taking him. They said outside to die. The Dark said he was not willing to watch Sean die then see the hunger strike fall apart anyway so he ended it.

There was no offer later reneged on by the Brits.

One only has to read any of the books like Bobby's autobiography or Ten Men Dead to see that Bobby returned to our wing that very night and told us in Irish that we had got nothing. He was then taken round the other blocks by the screws to inform the OCs of this.

Now tell me this, if the Brits had made an offer why did Bobby return and tell desperate men who were waiting on him back in the blocks that we had got nothing instead of saying that the British made an offer lads lets see if they are as good as their word.

Even Jim Gibney let it slip that Bobby had written a letter that night which he later sent outside telling the leadership he intended embarking on another hunger strike.

Why do that if there was even the slightest hope?

Father Meagher received a document from a courier at Belfast airport just as the hunger strike had ended and delivered it to Adams.

It contained nothing other than prisoners could wear civilian type clothing during the working week.

They had their civilian type clothing thrown back at them because it was another form of prison uniform.

At the recent funeral of a former blanket man, Mags Quigley, I asked some blanket men did they also remember men telling the Dark they were coming off the first hunger strike. They all agreed that was right. In fact one told me that Tomboy had told him that. While another said he remembers Pickles talking with him about it.

I'm not criticising men for not dying I'm criticising them for running with something everyone else knows to be a lie.

The lie wasn't even my problem. It was the fact that they let The Dark carry the can because others including McCartney were saying he took the Brits at their word and ended it.

Adams put the blame squarely on the shoulder of The Dark.

Even more shocking was Bernadette McAliskey's passing of judgement on The Dark when she stated that she would have let Sean die.

How the hell did she even know what was going on at the time never mind pass such a judgement on a great Republican leader, Brendan Hughes?

The Dark in fact replied to it saying that he had promised Sean he wouldn't let him die and had he done so he would have been guilty of murder.

I'm certain of one thing and that is: if Dark had been O/C instead of Bik six brave men would not have died. He would have accepted the July 6th offer made by a broken Thatcher, which included 'wearing our own clothes at all times, not as a privilege but as a right'.

He most certainly would not have let Adams do what he did from the outside, overrule the offer, saying it didn't go far enough.

Four brave lives was far enough. Those brave souls had broken Thatcher's resolve.

Bobby's election victory had smashed criminalisation in the eyes of the world as had the massive funerals.

The election victories of Kieran Doherty and Paddy Agnew in the South and others coming close sent shockwaves through Leinster House and also smashed the claim that we were criminals.

When Richard O'Rawe released a statement on July 4th pulling back from political status and stating that all prisoners could avail of the Five Demands, Thatcher had her way out and on July 6th she set up a line of communication via the Mountain Climber, Brendan Duddy.

The Home Office intended using the NIO and ICJP / the SDLP and the Church negotiations as a smokescreen to hide the fact that she was in contact with Adams and McGuinness aided by Ted Howell. The ICJP would take the credit for ending it but who cared as long as more brave men didn't die.
Adams decided that this didn't go far enough.

Thomas Dixie Elliot is a Derry artist and a former H Block Blanketman.
Follow Dixie Elliot on Twitter @IsMise_Dixie

5 comments:

  1. Still referring to him as 'The Dark'? You know and everyone else knows that Brendan Hughes was much less PC, as were quite a few nicknames in the 70s and 80s.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dixie - as always, a cut to the chase piece. I recall many conversations with The Dark over the Sean McKenna decision. He asked me what I thought. I told him that if he made a mistake in making the promise to Sean he would have made a much worse one had he broke it. I told him that had he done so he would have been guilty of his murder. He broke down and cried with what I presume was relief: as if somebody had fully understood his decision and had articulated it back to him. It was a powerful emotional moment.
    That is a very thought provoking point you make - about how Brendan might have reacted differently had he been in Bik's position. I don't envy Bik's situation. He was not a guy looking to go places and was not looking to please the leadership. I think he might have lost his way and I would love to know what he feels when he looks back on it. My own view is that he may have felt trapped - unable to go back after the loss of the first four men and pressed by circumstances into going forward, all the time leaving the decision making to people whose priority was not to preserve the lives of the six men who died.
    Myself and Richard would have differing opinions on his culpability. Perhaps my long standing like for the man does not permit me to draw the conclusions that the evidence might support. The fallible judgement that arises from friendship.
    Great point Dixie.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If the Dark had been OC Instead of Bik six great men would not have died.......That is powerful words. A great article obviously written from the heart. I hope history is kind to Brendan Hughes , .I have just started voices from the grave , second time around. In one article he speaks angrily of the death of Kieran Nugent,the first blanket man , who spent his final days drinking by the river in Poleglass ,the fact that no one from SF went to look about him. Very sad indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Like many others, I often wondered what troubled thoughts huanted Brendan Hughes. He was a burdened man, of that such I was certain. His decision to end the hunger strike in order to save Sean McKenna' s life was a personal obligation that weighed heavily on his shoulders. It was not in Brendan's character to renege on a brother.

    I read somewhere that Sean literally begged him to accept his nomination which begged the question. Did 'The Dark feel Sean was not up to task? And if that was the case, was the decision to include him a serious miscalculation?

    These questions a somewhat rhetorical. Hindsight is 20/20 vision of this I am acutely aware. But it is not unfair to say that Brendan's promise to Sean introduce a weakness into the stratrgy. There is nothing I have read anywhere that suggests the outside leadership was made aware of this ticking time bomb.

    I too heard the story that 3 others were not prepared to see it through to the end. However, I have not been able to ascertain who the three men in question were. A simple process of elimination would narrow it down. If we exclude Brendan Hughes, Sean who had a,survival card, and Tom McFeely who out his name forward for the second hunger strike, it leaves Raymond McCartney, Low Green, Tommy McKearney and John Nixon.

    I believe Dixie when he says he is not criticising men for not wanting to die. Only a fool would do so. For my part, I believe the definitive book on the hunger strikes has yet to come. A complete narrative must now take into account of what Richard O'Rawe has said in his two books. Blanketmen and Afterlives provide new insights that can not be ignored by serious historians of the period.

    The more information the better we can understand the personalities involved, their decisions, and wider influences.

    Alex





    ReplyDelete
  5. Powerful words Dixie I was in the Crum with the Dark in 74 and and I remember us torturing him to wreck the place the day after the Kesh burned, we were young and didn't understand the responsibility this man had to the welfare of all the men under him. He always had time for each of us. Later when we were all sentenced we again tortured him about burning the Kesh again and joining the men suffering in the Blocks. Again with his wisdom and understanding of the rank and file he explained that doing this would defeat the purpose. I have read Richard O Rawes two books and I find them very compelling I have also spoken to a few of the men who were in the blocks at this crucial time and knowing how Adam's has lied his way through the last 4o years I would side 100% with what Dixie said and with what Richard wrote.Patrick mc Glinchey

    ReplyDelete