British wanted strikers to 'capitulate'


Several strategies were considered by the British government for ending the hunger strike at the Maze Prison, including the possibility of pressurising individual protesters to capitulate, this year’s cabinet releases for 1981 from the Public Record Office in Belfast show.

In a memo on June 1st, 1981, on the deaths of the first four protesters, senior Northern Ireland Office official RA Harrington said “capitulation (ie, a decision to take food) by one of the hunger strikers would be of enormous value to us, not just in itself but because of the great disarray into which the PIRA propaganda effort would be thrown”.

He asked if the government could “identify the best candidate for capitulation and then go to some lengths to organise pressure on him . . . before his condition becomes critical”.

On June 29th, the Lord Privy Seal, Sir Ian Gilmour, suggested the possibility of feeding strikers intravenously. This, suggestion, however, did not play well with senior NIO officials. On July 1st, SC Jackson said it was difficult to keep a drip in place against a prisoner’s will.