Haughey did not want political status for IRA
Papers give details about final days of hunger striker Raymond McCreesh
In a note of an April 1981 conversation with secretary to the government Dermot Nally, his British counterpart, Robert Armstrong, said Charles Haughey’s concern was “purely the humanitarian one”. Photograph: Colman Doyle
Former Taoiseach Charles Haughey did not want the British government to concede political status to IRA hunger strikers in 1981, according to official British papers.
In a note of an April 1981 conversation with secretary to the government Dermot Nally, his British counterpart, Robert Armstrong, said Mr Haughey’s concern was “purely the humanitarian one”.
“The Irish government did not want us to meet the demands for political status. (Mr Nally) wondered whether there was any future in getting the European Commission of Human Rights involved,” Mr Armstrong wrote.
The minute is included in a list of papers released to the British national archive two years ago that were published online this week by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. The conversation took place a fortnight before the death of Bobby Sands, the first of those to die in the Long Kesh protest.
“(Mr Nally) said that the taoiseach and his colleagues were very worried that, if Mr Sands died in the next five or six days, ‘the whole area would go up in flames’,” the note said. “The taoiseach had asked him to convey the message that he was extremely anxious to help in any way he could, and to ask us whether there was anything he could do which might be helpful.”
The papers give more details about final days of Raymond McCreesh, who was the third to die, on May 21st, after 61 days without food. In a statement issued after his death, the Northern Ireland Office claimed McCreesh had indicated “his willingness to accept nourishment” on May 16th.
“He was, however, in a confused state of mind and the doctors in attendance did not regard his statements as sufficient to authorise medical intervention in view of his mental state and his previously clearly expressed contrary views,” the statement said.
A note made by Mrs Thatcher’s press secretary Bernard Ingham records a transcript of a conversation alleged to have taken place between McCreesh and his brother, Fr Brian McCreesh.
McCreesh: “Where are you?” Raymond McCreesh: “I am in hospital in Scotland.” Fr McCreesh: “You are not in hospital in Scotland. You are in Long Kesh concentration camp.” Later, Fr McCreesh said: “Your brother and I were proud to carry the coffins of Bobby Sands and Frank Hughes. They are in heaven now waiting for you.” Later, two doctors met the McCreesh family and said: “Do you wish us to try to resuscitate Raymond and try to save his life?” Fr McCreesh: “No. We know Raymond’s wishes and we respect them. Nothing is to be done.”