How The Irish Times reported end of 1981 hunger strikes

From the archives: News reports and analysis by Ed Moloney and Dick Walsh from October 3rd and October 5th, 1981 and the prisoners’ own statement

 

Families unite to end Long Kesh hunger-strikes
Ed Moloney, October 3rd, 1981

AN END to the Long Kesh hunger-strikes appeared close last night when it became clear that the families of all six remaining hunger-strikers had given a commitment to seek medical intervention in the event of the prisoners falling into a coma or becoming incapable of making rational decisions.

The commitment was given, it was learned, at a secret meeting in a Belfast hotel last Sunday between five of the families and the Rev Denis Faul, a regular visitor to the Maze Prison who has been at the centre of efforts to end the prison protest since August. The sixth family was contacted later in the week and agreed to join the other relatives.

The Belfast meeting, at which Provisional Sinn Fein was not represented at Father Faul’s request, was held on the eve of a meeting between the prisoners’ families and the new Minister with responsibility for Prisons, Lord Gowrie, details of which only emerged some days later.

That meeting was followed the next day by a declaration from the Northern Ireland Secretary, Mr James Prior, that although the British Government was not prepared to negotiate with the hunger-strikers, prison reform was still on offer and that Lord Gowrie would be prepared to talk directly with the protestors once the fasts had ended. Mr Prior followed this up with talks with Cardinal Ó Fiaich and Father Faul.

It was also learned last night that the Northern Ireland Office has made it clear to those involved in attempts to end the prison protest that the terms allegedly agreed between the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace and the then Minister with responsibility for prisons, Mr Michael Alison, at the beginning of July are essentially still on offer.

These terms included: Prisoners to wear their own clothes at all times; increased opportunities for association between prisoners by allowing movement between the recreation rooms and the yards of adjacent H-Blocks during recreation periods; the range of work activities to be increased, including cultural, educative and craftwork activity, and work for charitable voluntary bodies.

Talks between the Commission and the Government broke down with the death of IRA hunger-striker, Joe McDonnell, on July 8th amidst allegations from the Commission that the Government had reneged on an agreement to send in a representative to explain the terms.

Mr Alison denied at the time that a deal had been struck but Government sources have indicated privately since then that the bulk of these terms were indeed on offer.

An admission that the hunger-strikes were not having an effect on the British Government came yesterday from Provisional Sinn Fein director of publicity, Mr Danny Morrison, whose remarks fuelled speculation that the eight-month protest in which 10 prisoners died, could be drawing to a close.

Speaking on BBC Radio, Mr Morrison said: “The hunger-strike as a pressure on the British Government and as a weapon the prisoners have been able to use, is being actively subverted by people within the Irish establishment, by the SDLP but particular by the Irish Hierarchy who are working on the emotions and putting moral pressure on the understandably distressed relatives.”

He continued: “Now you have the situation where a number of relatives have given a commitment to the assistant prison chaplain in Long Kesh that they will immediately intervene if their sons lapse into unconsciousness.”

Provisional Sinn Fein and its paper, Republican News, refers to Father Faul as an “assistant prison chaplain” although no such post actually exists. Father Faul, who says Mass in the Maze every Sunday and has published numerous pamphlets alleging ill-treatment by the authorities in the prison, was unavailable for comment last night.

Mr Morrison went on to say that although his organisation would acquaint the hunger-strikers with the facts, the decision to end the protest would be up to the prisoners themselves. “At this point in time there is no indication that the hunger strike is ending,” he said.

Mr Hugh Logue, the SDLP’s economics spokesman and a member of the Irish Commission’s negotiating team, said last night that he hoped that the hunger-strikers would respond to Lord Gowrie’s meeting with their families by bringing the protest to an end. “I understand were the protest to come to an end, Lord Gowrie is likely to bring in reforms not a million miles away from those we had suggested,” he added.

It is understood that although no formal meetings have taken place this week between the families and the hunger-strikers as a group, the relatives have used their normal weekly visits to tell the prisoners of their decision to medically intervene.

Six IRA prisoners are on hunger-strike at the moment. The most seriously ill is Pat Sheehan, from the Falls Road, Belfast, who yesterday spent his 54th day without food. The others are Jackie McMullan, Andersonstown, Belfast, 46 days; Hugh Carville, Greencastle, Co Antrim, 33 days; John Pickering, Andersonstown, 26 days; Gerard Hodgins, Turf Lodge, Belfast, 19 days, and Jim Devine, Strabane, Co Tyrone, 12 days.

The intervention of families in the hunger-strikes started on July 31st when the mother of Paddy Quinn, an IRA prisoner from south Armagh, asked doctors to save his life. Quinn had gone 46 days without food at that stage.

Since then it has become increasingly apparent that the intervention of relatives offered the only way to end the prison protest. A further three families, those of Laurence McKeown, Pat McGeown and Matt Devlin, intervened and two more, those of Liam McCloskey and Bernard Fox, persuaded their sons that they would intervene unless they ended the protest voluntarily.

Protest seen as stability threat
Dick Walsh, October 3rd, 1981

AN END to the H-Block hunger-strike would be greeted with deep relief by the Government, whose members had viewed the crisis it provoked as a threat to the political stability, North and South.

The crisis also led to a deterioration in Anglo-Irish relations during the summer and probably contributed to the long delay in arranging the first meeting between the Taoiseach, Dr FitzGerald, as head of the Government and the British Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher.

The meeting is now expected to take place in London next month in an atmosphere much improved since Dr FitzGerald’s sharp reminders to Mrs Thatcher of her responsibility to seek a solution in the Maze by a more flexible approach to prison conditions.

In the Republic H-Block candidates made a conservable impact on the general election, winning two seats and, arguably, robbing Fianna Fail of the possibility of narrowing still further the gap between the party and the Coalition partners.

Now much of the uncertainty which the candidature of the prisoners induced will have been removed from the Cavan Monaghan by-election to replace Mr Kieran Doherty, who died on hunger-strike at the beginning of August.

The writ for the by-election may well be moved shortly after the resumption of the Fail on October 20th. And the election could be held as early as the middle of November. The National H-Blocks/Armagh Committee has not yet decided whether or not it should enter a candidate.

Dr FitzGerald and his predecessor, Mr Haughey, have at all times stressed the humanitarian basis of their concern at the continuation of the hunger-strike.

Adams says hunger strike did not mean defeat
Ed Moloney, October 5th, 1981

A “reasonable, commonsense and low key” movement by the British Government towards settlement conditions outlined by the protesting Republican prisoners in July and August would permanently end the prison protest, the vice-president of Provisional Sinn Fein, Mr Gerry Adams, said at the weekend.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Adams rejected the idea that the ending of the hunger-strike was a defeat for the prisoners and said that his reaction to the prisoners’ decision, given that the original protest was still going on, was one of “qualified relief.”

Asked what he thought should happen in the prison now, Mr Adams said that the situation was exactly the same as after last December’s fasts when the British Government had indicated that it would introduce changes in the prison.

“The British have now indicated again that they are going to make certain moves. The prisoners will respond to those moves in a principled and united way. The British know exactly what they have to do now, I’m sure that those in the British camp in December who wanted to move to meet the prisoners’ requirements will now be saying and probably have been saying for the last six or seven months, ‘we told you so,’ and they’ll be saying now ‘let’s not have this happen again,’”, he said.

Mr Adams said he would regard the immediate granting of the prisoners’ own clothes as a “worthwhile gesture” which would ease the prison situation but added: “What the British Government should do is to make a broad sweeping effort to make the hunger-strike weapon redundant, to make it unnecessary.”

PRISONERS’ CONDITIONS

He continued: “A very reasonable and commonsense movement towards the conditions outlined by the prisoners on July 4th and August 6th, a very reasonable, low-key movement towards those would permanently end the prison protest. I honestly see it totally being in the British Government’s interest to do it.”

In their July and August statements the prisoners denied that they were asking for an “elitist, or preferential” prison regime and listed their demands as follows: their own clothes at all times; work to be defined as self-education and the maintenance by prisoners of their own cells and wings; association within the wings during lock-up hours; segregation from Loyalist prisoners, and full restoration of lost remission.

Mr Adams said that it was absurd to describe the end of the hunger-strike as a defeat. “The criminalisation policy was aimed directly at isolating the Republican movement from the people but, obviously, any observer of the situation must conclude that the Republican movement is now more integrated into its support groups destabilisation has become the order of the day in both parts of the partitioned State; national consciousness has been aroused; internationally, the prisoners are recognised as political and all that remains is the securing of conditions suitable to that status.”

Mr Adams admitted that the action of hunger-strikers’ families had “severely impaired” the ability of the prisoners to consider a third fast if the prison situation broke down again. This he blamed on those “who had subverted the hunger-strike for their own ends.”

Mr Adams also rejected the idea of the prison situation being monitored by bodies such as the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace or the Help the Prisoners’ Committee, headed by Cardinal Ó Fiaich. “It’s up to the prisoners but, essentially, there’s no need for any sort of monitoring committee - it merely requires the British to move.”

Provisional Sinn Fein would continue to participate more directly in political activity, a process which, he said, had been “accelerated dramatically” by the hunger-strikes. He said that the “wouldn’t be at all surprised” if the Provisionals decided to field candidates if the new Secretary of State, Mr Prior, launched an initiative involving elections.

Deaths ‘defeated British system of criminalisation’
October 5th, 1981

THE National H-Block Armagh committee is to launch a national and international crusade “on a scale never seen before, built on the prisoners’ moral endurance and martyrdom,” said the chairman of the committee, Father Piaras O Duill yesterday.

Father O Duill, in a statement said: “The H-Block hunger-strike was initially embarked upon by the prisoners as a last resort having endured almost five years of unprecedented deprivation. Their decision to end their protest came only when it was evident that medical science was capable of almost bringing people back from death and the most effective weapon of the prison protest was apparently destroyed.”

“This emphasises the onus on the rest of us to see to it that prisoners are treated humanely and afford the dignity that is due to them. It took the deaths of 10 of the bravest Irishmen to prove they are not criminal and by their deaths they defeated the British system of criminalisation in the eyes of the world.”

PROVISIONAL STATEMENT

Mr Ruairi O Bradaigh, president of Provisional Sinn Fein, in a statement, said: “For an unparalleled period of 217 days and at the cost of 10 young lives, the hunger-strikers had maintained their protest fast and had ended it only when circumstances beyond their control had forced them to do so.”

“Their heroism, generosity of spirit and idealistic dedication to their cause had stirred consciences around the world, brought them success at elections north and south of the Border, and won for them the status of political prisoners by international acclaim.”

“The gains made could not be gainsaid and the British Government would be foolhardy to attempt to humiliate the prisoners in any way. The world was now watching London to see what action they would take towards implementing the five reasonable and just demands.”

“Meanwhile, the campaign to achieve these must continue and the prisoners’ supporters should not relax their efforts. Sinn Fein looks with compassion on the families who intervened and says to the families and fellow-prisoners of the dead hunger-strikers: your sons, husbands and comrades, who made the supreme sacrifice in this the greatest of all hunger-strikes, will live in the hearts and minds of their own people and of all oppressed and struggling peoples throughout the world.”

Relief in North greets ends of hunger-strike
October 5th, 1981

THE ENDING of the Maze hunger-strike was greeted with the distinct and almost universal sense of relief in Northern Ireland over the weekend. Most political and religious leaders hoped it would mean a lessening of the tension which has caused further alienation of the Catholic and Protestant communities.

However, Provisional Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Socialist Party both reacted angrily and accused the Catholic Church, the SDLP and the Republic’s Government of helping to defeat the aims of the hunger-strikers.

Provisional Sinn Fein vice-president said in a statement accompanying the end of the hunger-strike on Saturday that Catholic clergymen had undermined the fast and achieved what the British Government had been unable to do in breaking the protest.

The new Northern Secretary, Mr James Prior, however, said that “the community owes much to those - Churchmen and laymen alike - who have spoken out against those who have sought to exploit the sufferings of others. He said that he and his predecessors “have always made clear that further development of the prison regime will be possible once duress is removed.”

The Church of Ireland Primate, the Most Rev Dr John Armstrong, said that “the way is now open for the northern Ireland Office to look at prison regulations and conditions.” Dr Cahal Daly, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, said: “It is a great relief and very good news. I think it could create a new situation and climate in which progress can be made.” He said that the fast has delayed the necessary steps towards political solutions.

WORLD SUPPORT

Mr Gerry Fitt, the Independent Socialist MP for West Belfast, said that the protesting prisoners “expected world support for the hunger-strike but that had not materialised, because there was so much terrorism elsewhere throughout the world.

Mr Hugh Logue, of the SDLP, said that “the relief will soon turn to despair if the British Government attempts to claim victory or if the Provisionals seek to intensify their irrational violence. He said “it depends on the response of the British Government to prison conditions and on the wider political sphere” whether young people “suffer further alienation.”

Mr Jim Allister, of the Democratic Unionist Party said: “The ending of the hunger-strike is welcome by the DUP, but we are gravely suspicious and hope that the British Government will not be foolish enough to reward the IRA with concessions in the prison.”

Mr John Cushnahan, the Alliance Party’s general secretary termed the hunger-strike “an evil propaganda weapon” that “has left the community bitterly divided.”

FIRM STAND

Mr Thomas Passmore, the leader of the Orange Order, welcomed “the firm stand taken by our Prime Minister against the hunger-strike blackmail. We believe in humane treatment for prisoners, but special status must never be granted.”

Mr William Ross, MP for Derry said: “It is a massive and humiliating defeat for the IRA and its supporters.” He said that Mr Prior, “will see the wisdom of granting nothing to the murderers in the Maze prison and their supporters outside.”

Mr Tommy Lyttle of the Ulster Defence Association also welcomed the ending of the hunger strike, but said that he feared a provisional IRA attack to mark the ending of the protest.

In a statement the IRSP said they had realised for some months that the British Government would not move on the prisoners’ demands, and accused the Irish Government of impotence. They added: “The IRSP congratulates the prisoners in the H-Blocks and Armagh. Their fight against criminalisation has been won. They will never be called criminals again.”

The Association for Legal Justice called on the Secretary of State “to act swiftly and with determination to meet the prisoners on their reasonable conditions.”

KENNEDY CALLS FOR COMPASSION

SENATOR Edward Kennedy yesterday called for a spirit of compassion in Northern Ireland. He believed the hunger-strikes had been a sad chapter in Irish history.

“I hope that the British Government will act in a spirit of compassion and reconciliation - not only to implement as rapidly as possible the prison reforms that have been promise, but to reach a settlement of the larger issues that divide the people of Northern Ireland.”

Why the prisoners ended their protest
October 5th, 1981

THE following is the full text of the prisoners’ weekend statement:

We, the protesting Republican prisoners in the H-Blocks, being faced with the reality of sustained family intervention, are forced by this circumstance over which we have little control at the moment to end the hunger-strike.

After four years of continual protest and after the failure of the Cardinal Ó Fiaich/ H Atkins talks and having exhausted all other means of protest to bring about a settlement we embarked on hunger-strike on October 27th, 1980.

That hunger-strike ended on December 18th, 1980, when the British Government intimated to the hunger-strikers that they would implement a workable and just solution, which was forwarded to the hunger-strikers on December 18th, 1980.

In the course of the immediate past hunger-strike period it became increasingly clear that the British Government had reneged on their commitment to implement that solution and so we were back in a pre-hunger strike predicament and thus forced to go back on hunger-strike.

On March 1st, 1981, Bobby Sands embarked on hunger-strike. On April 9th, 1981, 30,492 people in the Fermanagh/South Tyrone constituency elected him as their MP, and, by doing so they recognised him as a political prisoner and demanded that the British Government respect the mandate given by them and by the entire nationalist community on the streets by implementing the five demands.

The British Government, caught in the hypocrisy of their own “democracy jargon,” ignored the people’s wishes and mandate.

On April 4th, 1981, C Haughey, then Dublin premier, met relatives of Bobby Sands and by playing on their distress convinced them that the intervention of the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) could and would solve the issue.

Bobby’s sister, Marcella, acted on Haughey’s advice and signed an intervention document. The ECHR delegation came to Long Kesh and Bobby Sands said he would meet them providing B McFarlane, o/c of the prisoners, Mr G Adams and Mr D Morrison were present. This reasonable proviso was refused and the ECRH left Long Kesh.

Bobby released a statement that night attacking Haughey for unscrupulously exploiting his family’s anxiety to cover his own inactivity.

On May 5th, 1981, Bobby Sands died on hunger-strike, murdered by British callousness and vindictiveness.

Frank Hughes, Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O’Hara were soon to follow Bobby to the grave and still the British Government remained steadfastly and inhumanely inflexible.

On June 11th, nine prisoners stood in the Southern general election. Of these, Paddy Agnew topped the poll in Louth and Kieran Doherty was elected for the Cavan/Monaghan constituencies. In the other seven areas the prisoners polled exceedingly well, considering the lack of organisation and the short period of time there was to organise the election campaign.

The ordinary people of the South cast their votes in thousands. In Cavan/Monaghan, Kieran Doherty polled a first preference 9,121 (15%); Paddy Agnew, Louth first preference 8,368 (18%); Joe McDonnell, Sligo/Leitrim, 5,634; Martin Hurson, Longford/Westmeath, 4,573 (10%); Sean McKenna, Kerry North, 3,860; Kevin Lynch, Waterford, 3,337; Tony O’Hara, Dublin West, 3,034; Mairead Farrell, Cork North Central, 2,751; Tom McAllister, Clare, 2,210.

On July 4th, 1980, we issued a major policy statement outlining our five demands and emphasising the fact that we wanted our five demands to be available for all prisoners, an assertion made by the British which we regard as nonsense and a red herring to justify the barbarity of the British Government. This statement was almost universally accepted as “remarkably conciliatory”.

On the same day the ICJP (Irish Commission for Justice and Peace) entered the prison and put proposals to the hunger-strikers. They put the same proposals to Brendan McFarlane the next day.

On July 8th, Joe McDonnell died and the British Government issued their policy statement. We released a statement rejecting the Government’s statement and ambiguous proposals as even less than what we were originally led to believe was offered via the ICJP.

We also rejected the ICJP’s proposals, which totally evaded the crux of the issue, and we expressed our belief that the Government had used the ICJP to foster the impression that a settlement was imminent.

The Government’s renegal on their own commitment to the ICJP compounded our belief that the ICJP were being used, and the ICJP dismissed the Government’s proposals as not a genuine attempt on a settlement.

On July 13th we were shocked and dismayed to hear that Martin Hurson had been violently ill and had died unexpectedly and prematurely.

The next significant development was the British Government-sponsored intervention of the IRC (International Red Cross). The IRC tried to initiate direct dialogue, between the Brits and ourselves, but the British rejected this and suggested mediation based on their July 8th statement, which was defeating and unproductive, and we rejected this as futile.

We pointed out to the IRC that as the Brits were not interested in an honourable settlement their interest in the IRC must logically be to use them.

A Red Cross delegate asked for a further breakdown of our July 4th statement and was initially refused. However, after discussion, we complied and issued the August 6th statement and asked the British Government, the Dublin Government, the SDLP and the Catholic Church to respond to our statement.

Soon Kieran Doherty, Kevin Lynch and Tomas McElwee were to be murdered by Britain.

The British Government, having been exposed for the hypocrites they are at the first Fermanagh/South Tyrone by-election, had instigated and passed legislation which erased our right to participate in election and this done they fixed the by-election for Bobby Sands’ seat for August 20th.

By this time a new active, treacherous and vigorous campaign was under way to break the strike. This campaign was orchestrated by clerics who received approval from the Catholic Church. On occasions other individuals were involved also. Attempts were made to discredit we prisoners and the National H-Block Committee.

More damaging was the promotion of the “hopeless” syndrome. The projection of this “hopeless” syndrome, plus the private lobbying of relatives to effect intervention when strikers were going into a coma, was proving to be a serious threat to the continuation of the hunger-strike.

On August 20th, 1981, Owen Carron was elected with an increased majority as proxy political prisoner MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone. Even so, the British Premier Thatcher again spurned this mandate for we prisoners, and with encouragement from Dr FitzGerald she went further by refusing even to meet with him to discuss the continuing spiral and gruesome spectre of death.

On August 20th, Mickey Devine was the 10th hunger-striker to die.

Mounting pressure and cleric-inspired demoralisation led to the further intervention and at present five strikers have been taken off their fast. We accept that it is almost a physical and psychological impossibility to recommence a hunger-strike after intervention. Also, two men ended their fast to avoid a premature, non-hunger-striking death.

The situation exists at present that a considerable majority of the present hunger-strikers’ families have indicated that they will intervene and under these circumstances we feel that the hunger-strike must, for tactical reasons, be suspended.

We feel that it is of paramount importance that the political revelations, lessons and consequences of the hunger-strike are recognised and perpetuated in the minds, hearts and demeanour of the nationalist population of Ireland.

One of the primary lessons to emerge from this second hunger-strike is that the nationalist community is politically inconsequential and impotent in the contest of the Six County statelet.

Despite the electoral successes, despite the hundreds of thousands at hunger-striker’s funerals, despite massive and unprecedented displays of community support and solidarity, the British Government adhered rigidly to the precept that “might is right” and set about hammering home the point that nothing has really changed since the fall of Stormont or from the inception of this state. That is that nationalist Ireland must always be subjected to the British and Loyalist veto.

On the same theme, the lesson of Fermanagh/South Tyrone is that the self-exalted “British democracy” is an expediency manufactured - again from the setting up of the border, the “first and biggest gerrymander” - to preserve a continued British presence in Ireland.

When defeated by their own rules at the polls, the British Government’s concept of democracy altered and the rules were changed to suit them. When they are defeated even by their own rules they ignore the democratically-expressed voice of the electorate and thus undermine the entire principle and purpose of using their “democratic” processes to effect social or political change.

The logical conclusion of this analysis is that nationalist pacifism in the Northern Ireland context dooms the nationalist population to subserviency, perpetuated partition and thwarts the quest for a just and lasting peace in Ireland.

OPPOSITION EXPOSED

Another facet of this hunger-strike was to expertly expose the true face of the present Irish Catholic Church, the Dublin Government and the SDLP.

From the outset, the Catholic hierarchy opposed the hunger-strike even though they offered no alternative course of action. We contend that their position has at all times been established by political consideration rather than the Christian values of truth and justice, therefore, their stance has been extremely immoral and misleading. At no time did the Church publicly support the five demands, or for that matter reject them. Equally, when specifically asked to respond to our August 6th statement, they kept silent - even though hunger-strikers were dying virtually on a weekly basis.

We contend very strongly that the reason why the British didn’t respond to our August 6th statement is that the prison regime we proposed was unarguably superior and better than the present Victorian regime, and that the Church accepted this but to support our demands would be to oppose the British Government.

And the logical conclusion again would be to consciously incite the Irish Catholic population to oppose the British policy. Therefore, they remained ambiguous on the entire issue and the reason, as we stated, is that they are intricately immersed in the field of politics and deceit.

It was the Catholic clerics, more than anyone, who were involved in the back-door and public pressuring of families to get them to intervene.

‘ACCESSORIES TO MURDER’

We believe that the Dublin bloc of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour are accessories to the legalised murder of 10 true and committed Irishmen who died heroically in the long tradition of Republican resistance to British occupation, oppression and injustice in Ireland.

They are accessories to murder by virtue of the fact that they sat idly by and thus encouraged the British go continue with the death policy.

The sheer hypocrisy of their position is that at no time did any of these three parties unequivocally or even tacitly support our demands even though our five demands are implemented in their entirety (even more than we were looking for) in jails in Southern Ireland.

Well may they hand their heads in shame, for they are a pathetic reflection of Republicanism and the spirit that traditionally earmarked the Irish patriots’ pursuit of nationhood and justice, and by their cowardly collaborationist and quisling stand on the H-Block issue they have debased the memory of generations of Irish freedom fighters who fought for a separatist Ireland. If John Bull doesn’t actually rule the 26 counties physically, he still rules in spirit.

And it must not be forgotten that Garret FitzGerald’s concept of democracy parallels with Maggie Thatcher’s.

‘SDLP REDMONDITES’

There was only one positively injurious action available to the SDLP which would help to save lives in the H-Blocks and that was to isolate the British administration by withdrawing from the council chambers.

This they consistently refused to do, preferring instead to cling tenaciously to their role of imperialist lickspittle. Rather than take action to secure an honourable solution and save lives, they occupied their time trying to make political gain by attacking those who did genuinely endeavour to end the issue honourably, namely the National H-Block/Armagh Committee and those councillors who answered our call to withdraw from the council.

This party should now be recognised for what it is - an amalgamation of middle-class Redmondites, devoid of principle, direction and courage. This party is spineless and weak and is very capable of selling out to Unionist intimidators for imperialist perks. Their whole leadership combined do not possess a fraction of the moral fibre demonstrated so valiantly by our comrades.

There were several reasons given by our comrades for going on hunger-strike. One was because we had no choice and no other means of securing a principled solution to the four-year protest.

Another, and of fundamental importance, was to advance the Irish people’s right for liberty. We believe that the age-old struggle for Irish self-determination and freedom has been immeasurably advanced by this hunger-strike and therefore we claim a massive political victory.

The hunger-strikers by their selflessness have politicised a very substantial section of the Irish nation and exposed the shallow, unprincipled nature of the Irish partitionist bloc.

Our comrades have lit with their very lives an eternal beacon which will inspire this nation and people to rise and crush oppression forever, and this nation can be proud that it produced such a quality of manhood.

TRIBUTE TO FAMILIES

We pay a special tribute to the families of our dead comrades. You have suffered greatly and with immense dignity. Your loved ones, our comrades and friends, were and would be very proud of you for standing by them. No tribute is too great.

Also, we give a special mention to those families who could not bear to watch their loved ones die in pain and agony. We prisoners understand the pressure you were under and stand by you.

We thank the National H-Block/Armagh Committee, the H-Block Movement, and the nationalist people of Ireland, and all those who championed our cause abroad. We are indebted to you and ask you to continue your good work on our behalf.

Lastly, we reaffirm our commitment to the achievement of the five demands by whatever means we believe necessary and expedient. We rule nothing out.

Under no circumstances are we going to devalue the memory of our dead comrades by submitting ourselves to a dehumanising and degrading regime.

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