A chara, – Ed Moloney's opinion piece ("Boston challenges Sinn Féin's version of history, Opinion & Analysis, May 20th) on the discredited Boston history project which he managed, says nothing new but repeats allegations about myself, Gerry Adams and the 1981 hunger strikes made by former prisoner Richard O'Rawe.
Mr O’Rawe claims that on the afternoon of July 5th, 1981, I brought a British offer to the hunger strikers in the H-Block prison hospital which conceded the majority of their demands. That on the afternoon of July 6th, Mr Adams then ordered them not to accept the offer. And that the reason he did so was to prolong the strike so that Owen Carron would win the Fermanagh/South Tyrone byelection.
These fictional claims were never even thought up by the British, who used many foul means to undermine the electoral rise of Sinn Féin. The claims hinge around Mr O’Rawe, who never left his cell, met the governor, visited the prison hospital or was involved in the mediation.
Nor were these claims made in the original text of Mr O’Rawe’s book, the manuscript of which he brought to me at my home around 1999 and asked me for help in getting him published.
Fortunately, there are contemporaneous records, released under the 30-year rule, including those phone calls marked “Secret” between intermediary Brendan Duddy (codenamed SOON) and the British which formed a cabinet briefing paper.
While I am meeting the hunger strikers on July 5th, Martin McGuinness visited Mr Duddy’s home and is reported as asking Mr Duddy, “what the current HMG position was”. The paper says: “We explained that it was important before drafting any document for consideration by Ministers that we should possess the Provisionals’ view. SOON then undertook to seek clear views on their position, which would be relayed to us later after discussion in the light of Morrison’s visit.” Note: “before drafting any document for consideration by Ministers”.
So, there falls the claim that I brought in an offer. It hadn’t even been drafted.
Mr Duddy’s handwritten notebooks, published three years ago, log the offer from the British as being phoned to him at “11.30pm July 6”. So, there falls the claim that earlier in the day Mr Adams ordered the prisoners not to accept the offer. They also record us in the hunger strike committee as desperately beseeching the British to respond before Joe McDonnell’s death and for a representative to clarify to the prisoners exactly what was on offer. They refused.
The claim that on July 5th/6th, the hunger strike was prolonged to get Owen Carron elected is easily demolished by another inconvenient fact for Ed Moloney. The writ for the byelection, over which we had no control and of which we had no knowledge, was not moved in the House of Commons until July 28th.
Who is it who has been rewriting history? – Yours, etc,