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Hunger strikers' lives not sacrificed — family

(Barry McCaffrey, Irish News)

The family of a dead hunger striker last night (Tuesday) hit out at claims that the IRA sacrificed the lives of republican prisoners in negotiations with the British government during the 1981 dispute.

The family of Francis Hughes last night rejected the claims from former IRA prisoner Richard O'Rawe, who earlier this week stated that the British government had been prepared to agree to four of five prisoner demands during the 1981 hunger strike.

However Mr O'Rawe claimed that while IRA leaders in the prison were prepared to accept the deal, they were overruled by the army council on the outside.

Six other hunger strikers died before the end of the protest in October 1981.

However Oliver Hughes, whose brother Francis was the second prisoner to die after 59 days on hunger strike, hit out at Mr O'Rawe's claims.

"Mr O'Rawe describes the leadership of the republican movement and key individuals from the 1981 period in a way that bears no resemblance to the people I and my family dealt with," Mr Hughes, a Sinn Féin councillor, said.

"Sinn Féin representatives assisted us, were concerned for us, liaised with us regularly and kept us informed of all initiatives which was crucial."

Expressing anger at Mr O'Rawe's claims, the Sinn Féin councillor said: "The death of Francis and the other brave men may have taken place 24 years ago, but it was the saddest time in all our lives and is still fresh in our memories.

"My parents are in their nineties and it is very distressing and hurtful when someone is deliberately distorting the truth.

"I would appeal to Mr O'Rawe to retract his statement and to let the memory of the hunger strikers rest in peace."

Mr O'Rawe's allegation was also rejected by Republican Sinn Féin president Ruairi O Bradaigh.

"I am convinced that the IRA army council of that time did not reject the British government offer of early July 1981 (which was sponsored by the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace), resulting in the deaths of six more hunger strikers," Mr O'Bradaigh said.

"I knew that it was not the policy of the republican movement to prolong the hunger strike until the by-election which followed from Sands's death.

"I believed then, and still do, that the terms for the settlement were a matter for the H-block prisoners themselves."

Mr O Bradaigh said that the terms on offer from the British government would have been known to all those involved in the hunger strike.

March 5, 2005
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This article appeared first in the March 2, 2005 edition of the Irish News.


This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News



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