On this day 17th March 1981, PIRA OC Bobby Sands made his last entry to his diary.

I am quoting what would be his official last words on earth. In Nomine Patris, et Filli, et Spiritu Sancti.

“If they aren’t able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won’t break you. They won’t break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show.
It is then we’ll see the rising of the moon.”
PIRA OC MP Bobby Sands
March 17, 1981

Bobby Sands’ last entry into his diary this day in 1981.

“St Patrick’s Day today and, as usual, nothing noticeable. I was at Mass, my hair cut shorter and much better also. I didn’t know the priest who said Mass.

The orderlies were giving out food to all who were returning from Mass. They tried to give me a plate of food. It was put in front of my face but I continued on my way as though nobody was there.

I got a couple of papers today, and as a kind of change the Irish News was there. I’m getting any news from the boys anyway.

I saw one of the doctors this morning, an ill-mannered sort. It tries me. My weight was 57.70 kgs. I had no complaints.

An official was in with me and gave me some lip. He said, ‘I see you’re reading a short book. It’s a good thing it isn’t a long one for you won’t finish it.’

That’s the sort of people they are. Curse them! I don’t care. It’s been a long day.

I was thinking today about the hunger-strike. People say a lot about the body, but don’t trust it. I consider that there is a kind of fight indeed. Firstly the body doesn’t accept the lack of food, and it suffers from the temptation of food, and from other aspects which gnaw at it perpetually.

The body fights back sure enough, but at the end of the day everything returns to the primary consideration, that is, the mind. The mind is the most important.

But then where does this proper mentality stem from? Perhaps from one’s desire for freedom. It isn’t certain that that’s where it comes from.

If they aren’t able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won’t break you. They won’t break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show.

It is then we’ll see the rising of the moon…”

Kelly’s role highlighted in PIRA’s ‘great escape’

STATE PAPERS Belfast and Dublin

THE mass escape of 38 PIRA prisoners from the Maze Prison, near Belfast on September 25 1983 in which a prison warder was stabbed to death, is detailed in previously confidential files. Like many files in this year’s releases, that relating to the prison escape is partially closed to 2069.


The official report claims that Gerry Kelly (Old Baily bomber), one of the PIRA escapees and now a Shame Fein MLA, shot a prison guard in the head. Confidential reports prepared for the Secretary of State Jim Priors shed new light on the event and the role of a British military guard at the prison. In a report on the events of that dramatic Sunday, penned the following day, W J Kerr, director of prison operations in the North of Ireland, described how at 16.45 hours he was informed of ‘an incident at the Maze’. He immediately proceeded to the prison where he ‘was informed that H7 Block had been taken over by armed prisoners who had hijacked the kitchen lorry and had proceeded to the main gate.’ There follows a diary of the events on that Sunday. The day began normally with prisoners unlocked for breakfast and exercise. At 11.15 Fr Rooney, the Catholic chaplain, celebrated Mass in the H Block with 54 prisoners in attendence. Dinner was served at 12.15 hours after which all prisoners were returned to their cells. Suddenly at 14.45 hours prisoners in H Block 7 overpowered staff on duty and took control of the block. Various weapons were used including guns.

The prisoners commandeered the prison meals delivery van and 38 prisoners forced the prison officer driver to drive the van from the block through segment gates one and eight to the prison main gate. The escapees then overpowered the staff on duty at the gate and, although eventually the alam was raised, they managed to get out of the prison proper. The prisoners at this point disappeared and fled in different directions.’ Among the prisoners in H7 were Gerry Kelly, aged 30, (the present Shame Fein MLA for North Belfast) and Brendan ‘Bic’ McFarlane who had been a spokesman for the hunger strikers during the 1981 Hunger Strike. Kelly had been convicted at Winchester in 1973, along with Marian Price/Mc Glincy and Dolours Price (The Price Sisters) and Hugh Feeney, for setting off car bombs in London. In all he had made four previous escape attempts. McFarlane (then 31), described in the file as ‘a PIRA leader deeply involved in the organisation’ was sentenced to five life terms for the 1975 bombing of the Bayardo Bar on the Shankill Road in which five people died. The sequence of events at the prison began when prisoner Mead overpowered a senior officer while ‘Prisoner Storey entered the principal officer’s office carrying a gun and pointed it at the senior officer’s head.’ Storey then took charge, “forcing the officer to answer the telephone in a normal manner”. Meanwhile, other officers were being overpowered and tied up throughout the H Block. “Officer Leak was in the toilet when he heard two shots. He left [to see] Prisoner 58  [Gerry Kelly] pointing a pistol into the control room. “Kelly turned the gun on Leak and forced him into the officers’ tea room. Leak was tied up and hooded. Kerr added at this point: “This would establish that prisoner Kelly shot officer Adams who was on duty in the control. It is not clear if the control grille was locked before Mr Adams was shot.” As the IRA inmates gradually seized control of the wings they approached the inner gates where ‘Bic’ McFarlane told the prison guard that he had been “sent to clean the sentry box”. The officer was then overpowered  by armed prisoners. Meanwhile, officer McLaughlin was on duty as kitchen van driver and at 15.25 hours had passed through the lock gates of H Block to deliver afternoon tea. “As officer McLaughlin started to unload the meal from the van, prisoner Storey put a gun to his head and forced him into the medical inspection room.

“Whilst there he was threatened by prisoner [Gerry] Kelly who told him to do as he was told or he would be ‘blown away’.” McLaughlin was then forced to drive the van from the block to the main gate through the inner gates. According to the report the van proceeded through the first gate unchallenged to a parking lot where most of the uniformed prisoners ddisembarked. At the main gates they seized the controls and got outside. However, Kerr stressed, the staff in the Tally Lodge “resisted strongly and in the ensuing affray one officer was stabbed and died shortly afterwards. “By this time the alarm had been raised and two officers sitting in their cars outside the gate drove into the area, blocking the exit.” In the resulting melee 10 escapees were captured including a man called Murray who was wounded by an army sentry in a watch-tower. At the time of the report on 26 September, 21 inmates remained “unlawfully at large”. In his conclusion, Kerr highlighted a number of aspects of the PIRA escape which gave him concern. In particular, the fact that the inmates were in possession of firearms suggested that they and their supporters outside were able to breach the security measures at the Maze. He was particularly alarmed at the ease with which prisoners were able to gain access to the secure entrance into the blocks and the main gates. He also questioned how the escaping prisoners were allowed to drive a hijacked vehicle through two inner gates without being challenged and why five officers in H Block 7 were permitted to be off their posts at the same time. Claims by the DUP leader, Ian Paisley that the military guard had failed to open fire prompted a memo to the secretary of state from an NIO official, P W J Buxton on September 28 1983 on the reaction of the soldiers who formed a 150-strong prison guard. He reported that in the watchtower on the main gate had shot an escaper whom he had just seen shot a prison officer. The position of a soldier shooting escapers was quite clear, Buxton noted; ‘the Yellow Card’ applied. Thus, unless the escaper is presenting a direct threat to life, or has just killed or injured someone and there was no other way of arresting, he is not authorised to shoot.

With many thanks to: Eamon Phoenix, The Irish News.

Sands ‘offered to suspend Hunger Strike to reach deal’ !!!

‘Why would he make it up? It’s a private conversation and he relates to Humphrey Atkins – Thomas Hennessey speaking about Fr John Magee‘s version of events.

BOBBY Sands offered to suspend the 1981 Hunger Strike in order to reach a deal with the British, a new book has claimed. The claims are made in Hunger Strike: Margaret Thatcher’s Battle with the IRA, written by academic Thomas Hennessey.

A mural dedicated to republican hunger striker...

As well as looking at the role of the former British prime minster, the book examines efforts to end the protest which eventually claimed the lives of ten brave republicans. Mr Hennessey reveals that Sands, who died in May 1981 after 66 days on Hunger Strike, made the offer to Co Down native Fr John Magee who had been sent from Rome to Ireland by John Paul 11. An account of the conversation between the priest and Sands was later relayed to the then secretary of state, Humphrey Atkins. In his book Mr Hennessey says Sands agreed to suspend his fast for five days to allow time for talks – “provided certain conditions were satisifed”. Some of the conditions set out by Sands included that an official from the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) would visit him, that two priests should be present as guarantors and that three other republican prisoners should be present. Details of the offer were later rejected by Mr Atkins who objected to the idea that the hunger striker was “setting conditions”.


According to the author Mr Atkins made it clear that the British government was not prepared to “negotiate” with protesting prisioners at that time. While he had “respect for the Pope” he said he would not be able to meet his representative again “because to do so would risk creating the impression that some form of negotiation was going”. Mr Hennessey believed Fr Magee’s account of the conversation he had with Sands was accurate. “Why would he make it up? It’s a private conversation and he relates it to Humphrey Atkins,” he said. “To me it’s genuine and does not undermine what Sands is trying to do.” The author backs up previous claims made by former H-Block prisoner Richard O’Rawe that a deal was offered that could have ended the Hunger Strike in July 1981. His account of how the deal offer was handled has been strongly contested by other Provisional republicans. “It is clear there was a deal offered that could have ended the Hunger Strike,” Mr Hennessey said. “I accept Richard O’Rawe’s analysis of that but there are other aspects you can’t prove.”

With many thanks to: Connia Young, The Irish News.


AN ARCHIVE paper from the Margaret Thatcher Foundation containing handwritten notes from the former:-)  British Prime Minister has reignited a dispute within Republicanism about whether the 1981 Hunger Strike could have been ended sooner.


Former Maze prisoner Richard O’Rawe said the publication of the document “removes all acmbiguity” and proves there was a “concrete offer” from the British government approved by the then Conservative prime minister in early July 1981. He has long insisted a proposal was relayed to prisoners in the Maze that could have ended the Hunger Strike, which had already claimed four lives and would lead to six more deaths. Mr O’Rawe(pictured below) acted as a public relations officer for the prisoners and has argued that inmates had accepted the British government’s offer but were overruled by an IRA committee on the outside, of which Gerry Adams and Danny Morrison were members, to maximise electoral success.

Documents previously released in London under the 30-year rule confirmed that Mrs Thatcher had approved a message to be relayed to the IRA leadership outlining concessions on prisoners’ demands such as clothing, food and parcels after they dropped a demand to be given prisoner-of-war status. Mr O’Rawe said the latest release by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation further proved his case. The document – entitled Hunger Strike: Message to the relayed through the channel – stated that the government wanted a satisfactory response to its proposal by 9am on July 7.


However, Danny Morrison, former Sinn Fein director of publicity, has again rejected Mr O’Rawe’s claim and maintained there was no concreate offer on the table in early July 1981. Mr Morrison said papers from both the British government and Brendan Duddy, who acted as an intermediary between the government and republicans, proved Mr Morrison had gone into the Maze to speak to IRA prisoners on July 5 without an offer. Mr Duddy did not receive information on the government’s position until late the following night, Mr Morrison insisted.

With many thanks to : Maeve Connolly, Irish News.



      Sunday, 20 May 2012
      14:00 until 15:00

POSTED ON BEHALF OF : Friend’s Event · By Derry Irsp

H-Block Hunger Strike Public Meetings & Exhibition

H-Block Hunger Strike Public Meetings & Exhibition

    • Wednesday at 11:00 until Friday at 21:00
  • Cliftonville Community Centre, Manor st, Belfast.
  • The Irish Republican Socialist prisoner’s support group, Teach na Failte, in Belfast are hosting a H-Block Hunger Strikesexhibition and a series of public discussions over a three day period, beginning on Wednesday 11th April until Friday 13th April, in Cliftonville Community Centre, Manor Street in the north of the city.The Hunger Strikes’ exhibition will be open to the public from 11am-5pm and 6pm-9pm daily.
    The exhibition will include prison craft and artefacts from the H-Blocks and Armagh Gaol. Photographic displays will chronicle the mass H Block protest campaign outside the prisons, including the formation of theRelatives Action Committees/H Block-Armagh Committees, including the major input of the Irish Republican Socialist Party into their successful dynamic. The Hunger Strikes exhibition will also pay tribute to IRSP H Block activists, Ronnie Bunting, Noel Little, Miriam Daly, IIP leader John Turnleyand other activists who were assassinated by pro-British death-squads during the height of the H Block campaign.On Wednesday 11th April at 6pm there will be a public discussion on the events and recent revelations surrounding the 1981 Hunger Strike, with a panel of guest speakers including:Richard O’Rawe, former Provisional IRA H Block PRO during the 1981 Hunger Strike and author of the best-selling books ‘Blanketmen’ and it’s sequel, ‘Afterlives’
    Willie Gallagher, former INLA POW and IRSP Political Prisoners spokesperson
    Rab Collins, former O/C INLA prisoners during the 1981 Hunger StrikeOn Thursday 12th April, at 2pm there will be a public meeting on the impact of the Hunger Strikes with a panel of guest speakers inncluding:John Nixon, former INLA Hunger Striker
    Tony O’Hara, former INLA POW and brother of INLA Hunger Striker, Patsy O’Hara
    Gerard Hodgins, former Provisional IRA Hunger Striker
    A former Loyalist H Block prisoner

    For further details contact:

    Gerry Foster,
    Teach na Failte,
    Costello House,
    392a Falls Road,

    Telephone: (028) 90323416


    Paul Little: 07590384792.

POSTED ON BEHALF OF : Public event · By Belfast Irsp

The Brendan Duddy Archive’s ( Part 2 ) -1981 Hunger Strike !

1981 Hunger Strike


Man overboard, Hunger Strike codewords, 1981

The document provides a set of codewords for use in telephone conversations between Brendan Duddy and British representatives during the hunger strike of 1981. Conversations were coded to prevent them being understood by intelligence agencies that might be monitoring them. Only a handful of people on either side knew of these contacts and it was as important to keep them secret from the intelligence agencies as it was to keep them secret from the public. This is one of three sets of codewords in the Duddy papers that are associated with this period and this was not the code used during the intense contacts in July 1981.


Man overboard, Hunger Strike codewords, 1981A

certain mordant humour is evident in the code, which appears to be in the handwriting of a British official. Mutiny is listed as the code for hunger strike but the codeword that follows immediately afterwards ‘Man Overboard’, is simply listed as ‘obvious’. The code also provides an oblique indication of attitudes to various parties. Thus, RNLI is indicated as the codeword for ‘do-gooders’, indicating a sceptical attitude to third–parties seeking to intervene in the dispute. The concern to maintain secrecy is reflected in the fact that sometimes the codes lead to other codes. Thus, 2nd mate is the codeword for ‘Tom’ which in turn is a codename for one of the British officials involved. The names of two ‘Greek Tycoons’, Onassis and Niarchos, are listed as codewords for ‘Mc’ and ‘A’. It seems possible that they refer to two particularly prominent Provisional Republicans.NÓD

The Red Book, July 1981 (1) Download image

For more than a hundred pages this hardback notebook full of to-do lists and measurements and rough calculations follows the hurried, irregular rhythms of everyday life; family, business, work, learning. And then, abruptly, the rhythms of everyday domestic life give way to an urgent clipped syntax that belongs to a very different realm:

“Clothes = after lunch tomorrow and before the afternoon visits. As a man is given his clothes he cleans out his own cell. Pending the resolution of the works issue which will be worked out….”

The Red Book, July 1981 (2) Download image

It is the first of thirty five urgently packed pages that provide Brendan Duddy’s fractured, hastily written and sometimes despairing contemporary account outlining the detailed progress of the secret negotiations between the IRA and the British government to end the Republican hunger strike of 1981. The notebook records an intense and accelerating series of phone calls between Duddy and the British government representative stretching across July 1981 aimed at achieving a negotiated settlement of the hunger strikes.NÓD

The Red Book, July 1981 (3) Download image


The Red Book, July 1981 (4) Download image

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The Red Book, July 1981 (11) Download image

The Red Book, July 1981  (12) Download image

The Red Book, July 1981 (13) Download image

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The Red Book, July 1981  (19) Download image

 (1) Download image Transcript of The Red Book 1981

about how to interpret the handwriting.

This transcript of the Red Book was originally created in 2001 by a relative

of Brendan Duddy’s in consultation with him. Question marks were inserted

 where there was uncertainty about how to interpret the handwriting.



With Many Thanks To :Dr. Niall Ó Dochartaigh,  The James Hardiman Library.

And also many Thanks to : National University of Ireland Galway


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The Brendan Duddy Archive’s ( Part 1) -1975 Cease-fire !

NEW: The 1981 Hunger strike documents now include the full text of the ‘Red Book’ outlining in detail the progress of the secret negotiations between the IRA and the British government to end the Republican hunger strike of 1981. They also include a transcript of the text.
The selected documents are taken from the three main periods during which Brendan Duddy secretly acted as an intermediary between the British government and the IRA. The first was in the early and mid 1970s when Duddy acted as intermediary during a series of contacts over the release of hostages and the ending of hunger strikes. This contact culminated in the long IRA ceasefire of 1975 during which British government and Provisional Republican representatives held a series of formal meetings in Duddy’s house in Derry. The archive includes his diaries of negotiation in 1975 and 1976 as well as many handwritten and typed messages exchanged between the two sides.
In 1980 and 1981 Duddy acted again as intermediary during the Republican hunger strikes. In July 1981 he began to record these contacts, conducted by telephone, in a red hardbound notebook, the ‘Red book’. The handwritten formal messages that were dictated to Duddy over the phone are interspersed with sparse personal comments and notations indicating how these contacts sometimes stretched through the night and indicating the intensity of the tensions at this negotiating intersection.
Between 1990 and 1993 Duddy was again active at this intersection after a new Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Sir Peter Brooke, made the decision to try to incorporate the Provisionals in a political settlement, an effort continued by his successor Sir Patrick Mayhew. Duddy was called upon again to take up the role of intermediary and his archive includes the messages passed between the two sides as well as his own contemporary ‘narrative’ of the intense contacts of 1993. The selected documents highlight the secrecy and tension involved in this communication and negotiation and add significantly to our understanding of this crucial interface between the British state and the IRA.
Dr. Niall Ó Dochartaigh

1975 Cease-fire


We know the Provisionals fear we may be stringing them along, January 1975 Download image

In early 1975 British officials and Republican representatives secretly negotiated the terms of an IRA ceasefire that came into force in February and lasted for most of that year. Most accounts of the ceasefire argue that the British duped the IRA into calling a ceasefire and strung them along in order to weaken them militarily. This message, sent by the British in late January, contains the striking line ‘We know that the Provisionals fear that we may be stringing them along’. It indicates not only that the IRA was aware of this danger even before the ceasefire, but that the British were also aware of this fear on the part of the IRA. The final line reads ‘We are not at this stage able to meet Mr. David O’CONNELL [emphasis in original] himself. But we assume that he is now personally directing the dialogue. Is this so?’ O’Connell was a wanted man at the time. It indicates that even though the British felt it was too sensitive to talk to him directly, they wanted to be reassured that this key figure was personally directing the talks and that the Provisional negotiators had his support. If there was to be a settlement and a permanent end to the IRA campaign his support was essential.


(1) A letter from the IRA to the British Prime Minister, January 1975 Download image

The formal and courteous tone of the letter, addressed personally to the British Prime Minister of the time, Harold Wilson, is striking, indicating the desire of the Provisionals to behave in a properly diplomatic way during these contacts. But the letter is striking too for the emphasis on securing ‘an honourable and permanent end to this conflict’. Given the emphasis on the word ‘permanent’ after the IRA ceasefire of 1994, it is interesting to note that the word appears three times in this short message. There is no reference to Irish reunification or the political goals of the Provisionals but the emphasis is placed instead on their ‘sincerity to explore every avenue to secure’ a ‘permanent’ end to the conflict. Duddy’s personal diary for the period indicates intense and prolonged negotiation between the two sides over the twelve points included in this letter.


(2) A letter from the IRA to the British Prime Minister, January 1975 Download image

(3) A letter from the IRA to the British Prime Minister, January 1975 Download image

(1) Don’t call us, we’ll call you, February 1975 Download image


With Many Thanks To :Dr. Niall Ó Dochartaigh,  The James Hardiman Library.

And also many Thanks to : National University of Ireland Galway.


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