16 May 2006

Informers are treated better than me says ex-blanketman


(Keith Bourke, Irish News)

A former IRA prisoner has said that he has been "demonised" by the republican Movement.

Richard O'Rawe, the author of Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike, said he has been more vilified by republicans than British informer Freddie Scappaticci ever was.

"An agent it seems is better thought of than a blanketman," Mr O'Rawe said.

"No free passage to Italy in my case. But then Scap was the leadership's man. I was not," he said in an opinion piece in today's (Monday) Irish News.

O'Rawe, who acted as public relations officer for the hunger strikers while in the H-blocks in 1981, claimed in his book that a deal was offered by the British government to end the hunger strike before the fifth man had died.

He said that on July 5, after the first four prisoners including Bobby Sands had died, Danny Morrison, director of publicity for the republican movement at the time, visited the IRA commander in the Maze, Brendan "Bik" McFarlane, to brief him on a British offer of a deal.

Mr O'Rawe said McFarlane returned to the block after his meeting and passed a communication to him detailing the offer, which they both then agreed to accept.

But in his book Mr O'Rawe alleged the IRA leadership outside the jail did not believe the deal was enough.

Three days later a fifth hunger striker, Joe McDonnell, died. Five more men were to starve to death before the protest ended.

In his book Mr O'Rawe asked if the IRA leadership sacrificed the last six hunger strikers to fuel the new groundswell of support for the movement.

At the time of the alleged offer by the British government republican candidate Owen Carron was conte sting a by-election in Fermanagh/South Tyrone to hold on to the Westminster seat that Bobby Sands had won from his hospital bed.

Brendan McFarlane and Sinn Féin have denied that there was any such offer.

Mr O'Rawe said that Sinn Féin knows that they are "losing the argument" and that his claims have since been backed up by others involved at the time.

May 16, 2006

This article appeared first in the May 15, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

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