Another Falsehood from the ‘Sunday Times’

April 13, 2009 · Print This Article

The Secretary of the Bobby Sands Trust, Danny Morrison, has called for a retraction from Liam Clarke that he [Morrison] visited the hunger strikers twice on Sunday, 5th July, the second time with IRSP member Sean Flynn. Once again, Liam Clarke preferred to publish rather than check the allegation with Morrison. On Sunday, Clarke wrote: “Danny Morrison is clear that he gave a full explanation of an offer to the hunger strikers on July 5, but Sean Flynn, an IRSP leader who went into the prison with him on the second of his two visits that day, recalls nothing of the kind. Flynn met Kevin Lynch, an INLA hunger striker … who was to die on August 1. Flynn is quite clear that Lynch ‘knew nothing about the Mountain Climber or that there was going to be a deal’.”

Danny Morrison said: “Despite Liam Clarke being in regular contact with me during the week, I was given no opportunity to correct or challenge Sean Flynn’s statement in the ‘Sunday Times’ that Kevin Lynch ‘knew nothing about the Mountain Climber’. I could have pointed out how incredulous Flynn’s claim was. A cursory reading of a book published in 1987, ‘Ten Men Dead’ by David Beresford, reproduces a comm from Bik McFarlane dated 8th July 1981 which says: “. ‘Pennies’ [Danny Morrison] had already informed them [the hunger strikers] of ‘Mountain Climber’ angle and they accepted this as 100 per cent.”

“I have written to Liam Clarke and pointed out that his story is false and he should have checked the facts. ‘Why didn’t you ask me in all our exchanges during the week about Sean Flynn’s allegation? You never emailed and never telephoned [I placed my telephone number in an email to you last Tuesday.]’

“On the 5th July 1981 I went into the prison hospital alone. I was only in the prison once and at no time was Sean Flynn with me.”

Morrison stated: “After the first hunger strike the British administration barred me from visiting the prison. However, as a result of contact with the British via an intermediary I was allowed into the prison on Sunday, 5th July, 1981, to meet the hunger strikers and Brendan McFarlane. I told them what the British appeared to be offering.

“I was in the prison ONCE during the hunger strike not TWICE, as Liam Clarke has published. Kevin McQuillan of the Irish Republican Socialist Party drove me to the jail that day, on Sunday, 5th July. I did not tell him the details of why I was going in [re the contact with the Brits] but he was aware that something secret was going on. He drove me into the prison – which was closed to the public on Sundays – through the prison officers’ entrance. There, I was met by a senior official and taken to the prison hospital. Kevin stayed in the prison officers’ car park.

“When I came out I told him what condition the prisoners were in. He asked who I had met and I told him and that Kevin Lynch and Micky Devine had been there. I was not at liberty to discuss with him the details I had given to the hunger strikers.

“I only mention Kevin McQuillan’s name because last Monday Willie Gallagher of the IRSP on Radio Foyle said that the IRSP had no idea that there was any contact or behind-the-scenes’ activity taking place in early July 1981 – something that I find implausible. I am sure Kevin McQuillan told his party leadership that I had been in the prison. If he didn’t that is for him to explain.

 “In relation to the first story that Liam Clarke ran [the release of partial British documents from 1981] and his explanation for not contacting me he has said that he had contacted Sinn Fein for a response, sent them the details and they said they would be back in touch, but this didn’t happen. He said that he told Sinn Fein he would be happy to talk to me.

“I emailed the Sinn Fein press officer, Mark McLernon, in regard to this and he said: ‘Danny, I told him [Clarke] to send us the documents he had and we would fully comment on them on that basis, that we couldn’t be expected to comment on something we hadn’t seen. He refused. That was the one and only phone call I had with Clarke. In it I also told him that I had informed the Trust of the contents of his original email. There was no arrangement made with Clarke to set up an interview with yourself. If Clarke wanted to talk to you, why would he go through SF?’”

Danny Morrison continued: “In one of my emails to Liam Clarke I said that the Sinn Fein response still would not have prohibited him from contacting me in relation to July 1981, given that some of the Sinn Fein press people probably were in their teens at the time of the hunger strike. I received no satisfactory explanation and this Sunday he has printed yet another falsehood and I am seeking a retraction in next week’s paper.”


3 Responses to “Another Falsehood from the ‘Sunday Times’”

  1. Liam Clarke on April 13th, 2009 1:16 pm

    While Danny Morrison quotes his e-mails to me, he does not give my replies or recount the conversation we had. That gives an incomplete impression of what passed between us.
    In fact, Sean Flynn and Danny give differing accounts of what happened. Sean says he visited the prison on the evening of July 5th 1981 after receiving a call and says he saw Danny there. Danny says he only visited the prison once and never met Sean Flynn on that visit. He doubts that Sean Flynn would have been admitted to the prison on a Sunday and he suggests that Sean got the date wrong.
    Even if that turns out to be the case, it does not alter the fact that Sean and others say the INLA hunger strikers were unaware of an offer of the type outlined in the documents. The central issue is not whether Sean visited them the same day as Danny or on a later day, though I am happy to correct this if I can be sure whose account is accurate. It seems a trivial enough detail, but let’s clear it up if we can..
    There was never any suggestion that Sean Flynn went into the hospital with Danny; in fact he mentions meeting Kevin Lynch separately. He says he was called to go to the prison and saw Danny there ahead of him. I had no idea that this would be disputed by Danny and I didn’t go into detail for that reason.
    I did not attempt to contact Danny the week of the first story because it was Sinn Fein, and Gerry Adams in particular, I was seeking comment from.
    I sent a very full e-mail, which Danny now has a copy of, to Richard McAuley at the beginning of the week. Richard replied that he had passed it to Mark McLernon. When I rung Mark he said that he was consulting Danny Morrison who would be in contact. I replied that I was happy to talk to Danny if he wished but it was Sinn Fein, and Gerry Adams , I wanted comment from. I did not at any point refuse to show the documents to Sinn Fein.
    On the contrary, I had sent Richard McAuley an e-mail outlining the documents and asked for a meeting to discuss the material more fully. This offer was refused and I was told that Gerry Adams had no time to look at my e-mail.
    When the party did issue a statement to Monday’s Irish Times, it took a somewhat different line from Danny and there has still been no comment at all from Gerry Adams.
    I go into this more fully in the article and I have posted a link below.
    I hope this clarifies matters.

  2. Peter Martin on April 13th, 2009 1:50 pm

    It’s very sad when the record of such significant event as the
    Hunger Strike becomes clouded by bad or purposefully misleading accounts of what happened during that terrible time.
    I was a resident reporter in the North at that time and was filled with despair at the British resistance to what appeared to be very justified demands by the stikers. In truth they were simple and logical demands. Of course they were agreed to after the tragic deaths which makes clear that Prime Minister Thatcher could have granted the demands but wanted to prove how she could stand strong against the prisoners and was content to allow them to die horrible deaths.
    Those men, and Ireland deserve accurate, non political accounts of those events and journalists and historians must meet that challenge.

  3. Paul Larkin on April 13th, 2009 3:05 pm

    Can we return to the basic question of human dignity here?

    As a much younger man, I was in Belfast for part of the hunger strikes. As I remember rightly it was around the time of the death of Martin Hurson (go dtuga Dia suaimhneas ar a anam) and one thing that struck me was the utter grief shown by Sinn Fein people like Tom Hartley (I met Tom personally) and others. It seems to me that there is now an attempt to say that the genuine grief I witnessed was not real and that these same Sinn Fein people were manipulating the whole situation. Any human being who encounters real grief on the part of individuals, or communal grief (what Dostoevksy called “civic grief”) face to face knows it to be true or false. Leaving the politics aside for one moment, I challenge anyone who met Gerry Adams or Danny Morrison face to face during those days to openly say that they did not witness genuine anguish – genuine grief.

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