was PRO of the Republican prisoners in the H-blocks
of Long Kesh prison during the second hunger strike
brave Irishmen, our blood brothers, had died on
the hunger strike.
were: Bobby Sands MP, Frank Hughes, Raymond McCreesh,
Patsy OHara and Joe McDonnell.
the five men had died, the human rights activist,
Fr Denis Faul, intervened and told the hunger strikers
families that the British had absorbed everything
we had thrown at them and that there was nothing
to be gained in keeping the strike going.
opined that the families should exercise
power of attorney to bring their sons and husbands
off hunger strike as soon as they went into a coma
and, in doing so, save their lives.
Fauls strategy worked.
another five hunger strikers went on to die, a number
of families did intervene to save their loved ones
lives and this made it impossible to maintain the
hunger strike (although not everyone in the prison
leadership was of the view that the hunger strike
could not be sustained).
a result, Fr Faul was vilified by the prisoners.
a statement, issued on behalf of the prisoners and
hunger strikers, he was labelled ... a conniving
penned that statement. I
agreed with its sentiments. At
the time, I, among others, was having serious reservations
about whether the
hunger strike would succeed in
breaking the British.
reservations aside, the one thing I thought that
needed to be constantly reaffirmed was the unity
and determination of the hunger strikers and the
that manifestation of willpower, we were doomed,
a dispirited force.
Fauls intervention wrested control of the
hunger strike out of the IRAs hands.
the summer of 1981 I was an irreducible IRA volunteer.
Win, lose or draw, I believed that, as it was our
comrades who had died and were dying, the IRA, not
someone from outside their sphere of influence,
should keep the power over the crucial decisions.
now deeply regret making that statement.
my book Blanketmen was published, Fr
Faul asked to meet me in a Belfast hotel to discuss
aspects of my book.
our meeting, I apologised to him for
smiled and, putting his hand on mine, he
said: No matter. You did what you thought
was right at the time.
words were spoken in abject humility.
did not detect the slightest trace of ego or resentment
in the man even though he would have been
well within his rights to leather into me for alienating
him from the prisoners whom he understood and loved.
went on to say, which I thought was a magnificent
tribute to his humanity: My conscience is
clear, Richard. I saved lives.
are wrong in saying that Fr Fauls actions
in relation to the hunger strike were reprehensible.
word may have seemed justified in the myopic climate
of 1981 when we were caught up in the emotion of
the hunger strike and could not see the forest for
the trees. But
time has passed. And
if time tells us anything, it is that no matter
what our differences in relation to the hunger strike,
Fr Denis Faul should be held in the highest esteem.
was our hero when he, along with Fathers Murray
and Brady, exposed the torture that took place in
the Holywood and Castlereagh interrogation centres.
made his way to us in Long Kesh every Sunday, year
after year. He
didnt have to do that.
the desolate days of the blanket protest, he smuggled
tobacco, pens etc in to us. He
never once baulked when he was asked to deliver
personal messages to our loved ones. He
never once denied us his compassion.
Faul did save lives. He
saved possibly 10 hunger strikers lives, maybe
certainly indirectly saved many more lives outside
the prison. Without
his intercession we could very well be commemorating
hunger strikers deaths into next year.
is one sobering thought.
am very pleased that I made my peace with Fr Denis
didnt know he had cancer when we met; nor
did he inform me. That
was typical of Denis.
was a true son of Eireann.