Monday, June 1, 2020

the last book I ever read (Patrick Radden Keefe's Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, excerpt fourteen)

from Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe:

In the summer of 1981, after Bobby Sands and three other hunger strikers had died, O’Rawe was helping to lead negotiations from inside the prison. According to O’Rawe, the prisoners received a secret offer from Margaret Thatcher that would have granted almost all of their demands. It wasn’t a complete capitulation, but it guaranteed that they would be able to wear their own clothes—one of their chief requirements—as well as other key concessions. O’Rawe and another negotiator smuggled a message to the Provo leadership outside the prison, indicating that they were inclined to accept the British offer and call an end to the strike. But word came back from the outside—specifically, from Gerry Adams—that what Thatcher was proposing was not enough, so the strikers should hold out.

Six more men died before the strike concluded. The public narrative had always maintained that it was the prisoners themselves who insisted on persevering with the strike, and O’Rawe had never spoken out to question this version of history, deferring to what he came to think of as the “carefully scripted myths” that had solidified around these dramatic events. But privately, he felt enormous guilt for not standing up at the time and being more forceful. He wondered why Adams and those around him would have sustained the strike rather than take an offer that the men on the inside had been prepared to accept.

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