Sunday 4 December 2016

Family deny hunger striker pleaded for food before death

Allegations

Published 31/12/2011 | 05:00

THE family of the third H-block hunger striker to die have denied allegations that they intervened to prevent him ending his death fast.

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They also deny that Raymond McCreesh had asked for food in the days before he died.

Relations of the 24-year-old, who died on the 61st day of his hunger strike in the Maze Prison, said statements allegedly made by family members in the 1981 State papers were "falsified".

The files on the 1981 hunger strike contained allegations that McCreesh, a Provisional IRA prisoner from south Armagh, had indicated he would accept nourishment, but family members had stopped any medical intervention.

Last night Malachy McCreesh, Raymond's brother, said they refuted, as they had also done 30 years ago, the allegation they intervened to keep him on the strike. He also denies that Raymond had asked for food.

"The statements attributed to family members in the recently released report of a prison officer are untrue, inaccurate and falsified," he said in a family statement.

Offer

"The family have always been convinced that the situation was deliberately engineered by authorities in Government and the prison service to break the hunger strike.

"Agents of the State abused the extremely vulnerable condition of a dying man for political and propaganda purposes. When their efforts failed they attempted to vilify the family."

Raymond died on May 21, 1981, 16 days after Bobby Sands, the first prisoner to die.

Republicans and friends of Sands yesterday described the allegations that he made an offer to a Papal emissary to suspend his hunger strike just a week before his death as "absurd".

A conversation between Sands and the then Fr John Magee, the personal representative of the Pope who went on to become Bishop of Cloyne, was revealed in the State papers.

A detailed account of a visit to Sands, in which the offer was made, was provided by Fr Magee to Northern Ireland Secretary Humphrey Atkins on behalf of the British Government on April 29, 1981, in Stormont Castle, according to a record of the discussions.

Last night a spokesman for Dr Magee, who resigned as Bishop of Cloyne after a litany of failings in child protection in the diocese were highlighted, told the Irish Independent: "He was appointed by the Pope as an emissary to deal with this matter, which was the whole hunger strike. He then submitted a confidential report to the Vatican."

Jim Gibney, a Sinn Fein member and former republican political prisoner, had visited Sands before his death and described the allegations as "absurd".

"At no stage did he mention to us that he had made this offer or this suggestion to Bishop Magee so I think the basis of that is absolutely bogus," Mr Gibney told RTE Radio.

Danny Morrison, a leading republican, said he was in contact with the people meeting Sands and his family yet this was the first time he had ever heard this mentioned.

"I am suspicious about it. It is the sort of thing if the British knew for certain they would have leaked to undermine the integrity of Bobby Sands," Mr Morrison said, adding it was "incredulous".

Irish Independent

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