Wednesday 21 February 2018

Thatcher and the hunger strikes

In the 30 years that have passed since the 1981 H-Block hunger strikes, Margaret Thatcher's status as Irish republicanism's number one hate figure has been unchallenged. According to republican mythology, the former British prime minister was personally responsible for the deaths of 10 IRA and INLA hunger strikers during that awful summer of 30 years ago.

A further twist was added to this historical grudge match when the Provisional IRA attempted to murder Mrs Thatcher and her cabinet at the 1984 Conservative Party conference in Brighton.

Now UK state papers for 1981, which have just been released under the 30-year rule, allow us to view the hunger strikes through the eyes of the British government for the first time. These papers show that the British government was prepared to offer the hunger strikers a wide range of concessions. The papers also show that details of these concessions were conveyed through well-established back-channels to the prisoners and the IRA leadership.

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