Today, in the Sunday Times, an article has appeared which sheds light on negotiations which were apparently taking place in 1981 before the deaths of the last 6 hunger strikers.
Papers released suggest that the Government was ready to meet the substance of the hunger striker’s demands. The Times asks the question“
Did five, or even six, of the republican prisoners who were on hunger strike in the Maze prison in 1981 die to advance the political strategy of Sinn Fein?”
The suggestion, which could be looked upon as an accusation, is effectively asking if Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein deliberately allowed hunger strikers to lose their lives to enable that party to benefit electorally.
Unless you are a republican, you are unlikely to have liked the idea that the hunger strikers were glorified as martyrs. It is also very unpleasant that Margaret Thatcher has been unjustly demonized within the republican community.
Should we be gloating about a revelation that might make Gerry Adams feel uncomfortable? I don’t think it is particularly helpful. Republicans may feel the need to question the need to follow the mythology which has built up around the hunger strikers. That is really a matter for them.
The incontrovertible truth about those events is that behind the demands of the hunger strikers and the official response of the UK Government not to give in, there was political calculation on both sides. Once that perspective is established and accepted and once the objective of that calculation is understood, it is not so easy to be negative about Margaret Thatcher. Indeed, it says a lot that after 19 years since she left office, her reputation as a great prime minister and world statesperson remains intact.