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Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-block Hunger Strike Paperback – 1 Feb 2005
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One of the most important books to emerge from the Troubles, and definitely the most courageous. --The Sunday Times
Richard O'Rawe deserves praise for charging one of the most cynical leaderships anywhere in this island with manipulating the courage and determination of the hunger strikers. --The Guardian
You are reading an insider account and you are left reeling. There is a wealth of detail here that remains in the mind long after the book is put away. --Nell McCafferty, Derry Journal --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Richard O'Rawe is a former IRA prisoner and was Provisional IRA press officer in Long Kesh Prison in 1981. After his release he worked as a Sinn Féin Press officer. Richard lives in west Belfast. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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He tells of the pressure he felt seeing his mates slowly starving themselves to death to uphold their principles and the fight for their right to political status. Fresh insights are given into the machinations of the republican leadership for which the author is refreshingly open and critical.
O'Rawes book shines with a masculine humanity and camaradarie, without a trace of self pity, that cannot be beaten even in the most desperate of circumstances.
By any standards this is a well written and important memoir.
However, O'Rawe also raises the controversial subject of whether the hunger strike could possibly have been brought to an earlier end if the Army Council had been preapred to do so. This difficult issue has been extensively discussed, and many people, most notably Danny Morrison, have contradicted O'Rawe's assessment.
Of course, the "common reader" will not be able to decide where the truth ultimately lies. One thing is for sure, though, O'Rawe's account is honest, direct and - by raising that most difficult issue - deeply disturbing.
having read his follow up book AFTERLIVES and reading how he has been vindicated by former blanketmen in the h blocks during the same period as blanketmen covers i have no doubt that this book is the real truth about what happened during the second hunger strike and how the last five hunger strikers died for nothing else but for the five that went before them and the rise of sinn fein in politics in ulster.
the recent disclosure of offical goverment papers has also lent great weight to o`rawes book and as a loyalist from west belfast who lived through this period i know what personnal courage it must have taken him to write this book and to let the world know the real truth about these brave mens death
His vision of the nightmare of the Blocks is well written and convincing.What he has to say about the direction of the hunger strikes is even more so,and partially confirmed by documents published by the British goverment after the original publication.
Put simply,O'Rawe argues that the prisoners on hunger strike were offered a deal by the British after the fourth hunger strike death in the summer of 1981.the deal was asa good as it was going to be,and the prisoners knew that the alternative was the converyor belt of dead hunger strikers continuing.He argues that the leadership outside the prison vetoed the deal and six more prisoners died before more or less the same deal was accepted in October 1981.
Why?Well,the hunger strikes had tapped into a vein of republicanism that expressed itself in voting,obvious examples being Bobby Sands and two prisoners elected to the Irish Dail.the by-election to replace Sands was in August,so if the hunger strikes were ongoing,it gave a republican a very good chance of election. 6 dead prisoners for a real live MP? Politics is not a sentimental business.
No wonder O'Rawe was subject to such hostility.On the other hand,the truth is frequently painful.
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