A top British official has finally put to rest a conspiracy theory that a settlement in the Bobby Sands hunger strike stand-off was refused by Sinn Féin's leaders and that refusal caused other hunger strikers to die needlessly.
Former H Block prisoner Richard O’Rawe has long held that a deal was ignored on the eve of the death of the fifth hunger striker Joe McDonnell.
O’Rawe has stated that the “British government had made an offer to end the hunger strike in the days before the fifth hunger striker, Joe McDonnell, died” and that he and other senior figures wanted to accept it but their effort to do so was denied.
However, it has been revealed that Sir John Blelloch, a top British administrator and MI5 operative at the time, told historian Pádraig O'Malley that no such deal was on offer ever. That interview, done some time ago, has now come to light.
The Bobby Sands Trust website noted that “Blelloch, the deputy under-secretary at the Ministry of Defence (in reality, a senior MI5 officer), had been the key advisor to Prisons Minister Michael Allison during the hunger strikes.
"Blelloch bluntly says ‘No’ to the question of whether there was scope for an accommodation, stating that there was too huge a gulf between the Thatcher government’s position and the prisoners’ demands... In the interview Blelloch rubbished such claims that the British government compromised or softened its position before the death of Joe McDonnell.
”He said: “I think I would like to come back to the fundamentals here. There was absolutely no change in the government’s position on why it stood where it was, what was available to the prisoners and, insofar as one could say this in advance, what would happen as the protest ended. That position remained in all material respects, unchanged.”
Sinn Féin critics in the media have long maintained the hunger strike could have been called off and McDonnell's life saved. This new evidence seems to demolish that belief.