Negotiating the Irish Hunger Strike of 1981

I have uploaded a preprint of an article I published originally in the Sunday Business Post [Dublin] on 1 January 2012:  Sun Bus Post jan 1 art Hunger Strike

Here is an extract:

Brendan Duddy's scribbled notes of a telephone conversation during the hunger strike negotiations of 1981.

Brendan Duddy’s scribbled notes of a telephone conversation during the hunger strike negotiations of 1981.

“…Duddy’s papers, deposited at NUI Galway and available to researchers later this month, show that communication through this channel aimed at resolving the prison dispute did not end when the first hunger strike was called off in December 1980. Instead, contact stretched into January 1981 as attempts were made to settle the dispute on the basis of the document the British government had sent in to the prisoners on 18 December 1980. On 3 January 1981 Duddy flew to London for a meeting with a senior British official in the Park Lane Hotel. According to notes for a memoir that Duddy wrote some years later, the British official he met there told him that the December 1980 document provided the basis for a settlement and that no more would be available from the British government. Duddy records that the British gave repeated reassurances during this period that progress would be made and insisted that patience was required on the part of the Provisionals.
Duddy’s papers also indicate that by January 1981 he was dealing not with Michael Oatley, the MI6 agent most prominently associated with this communication, but with a senior British official code-named Tom. It was almost exclusively with Tom that Duddy dealt during the spring and summer of 1981. It was not the first time that Tom had been involved in this secret channel of communication. Throughout much of the IRA ceasefire of 1975 Tom had been in charge of the secret contacts with the Provisional leadership. It was not the first time either that Tom and Duddy had negotiated on a hunger strike. It was Tom who had been at the other end of the line in late 1975 and early 1976 as Duddy unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate an end to the hunger strike of IRA prisoner Frank Stagg.”

A selection of documents from the Duddy papers, including the full text of the ‘Red Book’ are online at


About niallodoc

Senior Lecturer in the School of Political Science and Sociology at the National University of Ireland Galway
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