The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Death Brings Fr Faul

Anthony McIntyre • Irish News, 4 July 2006

After the conclusion of the 1981 Hunger Strike I and many other republican prisoners came to reject Denis Faul. Although the bulk of us were not church goers we insisted that all republicans boycott his Masses on our wings.

Hooked on our own approved line, we blamed him for bringing the Hunger Strike to a premature end before it forced the hand of the Brits and the restoration of political status.

It hurt him deeply.

Given the enormous support he afforded us throughout the years of prison protest he must have felt let down at our hostility and our need to find a scapegoat. From that point on his criticisms of our movement seemed to be much more acerbic. He came to see us as fascists. Yet the true measure of the man was to be found in his incessant campaigning against those who treated us unjustly.

I first met Denis Faul in 1974 in Cage 10 of Long Kesh when he was hearing confessions. Then he was an iconic figure in my mind as a result of the tremendous work he had done in bringing to light British injustices. And this great man was hearing the confession of a 17-year-old. I felt honoured.

When I returned to prison there he was again. By now I wasn’t going to confession but he would be available for those who were and to preach the gospel.

During the Blanket protest he was a regular on Sundays to celebrate Mass in the prison canteen. We all went. It was the only time we could associate with each other. Denis made no secret of the fact that he was an inveterate smuggler. Pulling clingfilm-clad tobacco from his socks he ensured that Sunday nights were a source of relief for those who derived pleasure from a smoke.

An avid football fan, he told us the scores of all the games and it was from him that we first learned of that illustrious name Diego Maradona. It was amazing how we could follow the football so avidly within the prison despite never reading a match report, watching a game on TV, or listening to it on radio. Denis was largely responsible for that.

The Sunday before Bobby Sands died he told us that our resilient comrade had fallen into a coma.

We knew then it was over for Bobby.

Our hopes, that had been so built up by his capturing the Fermanagh/South Tyrone seat, crumbled as we listened to Denis. Nothing now was going to intervene and save the life of this pre-eminent IRA leader. Brendan Hughes’s announcement two days later that Bobby had slipped away was something we were mentally prepared for. It was devastating nonetheless.

As the Hunger Strike ploughed forward it should have begun to look ominously like First World War soldiers storming trenches they could never hope to take.

Ourselves alone failed to see it.

Our emotions were bizarre. I had one punch-the-air moment during the entire thing, when Laurence McKeown’s mother intervened to take him off it.

Yet, absurdly, I continued to think that carrying on with the strike was the only option. There was neither rhyme nor reason to it at that point. We could not go forward and there was no going back.

I do not blame our determination on our own supposed recalcitrant personalities or any fanaticism that was then attributed to us. It was an attitude tempered in the vicious crucible of the H-Blocks. But something had to break the cycle of prisoner deaths and families’ despair. That something was a man called Denis. He moved to bring a halt to it.

In doing so he saved the lives of many great men.

It took some years to come to terms with and some have still not. In many ways it took his death to bring him the vindication he so deeply deserved.

It came in the form of an intensely moving letter to The Irish News from a relative of a dead hunger striker. The writer simply said: “we asked Fr Faul to help us bring an end to the dreadful and unnecessary hunger strike”.

When first diagnosed with cancer he said he hoped he would reach the age of 84, the innings his father achieved. I hoped it too. It was not to be.

Standing at his graveside last week in Carrickmore, one of three former Blanket men, I felt that we had come to bury a fourth.


































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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

19 July 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Dupe Process
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Heatwave Won't Affect Cold Storage
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Hanson's Handouts
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Israeli State Terror
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Judgement Day
John Kennedy

Israel, US and the New Orientalism
M. Shahid Alam

The Right, the Need to Resist
Mick Hall

An Invitation to My Neighborhood
Fred A Wilcox

Prison Fast

Death Brings Fr Faul
Anthony McIntyre

Risking the Death of Volunteers is Not the IRA Way
Brendan Hughes

Principles and Tactics
Liam O Ruairc

The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Preliminary Hearings Cont'd.
Marcella Sands

The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Rupert's Reward
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The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Rupert's Inconsistencies
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Blast from the Past
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An Elegant End
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West Belfast - The Past, the Present and the Future
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9 July 2006

Father Faul Saved Many Lives
Richard O'Rawe

Richard O'Rawe, PSF, and Events in 1981
Gerard Foster

Looking Back on 1981
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Haughey and the National Question
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Brits Not to Blame for Haughey
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Euston Manifesto: Yesterday's News
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Considering A Multi-Faceted Approach to the Middle East
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Book Better Than Its Title
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Crowning Mr Unionist
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Extra Time Will Not Be Decisive
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'Pretty Much a Busted Flush'
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John Kennedy

Just Books Web-launch
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The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Omagh, David Rupert, MI5 & FBI Collusion
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The Framing of Michael McKevitt
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The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Preliminary Hearings
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Jury Duty Free State
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Even the Obnoxious
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