The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Father Faul Saved Many Lives

Richard O'Rawe • Irish News, Letters, 7 July 2006

I was PRO of the Republican prisoners in the H-blocks of Long Kesh prison during the second hunger strike in 1981.

Five brave Irishmen, our blood brothers, had died on the hunger strike.

They were: Bobby Sands MP, Frank Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Patsy O’Hara and Joe McDonnell.

After the five men had died, the human rights activist, Fr Denis Faul, intervened and told the hunger strikers’ families that the British had absorbed everything we had thrown at them and that there was nothing to be gained in keeping the strike going.

He opined that the families should exercise power of attorney to bring their sons and husbands off hunger strike as soon as they went into a coma and, in doing so, save their lives.

Fr Faul’s strategy worked.

While another five hunger strikers went on to die, a number of families did intervene to save their loved ones’ lives and this made it impossible to maintain the hunger strike (although not everyone in the prison leadership was of the view that the hunger strike could not be sustained).

As a result, Fr Faul was vilified by the prisoners.

In a statement, issued on behalf of the prisoners and hunger strikers, he was labelled “... a conniving priest”.

I penned that statement. I agreed with its sentiments. At the time, I, among others, was having serious reservations about whether the hunger strike would succeed in breaking the British.

But, reservations aside, the one thing I thought that needed to be constantly reaffirmed was the unity and determination of the hunger strikers and the blanketmen. Without that manifestation of willpower, we were doomed, a dispirited force.

Fr Faul’s intervention wrested control of the hunger strike out of the IRA’s hands.

During the summer of 1981 I was an irreducible IRA volunteer. Win, lose or draw, I believed that, as it was our comrades who had died and were dying, the IRA, not someone from outside their sphere of influence, should keep the power over the crucial decisions.

I now deeply regret making that statement.

After my book Blanketmen was published, Fr Faul asked to meet me in a Belfast hotel to discuss aspects of my book.

At our meeting, I apologised to him for the statement.

He smiled and, putting his hand on mine, he said: “No matter. You did what you thought was right at the time.”

Those words were spoken in abject humility.

I did not detect the slightest trace of ego or resentment in the man – even though he would have been well within his rights to leather into me for alienating him from the prisoners whom he understood and loved.

He went on to say, which I thought was a magnificent tribute to his humanity: “My conscience is clear, Richard. I saved lives.”

Republicans are wrong in saying that Fr Faul’s actions in relation to the hunger strike were ‘reprehensible’.

That word may have seemed justified in the myopic climate of 1981 when we were caught up in the emotion of the hunger strike and could not see the forest for the trees. But time has passed. And if time tells us anything, it is that no matter what our differences in relation to the hunger strike, Fr Denis Faul should be held in the highest esteem.

He was our hero when he, along with Fathers Murray and Brady, exposed the torture that took place in the Holywood and Castlereagh interrogation centres.

He made his way to us in Long Kesh every Sunday, year after year. He didn’t have to do that.

In the desolate days of the blanket protest, he smuggled tobacco, pens etc in to us. He never once baulked when he was asked to deliver personal messages to our loved ones. He never once denied us his compassion.

Fr Faul did save lives. He saved possibly 10 hunger strikers’ lives, maybe more. He certainly indirectly saved many more lives outside the prison. Without his intercession we could very well be commemorating hunger strikers’ deaths into next year.

That is one sobering thought.

I am very pleased that I made my peace with Fr Denis Faul. I didn’t know he had cancer when we met; nor did he inform me. That was typical of Denis.

He was a true son of Eireann.

































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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

9 July 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Father Faul Saved Many Lives
Richard O'Rawe

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

Looking Back on 1981
Anthony McIntyre

Haughey and the National Question
Maria McCann

Brits Not to Blame for Haughey
David Adams

John Kennedy

Euston Manifesto: Yesterday's News
Mick Hall

Considering A Multi-Faceted Approach to the Middle East
Mehdi Mozaffari

Book Better Than Its Title
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Crowning Mr Unionist
Dr John Coulter

Extra Time Will Not Be Decisive
David Adams

'Pretty Much a Busted Flush'
Anthony McIntyre

John Kennedy

Just Books Web-launch
Jason Brannigan

The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Omagh, David Rupert, MI5 & FBI Collusion
Marcella Sands

The Framing of Michael McKevitt
Marcella Sands

The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Preliminary Hearings
Marcella Sands

Jury Duty Free State
Dolours Price

Even the Obnoxious
Anthony McIntyre

2 July 2006

Anthony McIntyre

Salvaging History from Defeat
Forum Magazine Editorial

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
Dolours Price

Monsignor Denis Faul: Tribute
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh

Protest Continues in Maghaberry
Republican Prisoners Action Group (RPAG) statement

Where the Wind Blows
Dr John Coulter

What's Shaking
John Kennedy

Left, Right, Left, Right Wrong
Mick Hall

Irish Democracy, A Framework for Unity
Francis Mackey

The Peace Progress and the State
Davy Carlin

'The Church Brought to its Knees': Two books on Catholic Ireland's retreat
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Somme Battle Conspiracy
Dr John Coulter

March March March
John Kennedy

What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander!
Patrick Hurley

Sovereignty Movement Condemns Racist Attacks
Andy Martin, 32 CSM

Greens Propose Plastic Bag Tax to Help Fund Environment Watchdog
Green Party Press Release

The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Introduction
Marcella Sands

The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Garda Harassment & Eventual Sitch-up
Marcella Sands

Dolours Price

Judas 118 or DUP Strategy of Subversion?
Anthony McIntyre



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