Newly-released State Papers from 1981 claim that Bobby Sands offered to suspend his hunger strike just a week before his death.
According to the documents released this morning under the 30-year rule, the offer was conveyed to the British government by the Pope’s Secretary, John Magee.
Government archives in Dublin, Belfast and London opened today, giving new insights into the events of 1981.
The year was dominated by the H-Block hunger strikes in Northern Ireland, in which ten men committed suicide, starting with Bobby Sands.
The papers contain the claim that just a week before his death, Sands offered to suspend his strike for five days, when he met Fr Magee, then secretary to the Pontiff, who later became Bishop of Cloyne.
Fr Magee told Northern Secretary Humphrey Atkins that Sands said he would suspend his strike in return for discussions with a British government official, in the presence of two priests and three other prisoners as witnesses.
The British rejected the offer out of hand, claiming it was an attempt to open negotiations.
Senior Republicans involved in the hunger strike have told RTÉ News they had never heard of such an offer, which they say went against everything Sands did and said during the hunger strike.
WOW! just WOW!
What I have read here goes against every thing that Steve McQueen’s HUNGER has taught me.
HUNGER is a film funded by co-funded by Channel 4, Film4 Productions ironically after funding was turned down by the Irish Film Board.
The film is notable for an unbroken 17-minute shot, which has been mentioned to be one of the greatest film scenes in film history, in which a priest played by Liam Cunningham tries to talk Bobby Sands out of his protest. In it, the camera remains in the same position for the duration of the shot.
This it appears is now according to Government archives in Dublin, Belfast and London a load of “ol BOLLOX” to use a Longkesh phrase.
What? , I hear you cry Dear Reader Channel 4 that esteemed institution Channel 4 who employ such moral guardians as
Being involved in untruths and propaganda? SURELY NOT?
But that is exactly what Steve McQueens hunger is Propaganda nonsense that sets out to deify a cold blooded killer Brainwashed, sectarian, racially motivated terrorist pawn Bobby Sands.
It is to the struggle what Mel Gibsons BRAVEHEART is to Scottish independence. A politically motivated flight of fancy.
The “Murder” of Pope John Paul I
In his own words, Magee recounted the surrounding events and death of Pope John Paul I, explaining that he found the pope dead in his bed on the morning on 28 September 1978 (Lighthouse Catholic Media, NRP, 2008, entitled “Untold Stories of the Last Three Popes”). While Magee was the first to summon assistance, he explains that the nun who served him coffee each morning was, in fact, the first to discover the pope dead, when she realised he had not opened the door to accept his morning beverage (Lighthouse Catholic Media, NRP, 2008, entitled “Untold Stories of the Last Three Popes”).
In a radio interview in 1990, RTÉ religious affairs correspondent Kieron Wood asked Magee why he had claimed that he found the body of the dead Pope, when it was then public knowledge that the body had been found by a nun. “I did find the body of His Holiness”, he replied. “I just didn’t find it first.”
Sexual abuse scandal in Cloyne diocese
In December 2008, Bishop Magee found himself at the centre of a controversy concerning his handling of child sex abuse cases by clergy in the diocese of Cloyne. There were calls for his resignation, and on 7 March 2009 he announced that at his request the Pope had placed the running of the diocese in the hands of Dermot Clifford, metropolitan archbishop of the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, to whose ecclesiastical province the diocese of Cloyne belongs. Magee remained Bishop of Cloyne, but withdrew from its administration in order, he said, to dedicate his full time to the matter of the inquiry. On 24 March 2010 it was announced by the Holy See that Bishop Magee had formally resigned from his duties as Bishop of Cloyne and was now bishop emeritus.
The subsequent report of the Irish government judicial inquiry, The Cloyne Report, published on 13 July 2011, found that former Bishop Magee had falsely told the Government and the HSE in a previous inquiry that the diocese was reporting all allegations of clerical child sexual abuse to the civil authorities.
The inquiry into Cloyne – the fourth examination of clerical abuse in the Church in Ireland – found the greatest flaw in the diocese was repeated failure to report all complaints. It found nine allegations out of 15 were not passed on to the Garda.
Speaking in August 2011 Magee said that he felt “horrified and ashamed” by abuse in his diocese. Magee said he accepted “full responsibility” for the findings. He added that “I feel ashamed that this happened under my watch – it shouldn’t have and I truly apologise,” he said. “I did endeavour and I hoped that those guidelines that I issued in a booklet form to every person in the diocese were being implemented but I discovered they were not and that is my responsibility.”
Magee also offered to meet abuse victims and apologised “on bended knee”. “I beg forgiveness, I am sorry and I wish to say that if they wish to come and see me privately I will speak with them and offer my deepest apology,” he said. Bishop Magee said he had been “truly horrified” when he read the full extent of the abuse in the report. However, the victim said apologies would “never go far enough”. “It’s too late for us now, the only thing it’s not too late for is that maybe there will be a future where people will be more enlightened, more aware and protect their children better,” she said. Asked about restitution for victims, Dr Magee said it was a matter for the Cloyne Diocese.
Sexual abuse in Cloyne diocese
The sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cloyne was investigated by the Commission of Investigation, Dublin Archdiocese, Catholic Diocese of Cloyne, examining how allegations of sexual abuse of children in the diocese were dealt with by the church and state. The investigation was led by Judge Yvonne Murphy, The Cloyne Report, and published in July 2011. The inquiry was ordered to look at child protection practices in the diocese and how it dealt with complaints against 19 priests made from 1996.
Misrepresentation by Bishop Magee
In February 2008, the Irish Government referred two allegations of child sex abuse to the National Board for Safeguarding Children, an independent supervisory body established by the Irish bishops, led by Mr Ian Elliot. When the chief executive of that body made contact with the diocese on the matter, he was met with lack of co-operation. Meetings held with Bishop John Mageeand representatives of the diocese in March failed to elicit his full co-operation with the National Board for Child Protection’s investigation. As per BBC News, “The report found that Bishop John Magee falsely told the government and the health service that his diocese was reporting all abuse allegations to authorities. It also found that the bishop deliberately misled another inquiry and his own advisors by creating two different accounts of a meeting with a priest suspecting of abusing a child, one for the Vatican and the other for diocesan files”.
In April 2008, Justine McCarthy, a journalist with the Sunday Tribune, broke the story of the impending scandal in the diocese of Cloyne. There followed a number of hastily arranged meetings between Magee, Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan, (the Vicar General of Cloyne), and Dean Eamon Gould with representatives of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church(or Safeguarding for short). These resulted in O’Callaghan handing over documentation concerning the two cases referred by the Irish Government to Safeguarding.
On 28 June 2008, Ian Elliot, the chief executive officer of Safeguarding, completed a damning report on the handling of both cases by Magee, by his delegate for Child Protection, O’Callaghan, and by his inter-diocesan case management committee. The Elliot Report was examined by that case management committee on 9 July 2008, and it adopted a position threatening Elliot and Safeguarding with legal action were they to publish the Report. In the meantime, Elliot passed the report to the Irish Government and to the minister for Children, Barry Andrews who did not read the report but passed it to the Health Service Executive to compile another report on it.
In December 2008, Deputy Sean Sherlock of the Labour Party raised the matter in the press and demanded a Dáil discussion of the handling of Child Sex Abuse in Cloyne. Further press coverage led to the publication of the Elliott Report by Bishop Magee on 19 December 2008. The contents of the Report were shocking and concluded that Bishop Magee’s actions, and those of his agent’s in this area, were inadequate and in some respects were dangerous.
There followed a chorus of demands for Bishop Magee’s resignation. The demands were renewed in January 2009 with the publication of the HSE Report commissioned by the Minister for Children which uncovered a number of other cases which had not been reported to the authorities or dealt with according to self-regulatory procedures. The Minister rejected a recommendation of the Health Executive Service report that the Cloyne case not be referred to the Dublin Tribunal of Investigation into Child Abuse and, following a Cabinet meeting held on 7 January, he referred Cloyne to the Dublin Tribunal which published a report in November 2009.
It now remains to be seen whether a member of the public will make complaint to An Garda Síochána (Gaelic: Guard of the Peace) against Bishop Magee and/or Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan under the terms of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 which provides for a new offence of reckless endangerment of children. This came into effect on 1 August 2006.
This offence may be committed by a person who has authority or control over a child or an abuser and who intentionally or recklessly endangers a child by:
Causing or permitting any child to be placed or left in a situation which creates a substantial risk to the child of being a victim of serious harm or sexual abuse or failing to take reasonable steps to protect a child from such a risk while knowing that the child is in such a situation. This offence may be prosecuted only by the Director of Public Prosecutions. The penalty is a fine (no upper limit) and/or a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.
In January 2009, Magee apologised to victims of clerical sex abuse after a report compiled by the Health Service Executive (HSE) found his diocese had put children at risk of harm through an “inability” to respond appropriately to abuse allegations. In spite of “a large number of calls for his resignation” the Bishop signalled his intention to remain.
Further analysis in January 2009 suggested that the bishop and diocese staff were sparing with details of allegations, and that Bishop Magee might have to resign, but also that the Irish government had not yet legislated for all the improvements in the law of evidence that were called for in the Ferns Report of 2005.
Intervention by Rome
On 7 March 2009 Pope Benedict appointed Archbishop Dermot Clifford of Cashel and Emly as apostolic administrator of the Cloyne diocese, though Bishop Magee remained Bishop in title. Bishop Magee requested that the Pope take this action on 4 February. Bishop Magee said that he would use the time to “devote the necessary time and energy to cooperating fully with the government Commission of Inquiry into child protection practices and procedures in the diocese of Cloyne”. In accordance with canon law, an apostolic administrator is named for an open-ended interim period. Bishop Magee’s resignation was formally accepted by the Vatican on 24 March 2010.
Judicial Inquiry report, July 2011
Due to the success of the 2009 Murphy Report, a judicial inquiry into the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin, the same team was reappointed to investigate allegations surrounding the diocese of Cloyne. Its remit included investigating the state’s health and policing practices as well as the Church itself. Judge Murphy’s Inquiry issued its report on 13 July 2011. The findings of fact included that:
Two-thirds of abuse allegations made in 1996–2009 were not passed on to the Garda, as required by the Church’s 1996 guidelines
In a secret letter the Vatican described the Irish bishops’ 1996 guidelines to be a “study document”, and not a binding set of rules
Bishop Magee had misled the former inquiries by the Health Service Executive (HSE) in 2009
An accusation against Bishop Magee himself was dismissed; another 18 priests were named using pseudonyms
Taoiseach and other reaction
On 20 July 2011 Taoiseach Enda Kenny criticised the Vatican, deploring “the dysfunction, disconnection and elitism that dominates the culture of the Vatican to this day” The Vatican reacted “to evidence of humiliation and betrayal … with the gimlet eye of a Canon lawyer[, a] calculated, withering position.” He also told the Dáil that “the historic relationship between church and state in Ireland could not be the same again. The rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation.”
In a televised interview, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin deplored a “cabal” in the Church that still refused to recognise Vatican rules on child protection.
Alan Shatter, the Minister for Justice and Equality, said that “.. it is difficult to read the Cloyne Report and avoid despair. ..The report’s findings are unambiguous. It is severely critical of the Diocese of Cloyne. The diocese’s response to complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse in the period from 1996 up to 2008 was totally inadequate and inappropriate.”
Head of the Holy See Press Office Federico Lombardi, speaking on a personal basis, said it was “.. somewhat strange to see the Vatican criticised so heavily”. Regarding the 1997 letter that suggested that the 1996 bishops’ child protection guidelines amounted only to a “study document”, he added that “There is no motive to interpret the letter in the way it has been, as an attempt to cover up cases of abuse. There is nothing in the letter which suggests not respecting the laws of the land.”
The Cloyne diocese commented that the 11 priests considered abusive in recent decades worked among 415 priests about whom no complaints were made.