Probe ’81 deal claim ex-INLA man says
By Allison Morris
A FORMER Belfast councillor who represented the interests of INLA prisoners during the 1981 Hunger Strike has backed calls for an inquiry into controversial claims the protest was allowed to continue for political gain.
Former INLA inmate Sean Flynn said he thought enough evidence had come to light to warrant further investigation into the deaths of 10 republicans, including three INLA men.
During the republican prison protests Mr Flynn was spokes-man for the INLA prisoners.
He was one of two IRSP candidates elected to Belfast City Council in 1981 but served only half of his four-year term after going on the run to the Republic when he was implicated in paramilitary activity on the word of supergrass Harry Kirkpatrick.
Speaking from his north Belfast home the 61-year-old, who is no longer active in politics, said: “I’ve no agenda and I’m certainly not coming at this from a Sinn Fein bashing angle.
“I can only say what I know from my experiences at the time.”
Mr Flynn claimed he received a call on July 5 1981 from the NIO telling him it was imperative that he visited the jail that day.
By that time four prisoners had already died including INLA man Patsy O’Hara.
“The caller said he was from the NIO and that it had been arranged for me to gain entry to the jail,” he said.
“I did see Danny Morrison (the IRA prisoners’ spokes-man) that day and I don’t know if he saw me, he would have to answer that himself.
“They took me through the door the screws used and straight to the hospital.
“I spoke to Kevin Lynch. Micky Devine was at that point still being held in the blocks as he wouldn’t have been sick enough yet to be moved to the hospital.
“What I can say for absolute certainty is that the INLA and the IRSP were not made aware of the Mountain Climber negotiations or any proposed deal.
“I spoke to Kevin Lynch that day and he also didn’t know or he would have mentioned it.
“I have no idea if Danny Morrison told the IRA prisoners of an offer, I can only speak for our men and they didn’t know.
“Something was obviously going on or else why would the NIO have contacted me?”
Mr Flynn said the INLA prisoners had been denied the opportunity of making up their own minds on whether the Mountain Climber offer from the British government was worth accepting.
“There is also no way of knowing whether our prisoners would have been willing to accept an offer. I’ve been told that it was pretty close to the five demands,” he said.
Sean Flynn was to later give an oration at the funeral of Kevin Lynch in Dungiven, Co Derry, following his death on August 1 after 71 days on hunger strike. He was the seventh person to die.
“Look, I know that there is a lot of speculation and misinformation going about,” Mr Flynn said.
“What I will say is that Sinn Fein do need to answer some basic questions.
“Was there an offer and if so why were the IRSP not informed and given a chance to look it over? “In that respect I would support recent calls for an inquiry,” he said.
Mr. Flynn is the latest in a long and growing list of people who were intimately involved in the Hunger Strike and who believe that an independent inquiry should be convened. Such an inquiry should end any controversy and provide the necessary closure to all of the families of these 10 valiant young men.
Several victim advocate agencies in the North of Ireland have, very justifiably, campaigned for years for the establishment of an independent truth commission to investigate collusion in the murders of Irish Nationalists at the hands of Loyalist death squads. Why then would anybody oppose seeking the truth about this very tragic event?