Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Murray was accused of sectarianism

Repulican prisoners' representive Father Raymond Murray was criticised by the Northern Ireland Office, 1981 papers have revealed
Repulican prisoners' representive Father Raymond Murray was criticised by the Northern Ireland Office, 1981 papers have revealed

Northern Ireland Office (NIO) officials accused republican prisoners' representative Father Raymond Murray of sectarianism during heated exchanges over the hunger strikes, the archives have revealed.

Fr Murray voiced criticism of alleged lack of work or education opportunities in Armagh women's prison.

An NIO official said his letter written in December 1981 was disappointing and predictably negative. "It is narrow, sectarian and gratuitously offensive to the prison administration," he said.

Fr Murray said: "Your government's attitude to the hunger strike was barbarous in its cruelty, not only to the prisoners and their relatives but to the Catholic community as a whole. We find your attitude not helpful in the political sphere. Your continued intransigence helps the IRA. More humanity and compassion would help us to remove relatives from the influence of paramilitaries."

A separate NIO briefing document would appear to support this, warning a new generation of children had been infected with rampant Anglophobia following the hunger strikes.

It said some believed public morale was at an all-time low, with new recruits for the IRA and people becoming more anti-British.

"New heroes and myths have been created and new wounds opened which will take years to heal," the document said. "For their part, Protestants will never easily forgive or forget Sands' election or the trimming statements by the Catholic leaders, lay and clerical."

In a separate report, officials expressed forthright views on another of the key republican go-betweens.

Monsignor Denis Faul was an "unguided moral missile" and a "considerable thorn in our flesh", an NIO analysis of the clergyman said during the dispute.

An official from the department said the priest was sympathetic to the aims of republicans but had come to believe the hunger strikes were hopeless and tried to persuade their relatives to help end the protests. "He was largely responsible for the revolt of the relatives in July that led to pressure being put on Gerry Adams to order the prisoners off their fast," said the NIO civil servant.

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