Thursday, November 03, 2005


The women's prison in the North of Ireland is situated in the centre of the Protestant/Loyalist city of Armagh .
It was built in the 19th century , a huge granite building which today sports all the trappings of a high-security jail such as barbed wire , guards , arc-lamps , and closed circuit television cameras .
First published in the booklet ' STRIP SEARCHES IN ARMAGH JAIL' , produced , in February 1984 , by 'The London Armagh Group' .

Before the 1970's , Armagh Jail was hardly heard of ; it served as hostel/prison/'drying-out' institution for women criminalised for the usual survival 'crimes' such as theft , alcoholism and prostitution . Few prisoners were in the jail : in fact , in 1969 , the total was 8 !

Armagh Jail hit the headlines in 1970 when Bernadette Devlin MP was sentenced to six months for leading the people of the Bogside in Derry against the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) . She was no criminal , nor was she termed one . She carried out her constituency work from her 11 ft by 8ft cell .

A mandatory sentence of six months in jail for anyone whom an RUC member said had been rioting brought a handful of political prisoners to Armagh ; they were allowed two letters per month , one visit per week and no touching of visitors was permitted . Although the Civil Rights Movement had been widely supported internationally and propaganda proclaimed that the British Army was in the North of Ireland to protect Catholics from a bigoted anti-Catholic 'police force' , Catholics - who were perceived as potential Irish nationalists by the Unionists - were gradually being transformed by the propaganda machine into 'the baddies' .

When internment was introduced by them on August 9 , 1971 , the British government locked up hundreds of actual and potential political opponents without any 'crimes' having been proven or even claimed to have been committed .......



Despite the fact that SINN FEIN has been contesting local elections in the 26 counties for more than two decades , much comment has been passed and incorrectly interpreted about Republican involvement in elections - north and south of the British-imposed border - in the past several months .
Here we review Republican interventions in the electoral process for the past century and more .
From 'IRIS' magazine , Volume 1 , Number 2 , November 1981 .

Early in January 1919 , Sinn Fein representatives convened the constituent assembly promised in their election manifesto ; the successful candidates in all Irish constituencies , of whatever political complexion , were invited to take their seats in Dail Eireann at its opening session on 21st January 1919 ; as expected , only the members of parliament elected as Sinn Fein candidates attended .

They approved a provisional constitution , endorsed a declaration of independence , appointed delegates to the Peace Conference in Versailles , sanctioned a message to the free nations of the world and adopted a democratic programme of social and economic reform .

While , initially , merely a de jure government , the 1st Dail were quickly successful in establishing some really workable ministries . In particular , the Ministry of Finance , which raised £358,000 in a ' Dail Eireann National Loan' . By 1920 virtually all local bodies switched their allegiance from the (British) 'Local Government Board' to the Dail Local Government Ministry , and in agriculture , where a Land Bank , which advanced small loans for land purchase , flourished .

The most successful aspect of the 1st Dail machinery was in the system of 'Dail Courts' or 'Sinn Fein Courts' , which made decisions in various spheres from land to criminal activity and which managed to supplant to a very large degree the British judicial system .......


The Gardai had in their possession a clue which could have led them to the O'Grady kidnappers and their captive some ten days earlier .
A card found in a rucksack after the Midleton shoot-out led them directly to the gang once they checked it out - but this was ten days later , by which time John O 'Grady had lost two of his fingers .
First published in 'MAGILL' Magazine , May 1988 .
By Michael O'Higgins .

After being interviewed by Free State Detectives , Tony McNeill was handed notes made out by them and 'invited' to sign them - he declined , and asked that a reference to him 'going down for 25 years' be changed to read 'a long time' . McNeill did'nt want to give the trial judges any ideas .

Gerry Wright was a broken man ; he was arrested immediately after the shoot out at Carnlough Road under Section 30 of The Offences Against The State Act and taken to the Bridewell Station for questioning , where he made statements admitting providing food and shelter for the kidnappers . In the beginning he had become involved because O' Hare and his gang had promised to 'take care' of the man who had shot his brother . As the kidnap progressed the gang had coerced and threatened him , and he was afraid and could see no way out .

27. " Fading , fading , fading fast .. "
It was hard information and very specific - Dessie O' Hare was expected to travel in a green BMW car , registration number 220 EID , on the main Kilkenny to Urlingford road at lunchtime on Friday , November 27 , 1987 . The gardai seem to have got the information around eleven o'clock in the morning . Gardai were recalled from other operational duties and told to report to the Balief Cross , fifteen miles outside Kilkenny to set up a roadblock . The (FS) Army was contacted just after eleven o'clock and asked to provide a company platoon of thirty-two troops as back-up . The roadblock was in position by 12.30 pm .

Nearly an hour later the gardai received a message over the radio to expect the car in the next fifteen to twenty minutes ; there were two garda patrol cars and a (FS) Army landrover blocking the road . Armed gardai and soldiers were in position . Inspector Moriarty from the Tipperary Garda Division and Detective Sergeant P.J. O' Rourke set up a check-point about seventy yards in front of the roadblock . An unmarked patrol car was hidden up a lane further down the road . Once the BMW drove up to the checkpoint the hidden car would move out on the road cutting off its retreat .

They saw the BMW approaching in the distance . " Here we go . This is it , " O' Rourke said to his men .......