Monday, November 07, 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' .

There were over 1,600 political prisoners in the jails in the North of Ireland and this fact was becoming a severe embarrassment to the British government ; attempts were underway to abolish Special Category Status .

While the men set fire to parts of Long Kesh prison , the women in Armagh Jail held a successful blockade of prison officers until Merlyn Rees , the then British 'Secretary of State for Northern Ireland' , gave an assurance that political status would not be tampered with ; that 'assurance' was to prove meaningless and , with the removal of Special Category Status , the (British) Labour Government began the process of 'criminalisation' in 1976 .

All prisoners convicted of 'offences' committed after March 1 , 1976 , were denied political status and classified as 'criminals' ! The Prisoners were now expected to do prison work ; in Long Kesh , 'criminalisation' also meant that male prisoners had to wear prison uniform . In September 1976 , Kieran Nugent refused to wear prison uniform and began the 'Blanket Protest' . The women in Armagh refused to do prison work . The protesting prisoners in Armagh and Long Kesh had begun a struggle for the recognition of their political status which was to end in the deaths of the hunger strikers five years later (ie 1981) .

The British policy of 'criminalisation' was part of a new three-pronged strategy ; the other two aspects were 'Ulsterisation' and 'Normalisation' .......



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 .

The British 'Better Government of Ireland Bill' came nominally into force on May 3rd , 1921 ; on May 19th , the first Catholic Viceroy of Ireland , 'Lord' Fitzalan , came into office ; he issued a proclamation summoning the 'parliament of Northern Ireland' and the 'parliament of Southern Ireland' to meet in June 1921 . Elections were to take place in the twenty-six counties on May 19th , 1921 and in the six counties on May 24th . The House of Commons of 'Northern Ireland' was to have fifty two members , while that of 'Southern Ireland' was to have one hundred and twenty eight members . The six counties were to be entitled to sent thirteen M.P.'s to Westminster , and the twenty-six counties were to send thirty-three .

While Sinn Fein rejected the 'Better Government of Ireland Act' it fought the elections on the premise that they were to take place as demonstrations of the peoples will (as decreed by the Dail) and were to be regarded as elections for the Second Dail . Elections for the Senate were not to be recognised as the constitution's proposal for these bodies by the British were regarded as undemocratic , a certain number of Senators being nominated by the British Government . The representatives of all Ireland as elected would constitute the Dail and would be permitted to take their seats on subscribing to the Republican oath .

That Sinn Fein contested this essentially partition election was undoubtedly making partition a reality but contest it they did , with 124 Sinn Fein representatives being returned without opposition in any constituency in the twenty-six counties : in the six counties , the Unionists [led by Craig] won forty out of fifty-two seats .

Tyrone and Fermanagh returned nationalist and republican majorities , while Down and Armagh elected republican MP's ; the Unionists formed , as expected , the six county 'government' which was boycotted by the 'Irish Nationalist Party' and Sinn Fein . Stormont was opened by the British 'Monarch' , George V , on June 22nd 1921 . Partition was now a reality and the Truce negotiations which were to follow between the Republican leadership and the British Government merely formalised this arrangement .......



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 .

The BMW came to a halt after it crashed ; the gunfight had left Martin Bryan dead . Inspector Moriarty and Detective Sergeant O' Rourke approached the car - " O' Hare ! Put both your hands on the steering wheel where I can see them ! " , shouted Moriarty . O' Hare's left hand came slowly onto the wheel . Moriarty shouted again to him to put the other hand up . " I can't ," O' Hare replied , " It's busted. " Detective Sergeant P.J. O' Rourke had sneaked around to the back of the car , and now emerged at the driver's window ; he put his Smith and Wesson revolver into Dessie O' Hare's neck . It was over .

Dessie O' Hare was given a glass of water ; he was muttering - " Fading ...fading ...fading fast .. " It was when he was being transferred to the ambulance he uttered the immortal and infamous line : " Easy , easy . You're hurting me .. " On the journey O' Hare held Inspector Moriarty's hand and complained of pain . At St Luke's Hospital his blood-spattered clothes were cut off with scissors and he was taken to surgery . A wallet had fallen out of his pocket when he was being moved into the ambulance ; the contents included a photograph of John O' Grady , taken immediately after he had severed his fingers , and a list of safe houses , vehicles and people . Later that night O' Hare was transferred to St Vincent's Hospital where he was put on a respirator .

The gardai were jubilant : all the principals involved in the kidnap were now in custody . Dessie O' Hare was discharged from St Vincent's Hospital on January 8 , 1988 ; before being brought to the Special Criminal Court he was arrested under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act and taken to the Bridewell Garda Station for questioning . He refused to answer any questions ; the only member of the garda force he acknowledged was Inspector Moriarty who had arrested him in Urlingford and travelled in the ambulance with him after the shoot-out . When Moriarty introduced himself O' Hare smiled and nodded his head from side to side before shaking Moriarty's hand . Then , for no apparent reason , O' Hare stood up , shook his fist in the air and began to shudder . He then sat down and started smiling again .

During his period in the Bridewell , O' Hare objected to going on an identity parade : when the volunteers for the parade were brought in , O' Hare removed his shirt and trousers , exposing dressings covering his wounds . He was worried , it appears , that the parade was likely to admit evidence that might prejudice a fair trial.......