Tuesday, November 08, 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' .

In 1976 , Westminster introduced a new three-pronged strategy into its illegal occupation of the North-East of Ireland - Criminalisation , Ulsterisation and Normalisation . The latter was the pretence that the contradiction between the demands of the Civil Rights Movement and the intransigent bigotry of the loyalists had been resolved .

In order to make the North appear to be more like a Western-type 'liberal democracy' , the other two strategies were needed . Because having 25,000 British soldiers in Ireland made the situation look more like war than 'peace-keeping' , the British Government set up the 'Ulster Defence Regiment' (UDR) who would replace some of the British soldiers . The fact that the UDR was composed of some of the most bigoted , anti-Catholic individuals in the Six Counties did not appear to cause any great concern at Westminster .

The fact that they are 'security' personnel enables members of the UDR to take advantage of surveillance to gain the necessary knowledge to carry out sectarian assassinations eg in 1983 an IRSP member was shot dead returning from the dole office on the first day that he had attended at a new time . In this case , and many others , there was inside information . At present , 10 UDR members are awaiting trial for murders of Catholics , some of which were initially claimed by the 'Protestant Action Force' . In addition to setting up the UDR , Westminster made provision for the numbers of RUC (the 'policeforce') to be increased .

The British policy of 'Normalisation' also impacted on the political prisoners .......



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 .

Sinn Fein split over the December 1921 Treaty of Surrender and , by a majority of seven , Dail Eireann recommended the people of Ireland to surrender the Republic proclaimed in 1916 , ratified by democratic sanction in 1918 and defended since its proclamation by immeasurable effort and sacrifice . Sixty-four TD's voted for acceptance of the Treaty and fifty-seven voted against .

A proper analysis of why this happened - or the bloodshed which followed - is outside the scope of this article , dealing as we do here merely with Republican involvement in the electoral process . While every effort has been made to do this against the outline of the social and political conditions which prevailed (and of the forces at play within both British and nationalist camps) to get a detailed view of this , or any other , period , readers are advised to read any of the many informative studies available .

For our purposes it is sufficient to state that the 'Treatyites' formed a provisional government and prepared to implement the Treaty while the Republicans prepared to defend the Republic ; on March 8th , 1922 , the British Government passed the 'Irish Free State (Agreement) Bill' which , among other things , stipulated that an election should be held before July 31st , 1922 , to elect a provisional parliament which would be ratified and given 'powers' , under a Free State Constitution , by another British Act which was to be passed no later than December 6th , 1922 .

A pact was agreed between the Republicans and the 'Treatyites' in which it was agreed that the July 31st election would not be considered as deciding the issue of the Treaty , but as ' creating a 'government' to preserve peace' .......



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 new Garda Commissioner , Eamon Doherty , called a secret meeting of all Chief Superintendents at Templemore in Tipperary to discuss what had gone wrong during the kidnap ; 'The Irish Times' newspaper the following day had a detailed report on the 'secret' meeting . The State Minister for Justice had also called for a report from the gardai to establish what had gone wrong , while the opposition parties in Leinster House had called for an independent inquiry .

But the meeting held at Templemore was not concerned with 'probing' - the mood was self-congratulatory ! The Chief Superintendents from Dun Laoghaire , Midleton and Tipperary addressed the meeting , with key sections of their speeches being devoted to rebutting criticism made by the media . However , it was conceded during the Templemore meeting that the need to refer all information to Dublin resulted in the investigation being slowed up . The outcome of the meeting was the setting up of a team of inquiry , led by three Assistant Commissioners known as the 'Three Wise Men' . The Report was ready within weeks ; it 'passed the buck' upwards .

The faults during the kidnap , it concluded , were due to the outdated structures the gardai were operating . The responsibility for this lay with the State Department of Justice - however , the Minister in charge of that Department was unimpressed with the report and was particularly annoyed about the fact that the report had not examined specific 'bungles' during the investigation .

When the trial opened on April 13th the decision by the accused to plead guilty was greeted with surprise ; but it was inevitable that they should , given the weight of evidence against them .......