Wednesday, November 09, 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' .

The British policy of 'Normalisation' meant that the trappings of 'democracy' had to appear to be present - a large number of political prisoners would seem inconsistent with 'democracy' , so the hitherto recognised Special Category Status was removed and , to the outside world , the North appeared to undergo an 800 per cent increase in "crime rate" in the space of just seven years !

Internment was gone and people were to be 'processed' through the courts : but the 'trials' were to be held in non-jury courts , following up to seven days interrogation . There were to be special 'scheduled' offences which were to carry especially long , mandatory sentences . People could be arrested without charge and uncorroborated 'evidence' was to be accepted by the 'court' as sufficient proof of guilt.

The only trouble for the British Government was that the prisoners refused to accept the 'status' of "common criminals" ; as the numbers of those convicted under the Diplock (non-jury court) system increased , so too did the number of relatives of prisoners who were becoming aware that anyone who was unfortunate enough to get arrested on the whim of the 'security forces' had little hope of jumping off the conveyor belt which would eventually drop her or him into prison.......



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 .

A pact was agreed between the Irish Republicans and the (Free State) 'Treatyites' in which it was agreed that the July 31st , 1922 elections would not be considered as deciding the issue of the Treaty but as creating a government to preserve peace .

It provided for a National Coalition Government : Sinn Fein was to put forward a panel of candidates - sixty-six nominated by the 'Treatyites' and fifty-eight by the Republicans . The new government would consist of four Republicans , five pro-Treaty members , a President - to be elected by the Dail (presumably pro-Treaty) - and the Minister of Defence , to be elected by the Army - and therefore most likely to be a Republican , given the (Republican) Army's opposition to the Treaty .

Contrary to the agreements of the pact the new Free State Constitution appeared in the newspapers the following day - this had the obvious and intended consequence of confusing the election results . The Treaty party proclaimed the return of 94 Coalition candidates as an endorsement of the Treaty while the Republican side obviously contested this . The Constitution for the Free State was in fact the British government's interpretation of the Treaty - a diluted 'Home Rule'-type of arrangement and a basis upon which Republicans obviously could not co-operate .

The disaster of becoming involved in the election for the Second Dail had tied the parliamentarian 'republicans' to a semantical debate about the integrity and status of a " Third Dail " which had , in fact , been diluted to a Constituent Assembly , tied to implementing British policy and supplied with British legislation and British guns for that purpose .......



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 .

When the John O' Grady kidnap trial opened , the decision by the accused to plead guilty was greeted with surprise ; however , given the weight of evidence against them , this was inevitable .

Tony McNeill and Gerry Wright had made statements in custody , admitting involvement . There were dozens of fingerprints of the kidnap gang in Carnlough Road and at the site of the container at Midleton . At Carnlough Road the gang got bored and Eddie Hogan and Fergal Toal took photographs of each other armed with shotguns - they had'nt even bothered to wear balaclavas .

Dessie O' Hare was unrepentant ; McNeill , Hogan and Toal were acting under military orders , he told the court . Gerry Wright had been duped into helping them initially by the promise to shoot the man responsible for killing his brother and , later , by threats .......


(Thank you for the kind comments , Cathal - glad we could help ! Sharon.)