A HISTORY OF ARMAGH JAIL .......
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 details leading up to a sustained assault on the women prisoners by male and female prison officers , in February 1980 , are harrowing ; male warders had been on the prison wing for three days during which time the women were not allowed access to the toilet - they began to empty their excreta out of the spyholes and windows . When these were blocked up , they smeared it on the walls .
The women prisoners were offered a return to 'normality' if they would cease their ' no-work' protest for political status - this they refused to do . ('1169.....' Comment - we wonder how many of their sons and daughters are now members of this political party which , in 1998 , signed away that same right to political status in return for a political career ?) As their own excrement was almost the only part of their lives over which they could exercise control , they used it as another form of protesting against the political nature of their imprisonment .
In March 1980 , on the anniversary of their previous picket in 1979 , 'Women Against Imperialism' called for a mass demonstration ; feminists travelled from the rest of Ireland , from England , Scotand , Wales and elsewhere to support the prisoners' claim for political status and to assert the right of 'Women Against Imperialism' to picket their local jail on International Womens Day . Those pickets are now an annual event .
Protesting POW's in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh began a hunger strike for political status in October 1980 - they were soon to be joined in the protest by the women in Armagh Jail .......
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 Free State government called a general election for August 27th , 1923 ; Sinn Fein declared its intention to contest 87 seats on an abstentionist basis - the Free Staters moved against the Sinn Feiners . Harassment of election workers , arrests and attacks on Sinn Fein members (one man was killed) seriously disrupted Sinn Fein's election machine . Despite this , the Republicans returned 44 TD's , with the Staters winning 63 .
Later , in by-elections in November 1924 , Sinn Fein increased its vote in all five constituencies contested . The Republican underground government of the Second Dail continued to meet - in consulation now with those TD's elected in 1923 and 1924 - and although the Republican vote continued to rise in every by-election contested since the general election of 1923 , massive discriminatory laws against Republicans were forcing more and more activists - released from prison or home from a life 'on the run' - into exile . The Free State government's system of patronage and its use of the oath to the Free State constitution as a condition of employment in almost every sphere of work made it most difficult for Republicans to live in Ireland : in 1925 , more than 30,000 people emigrated to countries outside Europe .
The victory of 1918 was reduced to ashes ; nine short years after the Easter Rising - exhausted and demoralised by a bloody war against the British and by a shorter but bloodier war between Irishmen - the Irish people had nothing but partition and embitterment to show for their aspirations and struggle . Republican Ireland is still recovering from the effects of that period in our history ; partition , with its effects , has become one of the single greatest obstacles to the unity of the Irish people . Republicans have contested elections since then - with varying degrees of success - in 26 County , 6 County and Westminster elections.......
IN THE SHADOW OF A GUNMAN .......
The aspirations of SINN FEIN THE WORKERS PARTY towards socialist respectability are undermined by the continued military operations of the OFFICIAL IRA and that Party's own ideoligical contortions .
From ' MAGILL' magazine , April 1982 .
By Vincent Browne.
The man in charge of the eight-man Official IRA punishment squad is from the North and was formerly a member of Clann na hEireann (the Sinn Fein Workers Party British support organisation) and was deported from England ; he carried out several robberies in that country for the organisation prior to his deportation . It was he who led the gang of eight men to The Dockers Pub that Sunday morning and it was he who assembled that gang for the operation . They had convened earlier that morning in a house near the North Strand in Dublin , a place where the Official IRA Dubin Unit still meets regularly . Information about this incident comes primarily from one of the eight men who were involved , and from one of the victims .
People who were members of the Official IRA until recently tell us that there is no way that this incident could have happened without explicit authorisation for it from a senior Officer in the Official IRA , who is also a member of Sinn Fein The Workers Party . As the two victims had been involved with the Communist Party there were protests from the latter about this incident to the leadership of SFWP , who denied any knowledge of the attack or the involvement of any of its members in the whole affair .
In the course of an interview for this article with Tomas MacGiolla , President of SFWP , and Sean Garland , General Secretary , they both recalled hearing of the incident at the time and remembered the correspondence with the Communist Party - they both denied that members of SFWP had been involved and said that as they were unaware of the existence of the Official IRA they were not in a position to make any observations about its involvement or otherwise in the incident . Such incidents are almost unique in the South of Ireland , where SFWP is keen to project a respectable image while it competes for votes as a regular conventional politial party of the left . But those incidents are commonplace in the North of Ireland .
The leadership of Sinn Fein The Workers Party now consistently deny any knowledge of the Official IRA or any involvement by the party in military activity .......