Tuesday, November 22, 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' .
Arrested on active service in April 1976 and sentenced at her 'trial' eight months later to 14 years imprisonment , Belfast Republican Mairead Farrell became one of the first women POW's to take part in the protest for political status .

" When the 'no work' protest ended , punishment techniques were put into operation immediately in an orchestrated attempt to break the POW's . In the first fortnight , most Republican prisoners had received more punishment than would have been possible during a month on protest . This punishment reached the heights in severity with many women spending days , and in somecases months , in solitary confinement .

With the failure of this two-fold tactic the prison authorities have to content themselves with continuous punishment meted out on petty pretexts , trying to beat the Republican spirit into submission . A prime example of this is the continuation of strip-searching , despite the public outcry it provoked . The British 'Northern Ireland Office' have attempted to play down this degrading practice by saying that it is necessary when moving high security-risk prisoners to and from the jail , while a notice displayed in the strip-search area states that all prisoners must be stripped naked leaving and entering the jail because of 'prohibited artices' being smuggled in .

This refers to the incident last November which sparked of the strip-searching when two 'YOP's ' (ordinary prisoners) stole the keys of a magistrates car "for a laugh" while in RUC custody and brought them back into the jail . The two 'YOP's' have since been released . Ironic ? Maybe , but having listened to three women who have endured this disgusting practice daily for months , as have those in the 'Black informer' trial , I can only think of the enormous mental effect this must have at what is already a stressful period .

Each of these women has been stripped over 135 times . This is not 'in the interests of security' , it is psychological torture . The prison administration have agreed it is an un-necessary practice , yet it continues because it is a new-found weapon in the attempt to rob Republicans of dignity ....... "


1981 was dominated by the grim and heroic struggle of Republican prisoners for political recognition - which they undoubtedly received from millions all over the world , yet which few governments , least of all London or Dublin , would grant them .
From 'AP/RN' , 31st December 1981 .
By Teresa Kelly .

The March 1st 1981 hunger strike was to last 217 days ; 23 Republican prisoners engaged in it , of whom ten were to die , in a calvary of false hopes , anguish and pain for themselves , their relatives and friends ; lies and deceit from the British government , slander and blackmail from the Catholic hierarchy .

Support activities slowly gathered momentum , as if weary supporters had needed longer this time to face up to the awful reality of a fast to the death : on March 1st 1981 , Bobby Sands refused his first meal . Between five and ten thousand people marched up the Falls Road in Belfast in support of the five demands . After a slow start , events speeded up when , sadly , Frank Maguire , MP for Fermanagh-South Tyrone died of a heart attack on March 5th 1981 . His untimely death caused local H-Block activists to consider fielding a hunger-striker candidate . ( '1169....' Comment - The idea/proposal to field Bobby Sands as a candidate came from Daithi O Conaill and was seconded by Ruairi O Bradaigh .)

Fearless South Derry soldier Francis Hughes had begun fasting on March 15th 1981 . Raymond McCreesh from South Armagh and Patsy O' Hara from Derry had joined him and Bobby Sands on March 22nd 1981 . The SDLP , under pressure from rank-and-file supporters on the ground , decided not to field Austin Currie . Noel Maguire , brother of the late MP , after a visit from Bobby Sands' parents , withdrew his nomination papers minutes before the deadline for nominations , on Monday , March 30th 1981 .

Bobby Sands , political prisoner and anti-H-Block/Armagh candidate , and old-time Unionist and 'landlord' Harry West found themselves locked in an electoral battle on Thursday 9th April 1981 , as Sands lay on a hospital bed , forty days into his hunger-strike . Hundreds of thousands of people held their breath that day , as counting was going on in Enniskillen Technical College : then the magic moment , the magic figure - 30,492 ! Bobby Sands had been elected MP . Nationalists all over the Six Counties were elated . Constitutional politicians were stunned . Journalists were breathless . The British government was shattered .......



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.

It is true that from the middle of 1973 onwards , the 'screws' were put on OIRA military activity ; this was done not by any formal decision but by the more rigid interpretation of the terms of the ceasefire - OIRA operatives were finding it harder and harder to get clearane for jobs and even when clearance was given the delay involved meant that the operation often could'nt be carried out anyway .

Also there was a problem of equipment ; while the OIRA leadership repeatedly promised new , more and better arms and explosives , the actual provision of these was a very different matter - there were always excuses why something could not be delivered and it was only in retrospect that OIRA Volunteers recognised this as a means of stopping the military campaign altogether . Thus the OIRA armed campaign was stopped not by fiat following the ceasefire announcement but by a gradual process which effectively choked off military activity without any accompanying major decision to that effect .

That amounted to a masterstroke on the part of Cathal Goulding who for the most part did not want a military campaign at any stage . Yet he managed to bring the Official movement with him into 1974 without any major rift , having effectively hoodwinked the organisation into a real ceasefire to which it never really consented . But , in spite of the cleverness by which this plan was manoeuvred , it was inevitable that it would give rise to tensions and these surfaced in the latter part of 1972 : a convention of the Official IRA was held in October 1972 and a document was presented jointly by Seamus Costello and another senior member - this clearly defined the objectives of the Official movement in traditional Republican terms , in contrast to the more 'civil rights' emphasis of Cathal Goulding .

The Costello 'line' won through and Costello followed this up with a detailed proposal for a resumption of the military campaign officially : in this he was heavily defeated at a resumed OIRA Army Convention the following month . This led to more tensions .......