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' .
NO LET UP IN REPRESSION .
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 .
" This repressive attitude is mirrored in all areas , and in none more so than in the area of prison work . Throughout Europe , many prisons have abolished prison work due to the economic recession - for since work is so scarce on the outside , it is impossible to secure contracts for work within the prisons .
The same position applies to Armagh , with no industry prepared to supply a contract ; yet instead of the administration taking a sensible view of the situation by providing educational and vocational training during the day , they demand that POW's sit at sewing machines all day every day , doing nothing but stitching prison-issue jeans which are'nt even in use . Such work is monotonous , and one would think that the administration's interest would be in keeping minds occupied and in providing some type of mind-stimulating alternative to demeaning work which can only increase tension and discontent throughout the jail .
It is hypocritical of the British 'Northern Ireland' Office to even speak of work inside the prisons when tens of thousands in the Six Counties remain unemployed . The facilities are available in Armagh Jail for the implementation of a full-time education programme . It would not need a major shift in policy but basically would be an acknowledgement of the reality that there is no work to be done in the prisons and that an alternative needs to be found . Eventually the 'NIO' are going to have to look at this problem realistically - they are only avoiding the inevitable .
With so much monitoring of Republicans , the constant strip-searching and the introduction of new rules every day under the guise of 'security' , it seems very contraductory to me that the prison administration would even consider housing ordinary prisoners in the same area as us ....... "
THE HEROIC PRISON STRUGGLE .......
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 .
Bobby Sands had been elected as an MP by a majority of voters in Fermanagh-South Tyrone : ' A Mandate for the IRA !' , screamed the newspaper headlines : " Thirty Thousand Murderers! " , shriked Loyalist politicians . " Traditional anti-unionist voting pattern ... " , pontificated John Hume , whose party (SDLP) had semi-offically called for abstention right up to election day .
" A freak result due to sympathy and emotion ... " , ('1169....' Comment - WHAT ! No "intimidation" ... ? ) was all the dumb-founded British 'official' voice could come up with . " They can't let him die now ... " , supporters of the prisoners thought : they were all wrong . The result was not "... a freak.. " - it was repeated four months later , and even improved on . It was not so much a mandate for the IRA but for political status , and was understood as such by all concerned , Republicans or not . And , not a month later , on Tuesday 5th May 1981 , Bobby Sands died .
The British government had seen its room for political manoeuvring considerably reduced by the election of a hunger-striker ; first , the world's attention had been suddenly focused on the occupied North of Ireland , to an extent unseen since 'Lord' Mountbatten's death and the Warrenpoint ambush in 1979 . And this time the British government could not play its old tune about " terrorists and gangsters " , as the game had been 'played' according to their rules , through the ballot box . The world's press flocked to Belfast : from local 'folk heroes' , Bobby Sands and his comrades were becoming media events . And most of all , the British government's lie that "...the prisoners had no support.. " lay in tatters at their feet .
Free State premier , Charles Haughey , who had consistently refused requests that he approach Margaret Thatcher and officially ask her to grant the prisoners their demands , made his move on April 23rd 1981 .......
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.
Differences were coming to a head within the Official movement : proposals emerged for the restructuring of the organisation and a commission was set up in early 1973 to examine proposals . One paper dealt with Sean Garland's concern of " ...the revolutionary party.. " which he had first postulated the previous June in Bodenstown : the main aspect of this proposal was that one organisation , the party , would be responsible for all the activities of the Official movement ie military as well as political . Seamus Costello had a strong case for retaining the existing structure of two organisations , one political and one military , but with greater cohesion between the two .
A third paper was prepared by Eoin O Morchu who was editor of the 'United Irishman' newspaper at the time but who was later to leave the Officials and join the Communist Party ; he argued for the effective disbanding of the OIRA and its incorporation into the political organisation for 'certain specialised activities' .
The militarists within the Officials perceived this debate in terms of great alarm - they believed that it was not only Eoin O Morchu who was in favour of doing away with the OIRA but also Sean Garland who effectively wanted to emasculate the organisation and thereby abandon entirely the struggle for national unity . This debate , which effectively centered on whether there should be an open resumption of the military campaign waged through 1973 and early 1974 - Seamus Costello was suspended from the OIRA for 'factional activity' . He was in fact attempting to win support for his position throughout the Officials in a manner that apparently contravened the procedures for such debate . He was courtmartialed at the party's educational centre at Mornington , County Meath : he was found guilty of charges and dishonourably dismissed from the OIRA .
Undaunted , Costello continued his campaign within Sinn Fein the Workers Party but was resoundingly defeated at the SFWP Ard Fheis of 1974 when a resolution calling for his re-instatement was thrown out - he had been suspended from membership by the SFWP Ard Comhairle , amidst allegations of vote rigging in connection with the Ard Fheis but it is clear that he would have been routed anyway .......