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 .
” The prison administration formally deny that we are in a separate category but we nonetheless merit special treatment as high security risks . It is obvious that these ordinary prisoners feel as uncomfortable with republicans as we do with them . Hence their decision to remain in their cells , reardless of the screws’ attempts to shift them out by coercion and threats .
It is plain to see that there is a need for segregation along these lines in Armagh . It is true to say that we do not have a republican/loyalist-type situation here , as is the case in the H-Blocks , but the need for segregation is still a major issue . In my opinion , the future ahead for republican POW’s in Armagh looks grim because of the attitude we are met with on these important issues . It is such a small jail with a low population of inmates that one would think a reasonable existence would be possible with little difficulty .
It is , of course , but not under the present circumstances , as for the past year the prison regime has been , continues to be , geared towards punishment alone and there is no sign that this will change . ”
[END of ‘ A HISTORY OF ARMAGH JAIL’ .]
(Tomorrow – ” Don’t let them break you , love …” – from 1984.)
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 .
On April 23rd 1981 , Free State premier Charles Haughey (who had refused to speak-up on behalf of the political prisoners) made his move – he advised Bobby Sands’ distraugh relatives to call for the intervention of the European Commission on Human Rights ; he also led them to believe that that intervention would take place immediately , and produce quick results . Yet it later appeared that the Commission needed Bobby Sands’ signature to intervene , that they would see him alone , without his chosen advisors , that they would need two weeks to present their findings , and that the matter of political status was completely outside their competence .
The Free State government had shown itself as a shrewd and deceitful accomplice of the British (‘ 1169 …. ‘ Comment – …as , indeed , they still are , even if some ‘republicans’ have thrown their lot in with them ) and , like them , more interested in ending the ’embarrassment’ of the hunger-strike than in resolving the issue .
On April 20th 1981 , three Free State Euro-MP’s – Neil Blaney (Independent Fianna Fail) , Sile de Valera (Fianna Fail) and Dr. John O’ Connell (Independent) , were allowed to visit Bobby Sands : O ‘ Connell had previously stated that he would try to convince Sands to come off his fast ; upset by their visit to the dying MP , they requested a meeting with Margaret Thatcher who , in a press conference in Saudi Arabia , publicly humiliated the three Euro-MP’s by saying – ” It is not my habit or custom to meet MP’s from a foreign country about a citizen of the United Kingdom resident in the United Kigdom .”
On April 25th 1981 , Sands’ 56th day on hunger-strike , a three-member delegation of the European Commission on Human Rights flew to Belfast in a blaze of publicity ; they left the following day without having met Bobby Sands , who by then lay on a waterbed , still lucid but close to death . They had managed to create an impression of movement , and lent some ‘respectability’ to the British and Free State governments in their callous exercise in brinkmanship and media manipulation …….
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.
Seamus Costello established the ‘Irish Republican Socialist Party’ (IRSP) and the ‘Irish National Liberation Army’ (INLA) on the same day , Sunday 8th December 1974 , in the Spa Hotel in Lucan , Dublin . Costello was to insist first that there were no links between the IRSP and the INLA but in fact the manner of their ‘birth’ suggested otherwise . About 90 people assembled in the hotel in Lucan – they broke for tea , then reconvened as a separate group to form the INLA . Actually some of the people who disapproved from the outset with Costello’s plans for a military organisation left during the tea break .
Costello was to insist that the two organisations were entirely separate and that the political organisation would have no control over the military one – it was this insistence that eventually led to the resignation of Bernadette McAliskey from the party . The formation of the IRSP/INLA posed a very severe threat to the Official IRA/Sinn Fein the Workers Party because its Northern members had been in the main unhappy with the Official’s ceasefire and the strict enforcement of same . Entire Units of the Official IRA , such as that at Divis Flats in Belfast , immediately defected to the INLA . Anxiety over the possible decimation of the Official IRA must have been a contributory factor in the fued that subsequently broke out between the two organisations – IRSP members remembered chillingly repeated expressions of regret on the part of senior members of the Official IRA that they had not wiped out the Provisional IRA at their infancy .
Following the IRSP split with the Officials , the proposed organisational changes in the Official IRA did not go through , at least not until after 1978 , if at all . The significance of the Official IRA declined significantly , however – OIRA Army Council meetings which used to take place on a monthly basis began to take place only on a three monthly basis . Its main topic of discussion was proposed robberies and the control of the political organisation…….