” DON’T LET THEM BREAK YOU , LOVE ” …….
First published in the booklet ‘ STRIP SEARCHES IN ARMAGH JAIL’ , produced , in February 1984 , by ‘The London Armagh Group’ .
I thought of the women waiting for me on the prison wing ; they had gone through this . I thought of the Blanket Men of Long Kesh – they had been forced to remain naked for five years .
I thought of my sister , sixteen years of age , and dreaded this ever happening to her . I thought of my mother’s face on the morning of my arrest , trying so hard not to cry , and her shouts of support – ” Don’t let them break you , love… ” and ” Be strong…” And I thought of her face that morning in the court – ashen , aged ; prepared to run to Armagh Prison for the next decade , just as she had run to various jails to visit my father and brother .
And I thought of all the women , striving everywhere to achieve their freedom . Aye ! I thought of a lot of things – anything to block out what was happening to me . I was stripped naked to confront me with their ‘control’ , to enforce on me my own vulnerability , to degrade me . But they were not going to succeed .
I saw my nakedness as an indictment against them – they thought my womenhood would serve to help defeat me . They did not understand that the strength of ideals cannot be stripped from one’s mind …….
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 .
After two postponements , the Free State government had fixed a date for general elections in that jurisdiction ; it was to be June 11th , 1981 . H-Block activists actively campaigned for nine prisoners , four of them on hunger-strike at that time : Joe McDonnell , Kevin Lynch , Martin Hurson and Kieran Doherty – and five other prisoners , Mairead Farrell , Tony O’Hara , Tom McAllister , Sean McKenna and Paddy Agnew .
Proving all the pundits wrong , the prisoners polled extremely well , and two were elected : Kiernan Doherty for the Cavan/Monaghan constituency , with 15 per cent first preference votes , and Paddy Agnew for Louth with 18 per cent first preference votes . These two seats prevented the Charles Haughey administration from gaining a majority in Leinster House , and a Fine Gael-Labour coalition took over , with Garret Fitzgerald as ‘premier’ .
However , in spite of the widespread support for the prisoners’ demands in the twenty-six counties , in spite of the fact that a sizeable fraction of that support was translated into votes , the pressure was not sufficient to force an intervention by the Fine Gael/Labour administration in favour of the prisoners . Since the beginning of June 1981 , the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace , composed mainly of Catholic clerics , middle-class politicians , academics , lawyers and other ‘pillars of the Establishment’ , had begun to make noises signifying to the prisoners and the British government that it saw a role for itself in mediating between the two parties .
After a tentative statement on what they saw as necessary prison reforms to resolve the issue , a statement which the British government ignored and which the prisoners studied and answered two weeks later , the Commission started a series of meetings with various political parties , hunger-strikers’ relatives , and the National H-Block/Armagh Committee …….
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 Ardmonagh Gardens eviction :
The Official IRA moved another family into a house in which Seamus Smith and his family were in the process of moving in to : the PIRA had ‘secured’ the previously empty house for the Smith family . The OIRA made it clear that if any attempt were made to dislodge the second family , those responsible would have to deal with the Official IRA . One of the men taking part was the brother of one of the most prominent members of the ‘Republican Clubs’ in Belfast .
[End of ‘Evictions’ section.]
The Official IRA has less than 50 operatives in Belfast : these are organised into Units based around the drinking Clubs in Cyprus Street in the Lower Falls area , in New Lodge Road , in the Markets , in the Short Strand , in Turf Lodge and in Bawnmore . The OIRA Officer Commanding in Belfast until recently was a very prominent figure who has apparently stepped aside , with his place taken by a person who is not significantly less prominent . The Official IRA is known to have members in the Craigavon area . On a national level it is not clear what re-organisation has taken place but it is a certainty that the OIRA Chief of Staff is a member of SFWP ; so too is the OIRA Finance Officer and the OIRA Adjutant General . The Dublin Unit Officer Commanding is also a member of SFWP .
There are about 30 active members on call in the Dublin area ; these are engaged almost exclusively in robberies . Some of these are not members of SFWP or at least deny membership . By all accounts the organisation is well armed , with Russian Kalashnikov AK 47 carbines and sophisticated 357 Magnum revolvers …….