H BLOCK / LONG KESH: The Big Cell.

Inside the Maze prison - the first public tours
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I had been sentenced for trying to escape from internment and Skeet was arriving in for his second time in the cages. Peter ended up in the middle hut along with Cleaky, Big Deuce and Moke — all of them have now died from cancer, a cause for concern for many former political prisoners and sourced by some to the use of CR gas by the British Army in October when Long Kesh was burned down. Peter was full of energy, was hilarious company and helped make the hard time go easier.

He was always looking for ways to escape. He was involved in the digging of more than one tunnel. And in himself and Gerry Kelly, Francis McIlvenna and Ned Maguire succeeded in getting outside of their cage but they were caught before they could exit stage left. Or right.

They were transferred to the H Blocks where a year later Peter played a key role in the great escape of He was one of those who had the job of securing the Block. He was recaptured along with Big Bobby, Sean McGlinchey and Joe Simpson hiding in the river and all three were among those who were viciously beaten afterward.

Peter was eventually released. Between his two periods of incarceration he spent almost 20 years in prison.

Life and death in Long Kesh

He was totally behind the peace strategy. And when I visited him in Drogheda hospital during the election campaign he told me not to worry that I would be elected. And he was determined to play his part in that. On polling day he went to the polling station when it opened and cast his vote. Then he went home and died. Peter was a solid republican activist who demonstrated time and time again, and not least when he was ill, great strength of character. Especially Mackers. Posted by Gerry Adams at PM.

Newer Post Older Post Home. The election campaign lasted only nine days and the pace was frenetic. People poured into the constituency from all parts of Ireland to help, and this had an extraordinary impact on the Catholic community there. Polling day arrived. In the House of Commons Don Concannon, the Labour spokesperson on Northern Ireland, made an impassioned bid to swing the vote, warning that "a vote for Sands is a vote of approval for the perpetrators of the La Mon massacre, the murder of Lord Mountbatten, and the latest brutal and inhuman killing of Mrs Mathers".

nn.threadsol.com/sitemap73.xml Member for Violence. On 5 May Bobby Sands died and anger exploded on the streets of Belfast. The British army shot two Catholic teenagers. The next day hospital workers, dockers and car workers across Belfast struck. In southern Ireland there were extensive official and unofficial strikes. In New York dockers boycotted British ships, and there were protests outside British embassies across the world. Sands was the first of ten to die.

From Belfast Telegraph

The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg had died specifically because political status was not granted under the English prison regime. First blanketman Kieran Nugent large drawing and hunger striker Brendan Hughes right of the picture, with moustache mural in Falls Road, Belfast,. I looked over at Kieran and shook my head to make sure he also refused to do this. As will be explained, the number of detention centres would increase within a short time. They were a lifeline for the men and you always looked forward to receiving new letters during your weekly visit. This was the start of my time on remand in Crumlin Road Gaol.

The funeral of fellow hunger striker, Francis Hughes, took place in the countryside and going by bus from Belfast meant running the gauntlet of Loyalist stone throwers and having to march across fields when the RUC halted the coaches. Martin Hurson died suddenly and shockingly after 46 days.

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Joe McDonnell's funeral procession was attacked by troops with plastic bullets. Kieran Doherty died after an agonisingly long 73 days.

Laurence McKeown joined the hunger strike on 29 June He had joined the IRA aged just At 19 years old McKeown was charged with causing explosions and the attempted murder of an RUC man - and was sentenced to life. McKeown says, "Time numbs little of the sorrow and sense of loss we experienced as, one by one, our friends and comrades died on the hunger strike.

They don't want to know; they just want to sleep. This martyr notion is nonsense - we were caught in circumstances where we were going to resist to the death rather than capitulate to the criminalisation. During the hunger strike a major debate opened up in the ranks of the National H-Block Campaign, the umbrella organisation that campaigned on the prisoners' behalf.

Léargas: Memories of the H Blocks

Adams argued that victory would be achieved by playing down militancy, and winning support from the Catholic church and the southern Irish government - although he acknowledged that both were reluctant to take this stance. He believed that a more respectable movement was needed if Thatcher was to be forced into making concessions. On 4 September Matt Devlin went into a coma and his mother intervened to feed him. Two days later Laurence McKeown's mother followed suit. The strike began to end when relatives started insisting on medical treatment when their sons slipped into comas.

The families had been the ones who had begun the protests when the first H-Block Republican prisoners refused to wear prison uniform or accept prison discipline.

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They had seen their loved ones live for months, and even years, with only a blanket to wear in an empty cell. They had gone through the fears of the first hunger strike, and the brief elation when it seemed to have achieved a successful conclusion. Finally, on 3 October , the prisoners reluctantly called off their fast.

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They said that they had been robbed of the hunger strike as an effective weapon because of the "successful campaign waged against our distressed relatives by the Catholic hierarchy, aided and abetted by the Irish establishment". Yet the British strategy had failed. The huge public support for the hunger strikers and the election of Sands had destroyed forever the idea that Northern Ireland was a normal society troubled by a terrorist conspiracy.

And although Thatcher claimed victory over the hunger strikers, her government conceded most of their demands soon after the protest ended. As a result Irish Republican prisoners in the s experienced starkly different conditions from the period of the blanket protest. For some in the Republican movement, the lesson of Sands' election was to move away from militancy and simply embrace traditional electoral politics.

Site of IRA Hunger Strike Haunts Northern Ireland

The real lesson was that the hunger strikes showed how people can resist, even in the worst of conditions. Irish Republicanism was forced to expand its base, often against its traditional instincts, as pressure from below turned the campaign into a mass movement. The prisoners refused to accept that they were ordinary criminals and refused to wear the prison uniform. This meant prisoners did not have to wear prison uniforms or do prison work , were housed within their paramilitary factions, and were allowed extra visits and food parcels. In , as part of the policy of "criminalisation", the British Government brought an end to Special Category Status for paramilitary prisoners in Northern Ireland.

The policy was not introduced for existing prisoners, but for those convicted after 1 March The end to Special Category Status was a serious threat to the authority which the paramilitary leaderships inside prison had been able to exercise over their own men, as well as being a propaganda blow.

The imminent withdrawal of Special Category Status caused relations between the prisoners and prison officers to deteriorate, and in early the IRA leaders in prison sent word to the IRA Army Council asking them to begin assassinating prison officers, stating "we are prepared to die for political status.

Those who try to take it away from us must be fully prepared to pay the same price". Outside the prison the IRA responded by shooting prison officer Patrick Dillon in April , the first of nineteen prison officers to be killed during the five-year protest. The Blanket Protest The blanket protest began on 14 September when newly convicted prisoner Kieran Nugent refused to wear prison uniform.

Nugent had previously been interned in the compounds of Long Kesh during , but was arrested in May and received a three-year sentence after being convicted of possessing weapons and hijacking a car.

Remembering 1981: seventh and eighth men die on the fast

In , Nugent gave an interview describing his arrival at the newly constructed H-Blocks at the prison complex: " I was brought straight to the blocks. Cell 17, D wing H1 or 2. I was stripped and beaten. The screws who knew me said, 'We are the bosses now. There are no OCs here'. A screw said to me, 'What size are you in the waist and what size are you for shows? I said, 'You have got to be joking'.

I was the only one in the H-Blocks.