chapter  11
48 Pages

Imprisonment in Northern Ireland, 1939–48

WithSeán McConville

Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners, whatever their legal status, entered into captivity with a well-established repertoire of resistance techniques. The command structure which they invariably established, and on which they insisted, was in itself an act of defiance. The Londonderry prison was used for internees only and the Armagh prison held women. For all the differences between penal and preventive detention, internees saw themselves as prisoners. That they had not been subjected to due process added to their frustrations. A number of hunger strikes and other forms of protest were attempted. None succeeded, and, after the last of them, in 1944, sentenced republican prisoners resigned themselves to serve out their time in prison uniform and to work in the shoe, tailoring and mat shops. One of the first internee protests took place at Londonderry Prison on Christmas Day, 1939. This took the form of a confrontation with staff, refusals to obey orders and general insubordination.