chapter  8
54 Pages

Imprisonment in Northern Ireland

The inter-war years
WithSeán McConville

Until the coming into effect of the GOIA in December 1920, Ireland was governed as a single entity. Thereafter, there began a process of separation. Elections were held North and South in May 1921. A more comprehensive balance sheet of legal obligations and available institutions was drawn at the Ministry of Home Affairs, on 27 September 1921. According to the Belfast Governor's report, ordinary prisoners were treated as individuals with ‘no common bond or tie’. Sinn Féin (by which he largely meant the IRA) prisoners grouped themselves together under a commandant. Disciplinary action against any one evoked a response by all. Arrangements had been made with the English and with the Scottish prison commissioners to accept a limited number of persons sentenced to penal servitude and to Borstal. There were problems of staffing and control that, in the first days and weeks of their assuming responsibility must have seemed even more pressing to the Northern government.