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Left Archive: The Prison Experience – A Loyalist Perspective, by Marion Green, EPIC research document No.1, 1999. January 30, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Miscellaneous Documents, Miscellaneous Left Publications, Official Sinn Féin, Progressive Unionist Party, Sinn Féin.
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To download the above please click on the following link:LOYALPRISONDOC

This document [and many thanks to the person who donated it] may seem at first sight an unlikely one to be part of the Left Archive, however it provides both an overview of the general conditions and history of the prison system in Northern Ireland for political prisoners – Loyalist and Republican, and also gives an insight into the relationships between both as well as a developing political consciousness on the part of the former.

Produced in 1998 by the EPIC (Ex-Prisoners’ Interpretative Centre) in Belfast it provides in a series of chapters

The Preface notes that EPIC ‘as a community based self-help organisation welcome [new arena’s for addressing differences and representing communities] and will continue to give our support to these latest developments at the political level, we are also conscious of the impact and legacy of violent conflict at community level’.


EPIC has taken responsibility to assist in the reintegration and transformation of ex-prisoners who engaged in the violent conflict. As an integral part of this work EPIC has undertaken intensive research into prison-related issues – whether describing the background to the prison experience itself, or cataloguing the many predicaments, problems and concerns which politically- motivated ex-prisoners encounter upon release.

The Introduction further notes that:

For the past thirty years there have been thousands of Loyalists incarcerated in NI’s prisons and yet very little has been written about the subject. That neglect is all the more noticeable when one considers the number of books and other publications which have appeared dealing with Republican prisoners.

And most importantly given the left orientation of some Loyalist originating political parties:

Just as remarkable has been the crucial impact former prisoners and their associates have made upon the political process – a process once kept remove from working class aspirations and interventions. Within the Loyalist working-class community parties such as the Progressive Unionist Party and the Ulster Democratic Party have done much to help move this entire society away from the politics of intransigence and violence to the politics of accommodation and dialogue, while proving that no surrender of identity or aspiration need be involved in the process.

Inside the document there is a chronological approach, with sections addressing ‘The Early Days: Crumlin Road Jail’ – with interesting anecdotes about how the various paramilitary groupings had to liaise in order to maintain discipline, ‘Internment and Long Kesh’ – and demands for political status where, as is noted, ‘we didn’t get much help from the UUP or the wider unionist population’, ‘Early Prison Protests’, ‘Coping with Life inside’, ‘Fighting Criminalisation’ and so on.

A telling point is made when it is noted that:

Not all the prisoners were interested in politics, some just wanted to get on with their sentences, but a small number of men were interested and they got involved in political debates and discussions, not only with fellow Loyalists but with Official Republicans.

The sense of the prison experience as a crucible for ‘fresh political thinking’, as the document puts it, is strongly reinforced by these observations.

Left Archive: Irish Reporter, Issue 16, fourth quarter 1994 August 1, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Irish Politics, Miscellaneous Left Publications.

Please note that the contents list of all editions can be found at the following website.

To download the above document please click on the following link: IRISH REP

Many thanks to Jim Monaghan for donating this to the Archive.

The Irish Reporter is an interesting magazine, founded in the early 1990s, as the introductory page notes:

…by a group of journalists, academics and community and political activists who felt that a central element was being censored from public discussion of social and political life in Ireland – the national question. We felt that Ireland’s colonial past, and its continuation in the form of the prolonged crisis in the North permeated every aspect of life on the island as a whole and blighted all hope for social and democratic progress while they remained unresolved.

Yet there seemed to have emerged a new orthodoxy in the mainstream media and academic life that this issue – and those people most directly affected by it – were to be ignored, or demonised and marginalised.

Of course they are not the only people and issues marginalised in public debate and we have sought to give a voice also to those normally excluded when such issues as the family, the economy, emigration and the arts, are discussed; women, gays, the unemployed and working class, the rural poor, travellers, emigrants and dissident intellectual views.

Of the particular issue, entitled ‘Peace and Then What?’, which appeared after the first IRA cessation, the preface notes:

This issue of the IP was drawn together at an important turning point – just as the national question reached political centre stag, and the Souther government threw its weight behind the efforts of John Hume and Gerry Adams to bring about an end to the military campaign in the North.

And as part of engaging with that it continues:

We have the view of Mitchel McLaughlin, directly involved in that process, and Bill Rolston, directly affected by it. Importantly, we carry an analysis by Ruairi Og O’Bradaigh, a Republican opposed to the politics of Adams and Hume.

One of the most interesting articles is by Ronan Brady which argues that Conor Cruise O’Brien, Michael McDowell and others played a particularly negative role in terms of vitriol that entered into the public discourse.

It’s worth considering many of the familiar names involved, from Carol Coulter to Declan Kiberd and Mary Cullen.

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