“This story could end very badly indeed”

The No Wash protest in the Long Kesh during the late 70s and early 80s never really created an impact outside groups already sympathetic to republican prisoners. No matter how hard families, committees and republicans tried the prison struggle did not influence broader public consciousness until well into the 2nd Hunger Strike.

So it is hardly surprising very few are aware of an ongoing no-wash protest and battle over human waste being carried out by republican prisoners in the reincarnated Long Kesh as prisoners fight a similar regime.

As Thomas ‘Dixie’ Elliot notes:

The prisoners are locked up 23 hours per day and have no access to canteen or education facilities. For the hour that they are allowed out of their cells they are strip searched, their movements are controlled by 3 prison officers to each prisoner, they have to shower and are allowed one 5 minute phone call home to family members. This is totally unacceptable.

As a direct consequence of this the prisoners have reacted and have been on protest for a number of months partaking in what can only be described as a “Dirty Protest” in which their bodily waste has been dumped on the floors of their cells and on the landings.

The prison authorities have responded by sealing the bottom of the cell doors with rubber strips to prevent this waste leaking onto the landings and to keep the waste in the cells with the prisoners.

This waste is now accumulating and in a number of cells is 1 to 2 inches deep on the floor. It is in these horrific conditions that the prisoners are forced to eat every meal.

In one of the first acknowledments of this ongoing situation from the Prison Service they claimed their officers have been occasionally sprayed with bodily waste (but they are admitting this protest is taking place after months of silence):

The landings of Roe House have been awash with urine and faeces for weeks now, but in recent days republicans have taken to |depositing their bodily waste |into plastic bottles and using them to squirt their faeces at officers.

In a statement, it said: “Republican separated prisoners have been pouring urine, sometimes mixed with excrement, onto the landings from their cells.

“The Prison Service is aware of a number of incidents of members of staff having this thrown at them when they opened, or walked past, a cell.

Eamonn McCann is amongst the first to recognise there could be a broader human rights issue requiring support from outside republicanism:

If the Maghaberry [sic] prisoners weren’t “dissident Republicans” there might be a louder outcry about the prison regime they are being subjected to.

, , , , , , , ,

  • Bobby Big Boy

    One the one hand Elliot states that “the prisoners have reacted and have been on protest for a number of months partaking in what can only be described as a “Dirty Protest” in which their bodily waste has been dumped on the floors of their cells and on the landings.”

    Yet he goes on to assert that it is in such “horrific conditions that the prisoners are forced to eat every meal.”

    While I sympathise with the conditions in which these prisoners are confined, they have only themselves to blame for consuming their meals surrounded by their bodily waste.

  • Why is this not news? is it deliberately being overlooked? would we be asking more questions about human rights if these prisioners were supporters of a Islamic Militant group?

  • Bobby Big Boy

    You’re even more paranoid that normal Marky!

    It’s somewhat bizarre that a keyboard warrior wannabe dissident like yourself refuses to allow dissent.

    Oíche mhaith!

  • anne warren

    Wasn’t this issue discussed on a thread a couple of months ago? – Particularly from the point of view of the humanitarian issue? Perhaps providing a link to the original thread would be helpful.

    In any case about one month ago UTV announced “The Chief Inspector of Prisons will chair an overhaul of Northern Ireland’s jails, the Justice Minister said on Monday.Dame Anne Owers will lead the review following prison suicides and unrest among paramilitary inmates. Former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton is among other members of the panel

    Is there any info on if and how the panel is proceeding with its review?

  • theguvnor

    The prisoners are not “forced” to eat meals in these conditions: they choose to do so. Republicanism excelling in mopery once again.

    Please do remind us what these good patriots are doing time for… Pearse and Sands must be so proud.

  • Mark McGregor


    When I last wrote about the situation in Long Kesh it was a different issue:


  • anne warren

    It was a separate issue but did encompass prisoners’ rights.
    I have copied this from the previous thread:
    “The BBC report cited above http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/10159464.stm also states
    “In a statement, Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe said she was investigating complaints from a number of prisoners and hoped to produce a report within a few weeks. ”

    Any news about the investigation Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe was conducting or her report?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    MMG is of course quite right.
    The No Wash Dirty protest had very little impact outside the usual subjects. It was a protest that de-hunaised the prisoners and quite rightly those of us who aspire to human dignity had little sympathy with those who were prepared to live in their own s***.
    So frankly I did not know that there is a similar protest in Maghaberry “re-incarnated Long Kesh” and frankly nobody cares.
    Sealing the cells up to prevent urine leakage to the landings……seems the very least that the Prison authorities can do to prevent infection spreading to other prisoners to whom they have a duty of care.
    They still of course have a duty of care to those who have rejected the system……but give us a break …..its not the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s.
    Normal people have moved on and if republican dissidents want to sit in their own s*** inside the prison literally and outside the prison (metaphorically), I couldnt give a tinkers curse.
    But then……Im a people person.

  • joeCanuck

    If true, this should be of some concern. But the question that always comes back in cases like this is “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”
    If true, the problem needs to be resolved with the ball being in the authorities court. But the prisoners are not going to get political status.

  • Jimmy

    “and battle over human waste”

    And yet when I call them that I get complaints.

  • damon

    Eanonn McCann said this in the linked article:

    ”The prisoners say that they are strip-searched when going for video-link court appearances – when they are not in physical contact with anyone other than prison officers. What purpose can this have other than to humiliate the prisoners?”

    Maybe the purpose is just to remain in control.
    A legitimate purpose in my opinion.
    As the people involved in protesting are very dangerous people.

    They have to be locked up one way or another.

  • Cynic

    If the prisoners are doing this they should be prosecuted again for criminal damage to the prison and assault on the staff

  • Cynic


    Why is it that so many of your articles, and especially the headlines, give me the impression that you hanker for a return to the ‘good old days’?

  • I have sympathy for the plight of genuine republican prisoners. I would like to know how many of these prisoners are genuine, ie how many committed crimes directly and only against the British state?

    For the rest, to quote an old saying: they made their bed, they can lie in it. If in making that bed they smashed their bathrooms, that’s unfortunate, perhaps they should be transferred to Abhu Graibh. It occurs to me one or two may be jealous of those pictures of Abhu Graibh?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Yes…this headline at least makes hints as does the recent one where thuggish sectarian youths show “potential”.
    But in fairness to MMG he is not the only person who yearns for the old days and whose headlines have an air of wishful thinking about them.
    Its a race to find the “I told you so” story.

  • Cynic

    Politics for slow learners

  • Alan Maskey

    Mark: First of all, the first hunger strike was very successful. If Hughes had not bottled it before Christmas, all hell would have broken loose. The first hunger strike gained traction and mobilised the key personnel, one of whom was my good self.
    So, historically, you are wrong. The first hunger strike also supplied the personnel for the second.So, historically, you are wrong.
    And tactically too. Republican prisoners today have no comparable organisation on the outside. This is true not only in Ireland (thanks CIRA/RIRA etc) but further afield in placesl ike Turkey.
    Backbiters like the posters were either ignored or pushed aside; people like that have no interest in Republican prisoners or their welfare so their narcissistic comments can be safely ignored.

    Cynic does, however, make a salient point. The good old days are gone. Time for old dogs and young pups to learn new tricks.

  • hodgie

    The good old days are gone. Time for old dogs and young pups to learn new tricks.
    how true.

    the current republican prisoners are a forgotten generation of prisoners; their tactical approach does as much to isolate them from public opinion as a hostile media.

    but their politics/lack of politics are not the issue; the issue is a prison system which is reminiscent of that which prevailed in the h-blocks.

    the whole situation in maghaberry could disappear quite rapidly without any loss of face on either side if/when the prison administration sit down in good faith at a face-to-face meeting with the prisoners.

    a humane prison regime is not a political nor a religious demand, it is a human rights demand.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The fact is that the broader republican community has no time for dissident “politics”.
    the broader republican community has no time for dissident violence.
    the broader republican community has no time for dissident republican propaganda and their apologists.
    the broader republican community has no time for dissident “republican” prisoners.

    Despite the best efforts of their apolgists and tactics inside and outside prisons, nobody gives a damn.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    The headline comes from Eamonn McCann’s article mentioned in the OP.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    I’m not sure what ‘broader republican community’ you’re referring to, since there have been very well attended public meetings on the issue in republican areas like west Belfast, Newry and Derry, not to mention the various white-line pickets and other protests. But Eamonn McCann is very right in saying that the campaign seriously needs to broaden its base if it’s going to go anywhere.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well youve actually answered your own question.
    If you accept that McCann is right, then the campaign would have to be broadened.
    And the only place it can reach is the broader republican community to which I referred. And quite rightly they have no interest.

  • “Why is it that so many of your articles, and especially the headlines, give me the impression that you hanker for a return to the ‘good old days’?”


    Not only is mark correct to highlight this issue, with the recent history of the north it is imperative this matter is open to public debate. Every single one of the negative comments about the current group of protesting republican prisoners, was used against the Sands generation of protesting prisoners.

    In saying this, I am not suggesting the situation outside of the jails are the same as back in the early 1980s, but history does teach little which is negative in the British penal system has not occurred before.


    I am unsure what a genuine Irish republican is, is there someone who sits on high and anoints genuine republicans whilst rejecting the not so genuine? What I do know is the overwhelming majority of the protesting prisoners are in prison for offences not dissimilar to that of the blanket-men. Indeed the only difference between the two groups is in many cases todays protesting prisoners have committed less serious offences than their 1980s predicessors.

    Hodgie is correct, just as given the will the British authorities could have settled the 1980s blanket protest before it reached its violent crescendo, with ten dead hunger strikers and countless innocent peoples lives destroyed beyond the prison walls.

    Today it is not beyond the wit of the British authorities and the protesting prisoners to reach an agreement which is satisfactory to both parties.

    How a society treats those it incarcerates is the benchmark of all societies. The post hunger strike regime in the maze, etc was recognised by even it’s critics as having a humanising factor on both prison officers and inmates.

    Comments like some of the above help no one, they just push people into opposing camps by dehumanising one side or the other.

    Have we really got such a short memory about what a tinderbox an Irish prison cell can be turned into?

  • Drumlin Rock

    History does not operate in a loop, you cant just repeat the past by reusing the same tactics, the world and even NI has changed.
    Slowly the “dissidents” will realise that but hopefully sooner rather than later.

  • Donald Fraser

    Extraordinary nonsense. Dissident scum are the pariahs of the six counties. They can EAT their own shit for all I care. Mark’s post is a truly nonsensical piece of mopery.

  • Alan Maskey

    Some good points. Even Donald Fraser’s which show some people cannot evolve and that all they understand is a return of the violence they like to dish out. Easy to imagine him doing the body searches.

    “But Eamonn McCann is very right in saying that the campaign seriously needs to broaden its base if it’s going to go anywhere..”

    This was the same issue in 1980. It took a long time to get PSF to broaden the base and hten they undermined it a lot by not supporting IRSP/INLA candidates in the 26 co elections. Historically ironic but that is PSF for you.

    Thge 1980/1 hunger strikes roped in a lot of “peaceful” republicans, arty farty types and the like. However, there are many – stand up PSF and RSF leaders – who just regard these prisoners as expendable pawns. The same was true of the PIRA volunteers in the good old days.

    The British government used the prisiners in England as bargaining chips. They did not repatriate them (as they should have) until the Brits were sure they would get what they want.

    A major difference now is they have the Royal Ulster Provos on their side. And many capable guys have defected to/stayed with the Provos.

    Are the Provos the new SDLP? No. SDLP guys have hearts that can be appealed to.
    The RUP are like the Bolsheviks Solzhenitsyn wrote about. They whinged about Tsarist prison conditions but they were much bosses themselves.
    Fiinally, the RSF type leadership is a disgrace. It is ok those inbred guys living in fantasy land but the prinsoners pay the cost.

    God help them: the real fall guys.

  • “History does not operate in a loop,”

    True to a degree, but if people either ignore it, or fail to learn from it, it does have a nasty habit of repeating itself, all be it in a distorted form.

    A good example of this is Jewish zionists creating a ghetto in Gaza, or Provo republicans condemning other republicans for doing what they once did.

    funny old world.

  • daisy

    What’s the difference between conditions for this section of the prison population and the rest? Genuine question btw, as I’m not au fait with prisons, thankfully.

  • By ‘genuine political prisoners’ I mean those convicted of acts against the British state or its armed personnel. Im not a bit impressed by those ‘republicans’ who intimidate, rob, or murder Irish people. I do not accept the idea of collateral damage being applied to anyone on this island.

  • joeCanuck

    I’m not that familiar myself, Daisy. But what I understand is that the prison is run like most prisons. Prisoners who accept the stated or unstated (there are quite a lot of understandings between conforming prisoners and their guards) rules or regime are treated reasonably well. But, as in any prison, if a prisoner refuses to conform to the rules, then he or she is subject to increasing tight restrictions, segregation, for example, to try to “persuade” them to conform.
    I believe there are a significant number or “dissident” republicans there who refuse to conform.

  • Reader

    Mark, if the prisoners have taken to squirting bottles of shit at people, and are paddling around in the stuff too, then it is entirely reasonable to search them and require that they shower before moving them around the prison. You would expect the same before letting them move around your house too.

  • Reader

    daisy: What’s the difference between conditions for this section of the prison population and the rest?
    The conditions are identical. That is the reason for the protest – they want special privileges. During the protest the prisoners wrecked their in-cell toilet facilities. Perhaps Mark can let us know if they have promised not to wreck any replacements?
    I suspect that some secure psychiatric facilities have unbreakable toilet fittings. However, even if they were installed there is no guarantee that these guys would actually use them. I suspect that the psychiatric facilities have that problem too.

  • Granni Trixie

    BTW, note that Hughes is now a Republican baddie
    eg “before Hughes bottled out”. This wouldn’t be because he has broken the code and spoken out would it?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Id think the phrase “bottling it” does not imply any attempt to demean him. The Adams line that Hughes was a troubled man and that he (Adams) cared for him more than Hughes new media friends…..is the “official” line and frankly has a certain resonance.
    The phrase “Republican baddie”is of course your own.
    But the phrase “Republican goodie” is just as apt as certain Media types now find that Hughes is a hero……but only of course because he fits their agenda.
    He is seen to be condemning Adams therefore Hughes is the hero of the Overclass media…..Moloney and O’Doherty (who if you remember a few short months ago told us here that he found “Hughes to be impressive”.
    Never mind the fact that he was OC of D Coy 2nd battallion and later OC 2nd battn and later OC of the Belfast Brigade…..all those things can be overlooked as long as Admas can be rubbished.
    Now oddly Hughes is a big hero to Mackers and his Poison Quill (sic) website.
    So seemingly the journalistic overclass and the dissidents have a common anti-Sinn Féin-IRA agenda.
    The journalists had a chance to dish the dirt on SF-IRA befor 1998. Did they do it? No sirree.
    Get them on board..then try and screw them.
    And rather unfortunately for them……..people are STILL voting SF-IRA.
    Must be frustrating.

  • Cynic

    “could end very badly indeed”

    …. they could all realise they have lost, go away and leave us all in peace?

  • FJH

    Im not a disser and Im not a republican, but I do have respect for Hughes and those like him. He was a man who stuck to his convictions even though it cost him a lot. It may indeed have hurt GA more than anyone knows. GA must have ‘lost’ a lot of comrades along the way.

    I believe that no matter how much people disagree they aught to be able to respect real conviction.

  • Granni Trixie

    There is nothing wrong with being a Republican but in my book physical force republicans are ‘baddies’.
    Also, although I too was happy enough for Hughes to put into the public domain an inside story revealing something about ‘what kind of a person was in a murdering machine’ (making trouble for Adams and his ilk was a bonus),I am certainly no fan of Mr Hughes. Moloneys book does him no favours as he comes across as having a Boys Own view of ‘the war’,low on empathy or sensitivity to his victims or even the young men drawn into the bloody IRA business.

    He would have been better served looking after his own family indeed his son’s pathetic life suggests this.

    We will have to disagree on our interprettion of ‘bottling it’.

  • Granni Trixie


    I simply do not understand why one should respect someone who,in the context of NI, is convinced that it is OK to bomb and shoot people. There were always other ways to bring about change. It could have happened in the 70s. The campaign was stupid.

  • Granni Trixie

    As a pacifist I disagree with almost everything Hughes did, but I respect the fact he kept faith with his beliefs even when it became unpopular with many of his colleagues.

    I repeat: no matter how much people disagree they (including me) aught to be able to respect real conviction. It is a rare quality, and in most politicians non existent.

  • joeCanuck

    No, Pippakin. At the risk of having Godwin’s Law invoked, I could argue that Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, to name but three, had total conviction that what they were doing was the “right” thing.

  • joe

    Godwins Law: every discussion ends with the introduction of Hitler??? Who knows. I never check.

    Im not sure any dictator was/is a person of conviction. or perhaps their only conviction is they will do whatever it takes to stay in power.

    Hughes, without PIRA had no power but he still held fast to his beliefs.

  • joeCanuck

    Yes, Pippakin.
    Godwin’s Law says that the longer a discussion/argument goes on the greater the likelihood that the Nazi’s will be brought in. The “rule” to be then followed is that the discussion ends and whoever brought up Hitler or the Nazis is popularly deemed to have lost the argument.

  • Joe

    I carefully left off the last half! No winners or losers in a discussion such as this, Conviction is not about winners and losers, its about belief and all Irish believe.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Umm,does Billy Wright earn the same hero worship ?? Real conviction you say……………I guess the Shankill Butchers would fall into that category also ??? 🙁

  • HeinzGuderian

    I think if you, or anyone else. checked like with like, the answer would be no. It may be a technicality, but Billy Wright did not have the opportunity.


    Happy now.

  • Alan Maskey

    Godwin’s law refers to an economic theory that bad money drives good money out. Nothing to do with internet trivia methinks.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Always happy Pip………………just a tad concerned about how ones ‘person of conviction’,would be any different from anothers ??
    I mean to say,weren’t they both convicts ?? 🙂

  • joeCanuck


    It’s not a matter of being happy.
    Remember your catechism. Always follow your conscience; just be sure you don’t have a false one (meaning don’t argue with the priest 😉 ).
    I think people may have conviction which are wrong.

  • joe Canuck

    I never argue with the priest, I never see one. Now we are both trumped, it seems Godwins law is about economics.

    Heinz Guderian

    Dohh, you got me. I should have seen it coming.

  • Reader

    Alan Maskey: Godwin’s law refers to an economic theory that bad money drives good money out.
    That is Gresham’s law. These days Godwin’s law is a lot more widely known. And it is as stated by joeCanuck.

  • sliabhdubh

    It is refreshing to see,that many here think that wallowing in your own s**t,is all thats good for the dissidents.I disagree totally with them,its time they let a political soloution materialise,and it will.I dont take pleasure in thier plight in prison,they deserve at least questions to be asked of the prison authorities.As for them recruiting thugs etc,well all republican organizitions did that in the 70s,people are there to be used,most realised that. The difference is now most of present day militant republicans got there,lessons from a dinasour,mr Brady can take thanks for living in the past and learning nothing.I class myself as a socialist republican ,I voted for Sinn Fein,since the cease fire,they can deliver peace,and then we can make progress with our socialist policies,Ireland at war is stagnant.

  • old school

    So you find it refreshing that Unionist posters find it good that Republicans are “wallowing in dirty protest”?
    Just you keep supporting Sinn Fein. You deserve each other.
    I’m guessing you supported the Stickies prior to the ceasefires??

  • Reader

    old school: So you find it refreshing that Unionist posters find it good that Republicans are “wallowing in dirty protest”?
    You are picking on the wrong target. The dissident prisoners could be exactly as comfortable as any other prisoners if they chose to be. So “wallowing” is an entirely appropriate metaphor, end even quite a reasonable description of the situation.
    And the dissident republican movement is at last discovering – slowly – that they can’t accumulate sympathy merely by going through the motions of a dirty protest in this fashion. There are a number of missing ingredients in this campaign.

  • old school

    I doubt this is about looking for sympathy or playing the victim, Reader.
    The contrary in fact. They are asserting their position, and refusing to lie down.
    I personally find the victim mentality/grant dependency found in the North pretty nauseating. i prefer those who show assertiveness , and fight back rather than turn the cheek.
    These prisoners are an inspiration. It’s those who sold their souls who really need sympathy.

  • Reader

    Old School – are you really saying there is nothing tactical about their campaign – it’s all about principle? Then why did they wreck their own toilet facilities?
    They are prisoners – if they want to get out soon to try to kill for Ireland, they would be better doing their time quietly. Most of the State is outside the walls of the prison, after all. And it’s not as though the prison guards have the option of letting them go to get rid of the smell – that decision is made by people who don’t have to put up with it.

  • sliabhdubh

    Old school I was being sarcasric about wallowing in s**t,read what I said I take no pleasure at thier plight,and at least we all should be asking the prison authorities questions,regarding lock up,how much time do they get in the open air,People do not undertake a dirty protest lighly.As for my republican affilations it is based on socialism not ism.

  • Greenflag

    ‘These prisoners are an inspiration.’

    To who ? The people of all Ireland voted to accept the GFA . These dissident prisoners obviously do not accept the will of the Irish people north and south .

    They are an anachronism and are out of time and place . The world has moved on . Why are they in prison anyway ? Did they commit crimes ? Have they been found guilty in a court ?

  • old school

    An inspiration to many.
    Most are in jail on remand. Not found guilty of anything.
    They have shown their steel, and to the dismay of the enemy they remain unbroken.
    “It is not those who inflict the most who will succeed, but those who endure the most.”

  • Reader

    old school: They have shown their steel, and to the dismay of the enemy they remain unbroken.
    I am not sure how you define ‘the enemy’ – this being after the split, and all – but I get the strong impression that some segments of the enemy demographic are laughing their heads off. Which is a funny way to show dismay.