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Paramilitary Imprisonment in Northern IrelandResistance, Management, and Release$
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Kieran McEvoy

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198299073

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198299073.001.0001

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Hunger Strike and Dirty Protest: Resistance as Self-Sacrifice

Hunger Strike and Dirty Protest: Resistance as Self-Sacrifice

(p.72) 4 Hunger Strike and Dirty Protest: Resistance as Self-Sacrifice
Paramilitary Imprisonment in Northern Ireland

Kieran McEvoy

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the significance of the tactic of hunger strike for politically motivated prisoners during the most recent phase of conflict in Northern Ireland. It suggests that for prisoners who had been through the harrowing ordeal of the blanket and dirty protest between 1976 and 1980 following the removal of Special Category Status, and who were well cognisant of their prison history, recourse to the tactic of hunger strike was a logical and pragmatic step in resistance to the policy of criminalisation. In addition, the chapter analyses the little reported phenomena of Loyalist hunger strikes during the years in question. While it is true that generally Loyalist prisoners have appeared less willing to use the tactic of hunger strike until death, a number of significant developments have arisen from Loyalist hunger strikes and threats to hunger strike. The structure of this chapter is as follows: a brief discussion on the notion of hunger strike as a means of protest; the historical context of hunger striking for Republicans; the dirty protest 1976-80, the 1980-1 hunger strikes and their social and political consequences; and an analysis of the protests of Loyalists and some discussion as to why these tend to be compared unfavourably to those of Republicans.

Keywords:   Special Category Status, hunger strikes, dirty protest, Republican prisoners, Loyalist prisoners

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