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Political Imprisonment and the Irish, 1912-1921$
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William Murphy

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199569076

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199569076.001.0001

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‘Hunger-Strike Mania’

‘Hunger-Strike Mania’

Ireland, June 1917–June 1918

(p.80) 4 ‘Hunger-Strike Mania’
Political Imprisonment and the Irish, 1912-1921

William Murphy

Oxford University Press

During 1917 and 1918 protest in prisons became the most effective form of revolutionary activity in Ireland. The Sinn Féin revolutionary method was to attempt to render unsustainable British controlled civil government in Ireland, and their first, improvised, target was the prison. By testing the durability and legitimacy of the Irish prison system, using hunger strike, the prisoners tested the durability and legitimacy of British authority. By inciting their arrest, drilling Irish Volunteers made British authority in Ireland visible and unpopular. Once in prison, they challenged that authority, making it even more visible and more unpopular, before undermining it and exposing it to ridicule by achieving early release. Further, Thomas Ashe’s death and funeral in September 1917 were a propaganda disaster for British authority, while each newspaper report of a hunger strike and each demonstration to celebrate a prisoner’s release was a small, effective blow.

Keywords:   Sinn Féin, hunger strike, Thomas Ashe, Irish prison system, propaganda, demonstrations

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