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Launch event held for Queen Mary professor’s book on Irish political prisoners

Professor Seán McConville of Queen Mary University of London appeared alongside Minister James Browne - Minister of State at the Department of Justice – and Professor Eunan O’Halpin of Trinity College Dublin at a launch event in Dublin yesterday evening for Professor McConville’s book Irish Political Prisoners 1960-2000: Braiding Rage and Sorrow.

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It provides one of the most comprehensive accounts of the Northern Ireland troubles to date, revealing that the prisoners’ involvement and consent to the Good Friday Agreement that was critical to ending the decades-long conflict.

The launch, held by the Department of Justice, celebrates the final book in the trilogy from Professor McConville. It is the culmination of 25 years of intensive research, interviews and writing on Irish political prisoners from 1848 to 2000.

Speaking at the event, Professor McConville discussed the response of the Irish state to paramilitary attacks on the prisons, including the role of the Irish defence Forces. He also referred to the difficult work of the clergy of all denominations in the prisons, North and South. He took several questions from audience members in attendance, answering queries around these and other topics.

Professor Seán McConville, Professor of Law and Public Policy at Queen Mary said at the launch “Political imprisonment has been at the heart of Irish politics for the last century and a half. It has affected Anglo-Irish and intra-Irish relations in many ways that have often been overlooked or simplified.”

Minister James Browne - Minister of State at the Department of Justice, said: “I would like to congratulate Professor McConville on the publication of his third and final volume on the History of Irish Political Prisoners.

“This is an outstanding work of scholarship and a valuable contribution to the historical record of Ireland. This book has a wealth of historical research on the period which provides the context to Professor McConville’s particular focus on the penal response of the authorities in the United Kingdom and Ireland to the Troubles and the effect of that response on the prisoners themselves.

“It is a great pleasure for me to have participated in the launch event for this important work.”

The work probes the true stories behind some of the most remarkable events in prison history anywhere and at any time. It includes first-hand accounts of riots, mass breakouts, prolonged nakedness, dirty protests and hunger strikes.

This final book in the trilogy sets out the stories of the thousands of people who were taken into custody during the years of the conflict in Northern Ireland. It explores how they lived out their years in Irish and English maximum security prisons, serving long sentences in close custody. It is studded with anecdotes and recollections – dark and sinister, despairing and depressing, but also humorous and humane. Staff and victims are given their voice as well as the prisoners. This was a world that existed for three decades and more, largely hidden from all but a few beyond the walls and wires. Human reliance and endurance are laid alongside irrecoverable time, vanished opportunities and life-long regrets.


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