What Fleggers Want – 1 year on

happy 1
A new descriptive paper* by Dr Jonny Byrne investigated the background to the Flag protests.
Since the decision had been taken to‘remove’ the Union Flag from flying 365 days a year over Belfast City Hall,

before and after flag
protestors said there was a ‘strong sense of loss’, which was often difficult to articulate.
women crying
The removal of the flag is an illustration of where our society is going, a place that doesn’t accommodate a Unionist tradition”

Comment: Protesters seem unable to distinguish between Unionism (a desire to maintain the union with the UK) and human/civil rights in a modern democracy.

The protests were “about the preservation of the rights of the Protestant people”.
Q. What exactly are they? How and why do they differ from the rights of other people living in NI?

The protests were about telling those in power and wider society that the Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist people were not going to let their sense of ‘Britishness’, be airbrushed from the ‘new’ Northern Ireland“.
chippingthey pick, pick, pick and pick away at our culture until all we are left with is scraps’.
Sir John Major
john major
has described this as a “phantom fear”.
kkk in bedsheets
Comment: Diagnosis, or naming the phobia, needs to be followed by therapy to overcome it

Respondents felt that over the last decade it was becoming more difficult to express their identity, celebrate their culture and acknowledge their past
We are under threat…you have seen it with the bands were we cant even play music in certain places

and with the bonfires were we are being told what we can and cannot burn

bonfire fuck
Malachi O’Doherty,”The DUP certainly regards it as a culture war: conflict by other means. I don’t know who first viewed it this way“,

Comment: They object to conforming to modern Health, Safety, Environmental laws. There appears to be no awareness that aspects of their culture are sectarian and offensive. Many non-Catholics were appalled by the behaviour of the band at St Patrick’s Church. And by the pitiful excuses produced in court.
they were unaware that only a single drum beat was to be played on the contentious stretch of their route along Donegal Street. Eyesight and reading limitations formed part of the defence case.”
Many more non-Catholics were aghast by what was said at Twadell Avenue


Respondents find it difficult to articulate what is meant by Loyalism, especially those that claim to be a Loyalist.
There was agreement that historically the word was associated with paramilitary activity and had recently become demonised as a term because of criminals claiming to be Loyalists.
uvf gunmen
pitying yourself
Essentially, it incorporated a number of things:
“You are loyal to the crown”
duties uk 3
and your Britishness…and your history and identity
sectarian graffitti
orange march
and the people that made it possible for you to be here now”

Comment:We already knew all that, didn’t we?
Brian John Spencer: Loyalists want to run large with no opposition, no counter-narrative, no resistance. By their false doctrine of loyalist exceptionalism, they hold a special privilege in society – They are beyond reproach and rebuff.This is a hideous state of affairs. Their iron band of total reign leaves no space for other views and voices. Anything in dissent is automatically branded either as snobbish, or as a malign and malevolent “Fenian”/”IRA”/”taigy” intervention. Failing that, the person or persons will get beat up.By this formula, their violent and extremist grip endures in a negative feedback loop. Simply by abolishing, silencing and censoring the unwelcome voice. Loyalism is sending Northern Ireland to hell in a handcart and you can’t do anything about it. By their formula, they have the whip-hand over you and you can say absolutely nothing.. This is abhorrent, nauseating and grotesque and must be opposed
Coment:There is apparently no awareness that these slogans and symbols no longer mean anything. How would respondents react to some of the arguments being put forward by English Republicans? For example,
The Crown currently gives our government huge powers that it can use without needing parliament’s permission. Getting rid of the Crown would give our elected parliament more power and control over the government.”
english republicans
According to respondents in the Byrne study, the equality agenda was a Republican
Agenda and parity of esteem was simply a myth being peddled by Sinn Féin,

sf new republic
Comment: Apparently no understanding of what these terms mean.

Proposals for the Stormont Administration:
1)A capillary Human Rights education programme will help these peopleunderstand the concepts “equality” and parity of esteem”. Meetings will need to be held in practically every community building to explain the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, the EU charter, modern UK and ROI legislation and so on and so forth.
night class
Conducting this educational programme will provide work for unemployed teachers, young law graduates, human rights activists etc
2) All public buildings should be obliged and shops encouraged/given incentives to display appropriate relevant posters.
anti sect poster
Drawing up and producing posters will provide work for young graphic artists and printing companies
3) Soap operas exploring the concepts in the Ulster setting should be commissioned for local TV

soap opera
thus providing work for local script writers, actors, directors, producers etc. They could also be sold as our leaders traipse round the world promoting the peace process.
are you serious

*Flags and Protests: Exploring the views, perceptions and experiences of people directly and indirectly affected by the flag protests INTERCOMM & Dr.Jonny Byrne December 2013


“We broke Armagh, it never broke us” – Irish Republican women

When young women were imprisoned throughout the conflict, in this state, in Britain and in the six counties, they knew they were walking in the footsteps of the women of 1916. We were republicans in the mould of Markievicz. We were what we were. We are what we are. Unashamed, unrepentant republicans; to this day and forever on.”SÍLE DARRAGH

The experience of women during the Troubles has often been overlooked, especially those connected to Armagh Gaol
armagh gaol
Now empty, it was the only female prison in Northern Ireland until it closed in 1986. The number of female political prisoners grew from 2 in 1971 to more than 100 by 1976; hundreds of women, most aged from mid-teens to mid-twenties,
armagh prisoners
were jailed in the 1970s and 1980s for political offences.

1 January 1973: – Elizabeth McKee (19) of Belfast became the first woman to be detained under the Detention of Terrorists (Northern Ireland) Act

No charge. No trial. Indefinite imprisonment.

32 other women including Teresa Holland, Margaret Shannon and Anne Walsh were soon to join Elizabeth.

Republican women prisoners endured horrific abuse and violence and yet acknowledgement of that experience has been marginalised as have the unbearable pain and tremendous courage of mothers who were imprisoned.
prison 2
When the final key turned on a history many will never forget the stories of these prisoners seemed destined to remain unheard and unseen.
In the Footsteps of Anne
in the footsteps of anne
fills the gap describing how young girls, married women, pregnant women and even grandmothers withstood horrific abuse and stood up to the British system which aimed at breaking them for over 30 years. Eileen Hickey,
eileen hickey
OC of the women prisoners from 1973-77, started compiling the inside stories from the women themselves over 10 years ago with the help of her sister Mary.
Many ex-prisoners were reluctant to collaborate some because they did not want to re-live bad memories, others because they had put the past behind them.

refusal fem
All the women who told their stories remembered some of the worst times, the inhumanity and petty vindictiveness and the incredibly strong bonds forged among the women in prison.

Mariea McClenaghan Williams (Armagh 1973) said “The comradeship between us all was fantastic.Many of us are still great friends, that bond we had will never leave us

North Belfast republican Mary Doyle was first sent to Armagh women’s jail for republican activities in May 1974 when she was 18 years old.
Armagh Jail was an old Victorian building. It was freezing. It wasn’t pleasant. The conditions when we were slopping out were grim and not something you thought you could ever get used to.But when your back is against the wall, you get the strength from somewhere. And republicans, we just get on with it. We always have.”

Many recalled where their cells had been, and who their cellmates were. They remembered the protests and they remembered the beatings at the hands of the screws.

Here’s why some women ended up in Armagh gaol
Anne Larkin McCay was arrested at Easter time in 1967 for selling
easter lily
Easter lilies in Ardoyne (a staunch Republican area in North Belfast).

In 1971 Margaret Boyd Gatt was sentenced to 6 months for wearing
a parka jacket and carrying a hurling stick – “conduct likely to lead to a breach of the peace”
32 women were interned without trial – no charge, no sentence, indefinite imprisonment

prison 2
For example, Ann Walsh O’Neill was interned in March 1973, Ann Doherty in June of the same year and Anne-Marie Williams in August.
Here are memories of Armagh Gaol from one prison officer, two Open University tutors, one loyalist prisoner and three republican prisoners.

Marie Doherty went into prison as the protest by republican prisoners was escalating.
I was arrested in February 1977 and when I went into jail the political status had gone at that stage,” she said.
About six months after I was sentenced a shout went up one evening that there was chicken for dinner which was unusual because we never had chicken on a Tuesday. We all rushed down to the canteen and while we were there the screws moved in and penned us in and others went to search the cells. A riot broke out and we were all locked up for three days continuously with no access to toilet or washing facilities. That was the start of the no wash protest.

political status
Una Nellis says she went off the protest and felt really guilty and bad about leaving her comrades at that time in those conditions. She had a breakdown and ended up on so many different drugs, not realizing the damage they were doing to her.
I still suffer from mental illness but it does not wreck my life. I do not think I would have suffered from this if it had not been for the conditions in Armagh gaol”
“I still have flashbacks as i am sure other do even though it is 30 years later. I’m still on heavy medication”
“There’s an awful lot of men and women suffering and they try to hide it as I do but our story should be told”.

Republican prisoners in Armagh had close links with the men in Long Kesh.
There wasn’t a woman in Armagh who wasn’t writing to at least one man in Long Kesh. I shared a cell with the fiancee of Tom McElwee for three years and it was awful watching her, knowing that he was going on hunger strike.
“We knew the first four who were going on and she knew at that stage that Tom’s name was on the list. For her it was not just being separated from him but she also knew what he was going through in Long Kesh”.
Thomas McElwee started his Hunger Strike in the H-Blocks on 8 June 1981. He died on 8 August 1981.
hunger strikers
The 10 hunger strikers who died (clockwise from top left) – Raymond McCreesh, Thomas McElwee, Bobby Sands, Patsy O’Hara, Kevin Lynch, Joe McDonnell, Francis Hughes, Michael Devine, Martin Hurson and Kieran Doherty. (Photograph: Pat Langan: PA)
“I remember going to the funerals after they died. The thing that sticks out most in my mind was the funeral of Tom McElwee”.
mc elwee funeral
“I remember seeing his sisters carrying his coffin. That was the first time I had ever seen women carrying a coffin, it just wasn’t done back then. That sticks out in my mind. It was his sisters telling the world that they were proud of their brother and what he had done. When I think of Tom McElwee that is what I think of,”
Jennifer McCann is a Sinn Fein politician who is a member of the Stormont Assembly.
jen mccann mla
She was sentenced to 20 years for terrorist offences.

In her time as a Republican prisoner she and her colleagues refused to work which meant they were locked up in their cells for most of the day.
We were let out for a short time to wash and to empty our chamber pots in the mornings. We ate in our cells and we got an hour’s exercise in the afternoons and we were allowed a small period of time for association in the evenings but not at the weekends.We lost a day’s remission for every day we wouldn’t work,”
Jennifer McCann clearly remembers hearing that Bobby Sands had died on hunger strike in the Maze in 1981.

bobby sands
There used to be heating pipes which ran through the cells. We had smuggled in small crystallised radios”
crystal radio
which were made on the outside and I passed on the news that he had died.”
Mary Mc Conville

In October 2009, a group of internees and sentenced prisoners began a journey to Armagh Gaol that some of them had only made once before, but which their families had made many times during their years of incarceration.
My beautiful picture
At the end of the visit, the women were in the courtyard. I pointed out an intact window to Pauline Derry.

Be a shame to go without leaving your mark,” I said as I handed her a rock.
stone in window
The other 20 women also intended to “leave their mark.” As the hail of rocks began to sail through the air I heard
Ye couldn’t break us then and you’ll never break us now.”
“Here’s what we think of your strip searches.”
“We were political prisoners no matter what you all said.”
“Where’s Thatcher now?”
“Armagh thought it would break us – well we’ve broke Armagh

victory to armagh women

women prisoners, armagh prison, 70's belfast

In the Footsteps of Anne
in the footsteps of anne
is published by Shanway Press, 1-5 Eia St, Belfast. info@shanway.com
The copyright belongs to the women ex-POWs who submitted their stories.
eileen hickey
Eileen Hickey also started an independent museum which is housed in the Conway Mill, Belfast.

Her main hope was that the museum would provide visitors with an insight into “the Troubles” in Northern ireland and an understanding into why so many young men and women joined the Republican movement