“Our Barbed Wire Ivory Tower”: The Cages of Long Kesh

  • Lachlan Whalen
Part of the New Directions in Irish and Irish American Literature book series (NDIIAL)


A radical shift in hard-line nationalist ideology took place throughout the North of Ireland as a direct result of widespread political imprisonment, a shift not just in terms of Republican paramilitary strategy, but also in terms of the prisoners’ self-definition and their relationship with political organizations outside the prison’s walls. Like those of the Armagh women, the prison writings originating in the Cages of Long Kesh provide dramatic evidence of how Republican prisoners co-opt and appropriate the space of the prison to at least partially invert the disciplinary structures intended to break them and isolate them from their comrades. In some ways, such Republican resistance to British authority is to be expected. However, what complicates the situation in Long Kesh is the way in which such writings evidence the development of a critical consciousness in the POWs that causes them to disobey and alter the structure of their own political and paramilitary organizations both inside and outside prison. The conflict for incarcerated Republicans has never been that of a simple binary opposition between the British and the Irish, but rather an interlocking system of power relations and tensions—internal and external to their own political groupings and cultural background.


Security Force British Government Disciplinary Structure Officer Commanding Hunger Strike 
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Chapter Two “Our Barbed Wire Ivory Tower”: The Cages of Long Kesh

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© Lachlan Whalen 2007

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  • Lachlan Whalen

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