Wednesday 18 October 2017

Eamon Delaney: Soft portraits of republican women belie reality of hardcore female agitators

In the republican camp, women have been among the most unyielding of activists, writes Eamon Delaney

EVERY summer I go to Armagh for the John Hewitt summer school and I am always struck by how this charming cathedral town encapsulated the Troubles. Cheek-by-jowl, around its beautiful Georgian mall, is the ornate courthouse, the Orange Hall, Gough military barracks and, directly facing it, the old Victorian jail.

Especially striking is how the jail looks exactly as it did when it closed, with its big gates and deserted yard. It's as if they just turned the key and left. Given that this was the main lock-up for republican women, I was surprised that there was no commemoration or attempt to recreate some 'conflict heritage' aspect.

I said this to republicans whom I know and they admitted that the republican women, who also went on the dirty protest, and on hunger strike, have been almost written out of the official history of the movement. Sure enough, in the Sinn Fein bookshop, I could only find one or two pamphlets about them in among the volumes of books about 'the heroic men'.

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