Special Category: The IRA in English Prisons, Vol. 2: 1978-1985


Ruán O’Donnell

August 2015

A major history of Irish republican prisoners held in English maximum security jails between 1978-1985; the second volume of a three-part history, covering the entire ‘Troubles’ period.


This pioneering three-part work is the definitive history of Irish Republican prisoners detained in England’s maximum security prison ‘dispersal system’ during the entire period of the ‘Troubles’. A resurgence of IRA violence in Britain resulted in a steady stream of prisoners that ensured the organisation maintained a significant jail population. Based on private correspondence, British state archives, declassified government documents, international media reports, and memoirs of key protagonists, account is taken of all major riots, roof top protests, sabotage attacks and escape attempts undertaken by the IRA, as well as the little-known ‘blanket protest’ undertaken in several locations in England.

Special Category Volume 2 tells the full story of the Wormwood Scrubs ‘riot’ of August 1979, Brixton breakout of December 1980 and the pivotal Albany ‘mutiny’ of May 1983, told for the first time using fresh eye-witness accounts as well as official and public sources. The perspectives of the Irish and British governments, various judiciaries, international legal forums, ‘ordinary decent criminals’ and prisoner solidarity groups are outlined in detail. This ground-breaking book establishes that the ‘prison war’ in England was a far more important IRA theatre of action than hitherto realised.

Table of Contents
1. Year of Crisis: 1978
2. Parkhurst Escape Attempt: February 1978
3. The Campbell Case at Strasbourg
4. Re-organization and Resistance: February-July 1978
5. The Blanket Protest in England
6. Wakefield Incendiaries: June 1979
7. Wormwood Scrubs and Minimum Use of Force Tactical Intervention: August 1979
8. The May Committee Report, 31 October 1979
9. The Escape of Gerry Tuite: December 1980
10. Owen Carron Prison Tour: 22-24 February 1982
11. The Broad Front and Mutiny in Albany: 1983
12. Prisoners and the Law

About the Author

Dr Ruán O’Donnell is a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Limerick. He is an authority on the history of Irish republicanism and has published extensively on the United Irishmen and Irish Republican Army. His Special Category: The IRA in English Prisons 1968-1978 (IAP, 2011) is a bestseller. He co-edited, with Mícheál Ó hAodha, reprints of books by F.X. Martin on The Irish Volunteers and the Howth and Kilcoole Gun-Running.

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