[1974:] Anfang 1969 griffen in Burntollet protestantische Extremisten mit nägelgespickten Keulen und Steinen eine Gruppe Demonstranten an, während die Polizei danebenstand. Nach Zwischenfällen dieser Art und als die von Katholiken bewohnte Bombay Street in Belfast von einem Mob, unter dem sich auch 'B-Specials' befanden, in Brand gesetzt wurde, formierte sich die 'Provisional IRA'. Diese Gruppe hielt es für notwendig, waffenlose Menschen zu verteidigen, und so schien - wieder einmal in Irland - das Gewehr die einzige Stimme zu sein, der man Gehör schenken würde. Als Kämpfe ausbrachen, berief die Regierung die britische Armee ein, um den 'Normalzustand' wiederherzustellen. So besetzte am 9. August die Armee katholische Bezirke. Hunderte von Verdächtigen wurden 'verhaftet' (ohne Haftbefehl oder Anklageschrift) und im Konzentrationslager Long Kesh interniert. [Dieses Lied,] dessen Autor ebenfalls interniert wurde, erzählt die weitere Geschichte.
(B-Specials - Zur Unterstützung der paramilitärisch ausgerüsteten regulären nordirischen Polizeitruppe R.U.C. eingesetzte irreguläre Polizeimacht, auf deren Konto zahlreiche Morde und Pogrome an der katholischen Bevölkerung gehen. Bis nach den oben erwähnten Unruhen 1969 fungierten die B-Specials und die R.U.C. als terroristische Organisationen, mit deren Hilfe die unionistische Regierung die politische Opposition brutal unterdrückte. Nach den Unruhen sah sich die englische Regierung unter dem Druck der Öffentlichkeit gezwungen, die Auflösung der B-Specials und die Entwaffnung der R.U.C. anzuordnen. Die Wiedereinführung der B-Specials ist heute eine der Hauptforderungen militanter Protestanten.) (Notes Sands Family, 'The Winds Are Singing Freedom')
[1975:] I asked why the Government is against internment of known trouble-makers. [Hugh Fraser] said the number would be a thousand and would take two battalions to guard. I had thought of a figure nearer thirty! (Cecil King, Diary 1970-1974, Apr 5th, 1971, p 97)
I asked [Defence Secretary Lord Carrington] why no internment? He said the number of I.R.A. in Northern Ireland is about two thousand, of whom eight hundred are in Belfast. They have the names and addresses of less than half, and think that any attempt to round up the men they do know would be only 50-per-cent successful. He seemed to think that an internment policy that was only about 25-per-cent successful was worse than nothing. (Cecil King, Diary 1970-1974, Apr 8th, 1971, p 99)
[The Government] were very pleased with their swoop and had interned more than half of the leaders. [...] Heath seemed to think that with the policy of internment violence would die down, as it had in 1959-61, and we might have a quiet spell of ten years by which time the Common Market would have transformed the situation. (Cecil King, Diary 1970-1974, Aug 15th, 1971, p 130)
[1983:] Bobby Sands wurde 1954 in Rathcoole, nördlich von Belfast, geboren. Schon früh schloß er sich der Republikanischen Bewegung an. Mit 18 Jahren wurde er das erste Mal verhaftet und zu fünf Jahren Gefängnis verurteilt. Im April 1976 entlassen, wurde er bereits im Oktober des gleichen Jahres erneut verhaftet und diesmal für 14 Jahre in die berüchtigten 'H-Blocks' von Long Kesh gebracht. Dort wurde er Sprecher der 'Blanket Men', die um den Status von politischen Gefangenen (oder Kriegsgefangenenstatus) kämpfen, indem sie u.a. das Tragen der normalen Gefängniskleidung verweigern und statt dessen nackt, nur mit einer Decke bekleidet, in ihren Zellen sitzen. Ein weiteres Kampfmittel ist der Hungerstreik, und am 41. Tag des zweiten Hungerstreiks, am 10.04.1981, wurde Bobby Sands mit 30492 Stimmen als Abgeordneter in's Westminster Parlament gewählt. Doch Bobby Sands hat diesen Hungerstreik nicht überlebt. (Mike Kamp, Folk Michel 31, S. 9)
[1998:] Michael Farrell was 27 and a lecturer at Belfast Technical College in August 1971 when internment was introduced in Northern Ireland. He was one of the leaders of the People's Democracy, a left-wing group of young radicals, and also a member of the executive of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.
He was taken first to an army barracks and later, with other internees, to Crumlin Road prison. At the barracks they were made to run a gauntlet of soldiers with batons, and to run in bare feet over broken glass and rubble. Some were blindfolded, taken up in a moving helicopter which they were told was high in the air, and pushed out. In fact it was only a few feet from the ground.
Eleven internees, later to be known as 'the hooded men', were taken to an unknown destination and subjected to sensory deprivation techniques designed to disorient the mind. One, a man in his thirties, had worked with Farrell on a recent election campaign and Farrell knew he had no involvement with any paramilitary group. 'I didn't recognise him when I saw him. He looked like an old, bent man. He never really recovered from it and died a few years later.'
Three hundred and forty-two people, the oldest a man of 77, were interned on 9 August, 1971. Farrell was held for four weeks but never questioned about involvement in paramilitary or political activity. He is in no doubt that internment was the turning point of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the reason the conflict lasted for 30 years and has been so difficult to resolve. 'Up to that time,' he said, 'Northern nationalists still believed that civil rights and equality could be achieved by political action and protest within the state. But internment was tantamount to telling them they had no rights. From that moment they began to believe they would only get justice if the Northern Ireland state was destroyed, and the Provisional IRA started to grow into a serious force.'
[The] reaction of the British and Irish Governments [to the Omagh bombing] has been to introduce draconian measures which will allow the courts to put anyone suspected of being a member of an illegal organisation in prison on the word of a senior police officer. Farrell fears the results could be as damaging as in 1972. He said last week: 'Experience has shown emergency measures rushed through in response to an atrocity just don't work. [...]' In the wake of Omagh it has been difficult for those involved in protection of human rights to speak out. But in the past week a number of lawyers, on both sides of the border, have expressed anxiety. [...] Others believe the new measures are necessary and should be taken further. (Mary Holland, Observer, 30 Aug)
[1999:] The Maze [prison] - which was formerly known as Long Kesh - is scheduled to close for good in November 2000 once the remaining 140 terrorist prisoners have been freed under the Good Friday Agreement's early release scheme. So far 300 IRA and loyalist paramilitaries have been freed early under the scheme.
The prison acted as a 'university' for terrorists, many of whom have graduated to political fame on being released. One of its most famous graduates is Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, interned in the jail in 1971 when it was Long Kesh. In 1971, the prison held hundreds of young nationalists who were interned without trial by the British Government under pressure from the Unionist government at Stormont. This first wave of internees produced many of the current republican leadership, including Adams.
When Long Kesh was renamed the Maze and transformed into a top-security prison in the late 1970s, IRA and INLA inmates went 'on the blanket' and, later, held dirty protests against the authorities' attempts to treat them as ordinary criminals. They refused to wear prison uniforms, do prison work or surrender their status as political prisoners. Their protest culminated in the 1981 hunger strike, during which seven IRA prisoners and three INLA prisoners starved themselves to death. They included Bobby Sands, the first prisoner to die, who while fasting was elected the MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone. The struggle of the republican prisoners inside the Maze led to Sinn Fein's entry into electoral politics.
Two years after the hunger strike the IRA staged the biggest breakout in British history. Thirty-eight IRA prisoners escaped from the jail on 25 September 1983. During the escape a prison officer was stabbed and later died. Within a few days 19 of the escapees were recaptured.
Throughout the 1990s the Maze prison became an important debating chamber for both the IRA and loyalists as the terror groups inched their way towards ceasefires. Before the IRA, UVF and UDA declared their ceasefires in 1994 their representatives went into the Maze and consulted their prisoners. Support for the peace process is still paradoxically stronger inside the jail than outside. (Henry McDonald, Observer, 31 Oct)
[1999:] Bobby Sands was a distant cousin of the family. (Pr. comm. Tommy Sands)