The 1981 Irish Hunger Strike

An Account from Declassified British Documents


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About the Book

The hunger strike of 1981 is regarded as one of the most tragic events in Irish history. Ten men died over a period of 217 days in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh (Maze) prison while exercising the most extreme form of civil disobedience available to them. The Troubles that gave rise to the hunger strike had roots in the centuries of socio-economic subjugation and religious persecution in Ireland. In 1971, the British government began internment without trial for persons suspected of belonging to paramilitary organizations. Eventually, the British government granted Special Category Status to these prisoners before later stripping it from the prisons by 1976, leading to a five-year prisoner protest that culminated in the 1981 hunger strike.
This book critically examines declassified British government documents that detail how the government’s policies led to the 1981 hunger strike, how Margaret Thatcher exacerbated the strike by refusing steps to end it, and how the hunger strike eventually led to peace in the north. Analysis also illustrates how the 1981 hunger strike, and the ten men who died on it, forced a revolutionary change in the political and governmental structure of the north and paved a road to peace that concluded with the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

About the Author(s)

Michael C. Mentel is an appellate court judge in Ohio. His legal career includes the positions of chief legal officer of a large corporate engineering firm and partner in a nationally distinguished law firm. He is admitted to the bar in Ohio, the U.S. District Courts of Ohio, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.

Bibliographic Details

Michael C. Mentel
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 249
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2024
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9395-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5148-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
Introduction 5
One. What’s Past Is Prologue 11
Two. Internment, Special Category Status, and Criminalization 31
Three. The Blanket and Dirty Protests 44
Four. The Hunger Strike 56
Five. The Condemnation of Thatcher 75
Six. The Soon 94
Seven. A Serious Situation 107
Eight. Support Grows 134
Nine. The Hunger Strike Ends 155
Ten. The Political Change Begins 169
Eleven. ­­Anglo-Irish Relations and the Constitutional Question 185
Twelve. The Road to Peace 190
Chapter Notes 201
Bibilography 229
Index 235

Book Reviews & Awards

The 1981 Irish Hunger Strike is meticulously researched, referenced, and tied together, with extensive notes and index, providing tools for research, and new insight. Then Mentel, in an easy, fact-based, and conversational style, takes the reader through how the melting pot of actions and reactions led to the painful decision to commence the 1981 Hunger Strike. … [This book] is highly recommended, a Top Shelf Selection, for the detail and the insight offered using the British declassification of key documents to shed great light on perspectives not seen, yet alone examined before. Mentel does a fantastic job connecting and explaining this part of Irish history, still alive and relevant today, to our past and present, and of course, our yet unwritten future.”—iIrish News Magazine