Armagh Gaol, first constructed in the 1780s and much extended in the 1840s, is a typical Victorian prison in form, with a long austere frontage facing The Mall and, to the rear, two wings (‘A’ and ‘B’) radiating from a central corridor block. It served as Northern Ireland’s only female prison during ‘the Troubles’ until its closure in 1986 (when all prisoners were transferred to Maghaberry Prison).
The number of female political prisoners grew from 2 in 1971 to more than 100 between 1972 and 1976. Due to the growing prison population in the early years of the conflict, Armagh Gaol also housed some male internees and remand prisoners up until 1973. As a result of the overcrowded conditions, female prisoners often had to live two to a cell during the early 1970s. And a third ‘C’ wing was added in 1975 (but has since been demolished).
In parallel with the Maze and Long Kesh Prison, female prisoners at Armagh Gaol took part in no wash protests in order to demand the reinstatement of political status which was withdrawn by the British Government in 1976. In addition, three women in Armagh Gaol took part in the 1980 hunger strike.
Learn More Here
Murray, R. (1998)
Hard Time: Armagh Gaol 1971-1986 (Dublin: Mercier Press)
Corcoran, M. (2006)
Out of Order: The Political Imprisonment of Women in Northern Ireland, 1972-1999 (Devon: Willan Publishing)
McCafferty, N. (1981)
The Armagh Women (Michigan: Co-Op Books)
Mairs, J. (2013)
‘Unseen Women: Stories from Armagh Gaol. Collaborative post-conflict documentary’. (Journal of Media Practice: Screenworks. Vol 4: 5)
McLaughlin, C. (2017)
‘Memory, Place and Gender - Armagh Stories: Voices from the Gaol’ in Memory Studies, 1.14.
Devlin, M. and Hackett, C. (directors) (2015)
A Kind of Sisterhood (documentary film)
“I was eventually left on my own”
Watch the clip of Jackie. Why did she want the prison to be segregated?
“The girls in Armagh hadn’t got anybody older to advise them.”
“The OC kept this place running better than a governor could”
Evelyn and Cate
Watch the clips of Angela, Cate and Evelyn. Why do you think a military-like structure was utilised by the republican prisoners?
This is the circle where we were detailed
This place here at one time was very very busy
Watch the clip of William. List all the people who would have had a connection with Armagh Gaol during ‘the Troubles’.
I never found meeting the prisoners scary
Pat and Jenny
Watch the clip of Jenny and Pat. How do you think outside tutors experienced this environment?
Armagh Stories: Voices from the Gaol
Unseen Women: Stories from Armagh Gaol
Links to NI Curriculum
CCEA GCSE History: Unit 1; Section B; Option 2: Changing Relations: Northern Ireland and its Neighbours, 1965–1998
Questions based on GCSE CEA history exam papers
How useful is the clip of Cate and Evelyn for an historian studying the experience of female prisoners in Armagh Gaol during ‘the Troubles’? Explain your answer, using the clip and your contextual knowledge.
How useful is the clip of Jackie for an historian studying the experience of female prisoners in Armagh Gaol during ‘the Troubles’? Explain your answer, using the clip and your contextual knowledge.