‘Internment’ by John McGuffin (1973)


by John McGuffin (1973)

Anvil Books Ltd., 1973. Paperback, 228 pp. Out of Print.

The complete edition now here available online for the first time. Feel free to download these pages, but if you decide to do so we would like to ask you to make a donation to Irish Resistance Books, in order that IRB can publish further works. (Note: We are not in receipt of any grants or Art Council funding.)
You may not edit, adapt, or redistribute changed versions of this for other than your personal use without the express written permission of the author. Redistribution for commercial purposes is not permitted.

Original illustrations will be added.

book cover Internment

From the back cover: Internment: the story of 50 years repression of the Irish

A knock on the door! In the early hours of the morning. A splintered lock and armed men break into your home. They are military and police. You are dragged from your bed. Jail or internment camp? No charge. No trial. This has been the pattern in Ireland, North and South, for more than 50 years.

It is the story of internment; of the thousands of men and women who have been subjected to it; of the conditions, the brutality the escapes and the politics of it all. From Frongoch to long Kesh, Mountjoy to the Curragh. From the hulk of the Argenta to HMS Maidstone.

Did internment work in the past? Why did it fail in 1972? Why did Britain contravene the European Convention of Human Rights? What really did happen in Palace barracks? What was it like in the camps? How do the Special Courts work, North and south?

The man who laughs has not been told the news — Bertold Brecht.


I would particularly like to thank those internees, past and present, without whose assistance this book could not have been written. Many of them wish to remain anonymous and I must respect their wishes, but my special thanks go to Eddie and Mary Keenan, Frank and Rebecca McGlade, Jimmy Drumm, Paddy Joe McClean, Pat Shivers, Willie John McCorry, Geordie Shannon, Art McMullen, Patsy Quinn, Tony Cosgrove, Billy O'Neill, Joe Parker, Gerry Maguire, 'Tex' Dougan, Eamonn Kerr, Hugh Corrigan, Harry McKeown, Phil McCullough, Paddy Murphy, Chris Canavan and John Hunter. Nor can any acknowledgement be complete without mention of Nora McAteer, Jimmy McKeown, Liam Begley, Paddy Brown, Dermot Kelly, R. W. Grimshaw, Michael Walsh, Dicky Glenholmes, Gerry and Rita O'Hare, Robin, Jackie Crawford and Archie 'Jim' Auld.

The untiring efforts of the Association for Legal Justice and the Anti-Internment League to uncover the evidence of ill-treatment were of great help to me, as were the staff of the Linenhall Library, Belfast. Advice on various legal matters was kindly given by Kevin Boyle and Patrick Lynch, LL.B. The list of personal friends who were of assistance is too lengthy for inclusion but I would particularly mention Judith, Joe, Dave, Eleanor for her erratic typing, and for their hospitality John Johansson and Bill and Jacqui Van Voris.

It should be stressed that none of the above are in any way responsible for the opinions expressed in the book, which are my own views. I am, finally, greatly indebted to Dan Nolan for the benefit of his wide experience in publishing.

Belfast, March 1973


INTERNMENT – Indefinte detention without charge or trial – is not confined to Ireland. Virtually all countries, from the most overtly totalitarian to the most 'liberal' social democracies have on their statute books repressive laws to be used in any 'emergency' – that is when the ruling regime is threatened from below. In Ireland, however, that 'emergency' has been going on for over 50 years.

This book is only concerned with internment in Ireland, North and south, from 1916 to the present day. The author shows how internment has been used as a political weapon, how it has succeeded in the past and how in the long run it has been a majot factor in the downfall of Stormont, the parliament of Northern Ireland.

But most of all this is the story of the internees, working-class men and women who have suffered and, in some cases, died for their beliefs. They are neither heroes nor villains, although many have shown great bravery and heroism and some have been guilty of cowardice. In this book they tell for the first time what it is reallly like to be interned. They are not well-known public figures, politicians or publicists. They are ordinary men and women who have suffered for their ideals an dwho remind the readers that the 'knock on the door' could be heard by them too. For those peace-loving citizens who unreservedly support the forces of 'law and order' this book reminds them of the old caveat: Quis custodes custodiet? Who will guard the guards?

Parts of this book, particulary those dealing with torture and brutality, do not make pleasant reading. But then we do not live in pleasant times.

The Knock on the Door

In many a time, in many a land,
With many a gun in many a hand,
They came by the night, they came by the day,
They came with their guns to take us away,
With their knock on the door, knock on the door,
Here they come to take one more.

Look over the oceans, look over the lands,
Look over the leaders with blood on their hands,
And open your eyes and see what they do,
When they knock over there friend, they're knocking for you,
With their knock on the door, knock on the door,
Here they come to take one more.

Words and Music by Phil Ochs and Appleseed Music ASCAP

'They can jail the revolutionary
but not the revolution'

Table of Contents

Chapter   1:  It Happened Here
Chapter   2:  Special Powers
Chapter   3:  English Internment 1916-1945
Chapter   4:  Internment in the Twenty-six Counties 1922-1961
Chapter   5:  Internment in Northern Ireland 1922-1961
Chapter   6:  Woman Internees 1916-1973
Chapter   7:  The Politics of Internment 1971
Chapter   8:  Internment 1971: Those Detained
Chapter   9:  Escapes 1917-1972
Chapter 10:  The Civil Resistance Movement
Chapter 11:  Torture and Brutality
Chapter 12:  The Compton Report
Chapter 13:  The Brown Tribunal
Chapter 14:  Irish Political Prisoners 1900-1973
Chapter 15:  The Role of the Media during Internment
Chapter 16:  Internment Out - Detention In
Appendix I:  Memorandum Submitted By Amnesty International To
The Parker Committee In Interrogation Procedures
Appendix II:  The Significance Of The McElduff Case
Appendix III:  The Special Courts
Appendix IV:  The Diplock Report
Appendix V:  Evidence Submitted By The British Society For Social Responsibility In
Science To The Committee On Interrogation Procedures – January 1972
Brief Bibliography of Books

Copyright  ©  IRB/McGuffin

Irish Resistance Books  |  The Guineapigs  |  Contact