Smashing H-Block

The Popular Campaign against Criminalization and the Irish Hunger Strikes 1976-1982

F. Stuart Ross

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ISBN: 9781846317101

Publication: August 31, 2011

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Smashing H-Block is a political history of the Irish republican struggle against criminalization from 1976 to 1982. This struggle, which culminated in the historic hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981, is widely regarded as a turning point in Ireland’s ‘Troubles’, marking the 'last great wave of activism and mobilization within the nationalist population'. Unlike previous accounts of this period, this fascinating book focuses on the popular movement outside the prisons, challenging republican orthodoxy and stressing the importance of broad-based, grassroots movements in effecting political and social change. Ultimately, it was what happened outside the prisons during these years of protest that reshaped and revitalized modern Irish republicanism.

F. Stuart Ross is a Derry-based activist and academic. He received his PhD from Queen's University Belfast and has also studied at Syracuse University and the London School of Economics.

Introduction: Everyone Has a Part to Play 1. Prison Protests and Broad Fronts (1972 - 1975) 2. Lean Days and Uphill Battles (1976-1977) 3. Steps in the Right Direction (1978-1979) 4. Building the Campaign (1980) 5. Hunger Strike (October 1980 - December 1980) 6. Bobby Sands MP (January 1981 - April 1981) 7. Ten Men Dead (May ’81 - October ‘81) 8. A Quiet and Uneventful End (October ‘81 - October ‘82) 9. Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things (Conclusion) Bibliography Endnotes

Ross's book takes a different tack by examining the nature and wider significance of the mobilisation of grassroots support for republican prisoners during this period....He challenges key themes of the Provisional I.R.A.'s established narrative of the 1980-81 Hunger Strikes.
Kevin Bean   Irish Historical Studies

The most comprehensive academic work on the subject so far.
Maggie Scull   The Irish Times

This gives a very different view of the campaign around the prison protests, one that few of us know and one that is sorely needed. It also points out that violence actually undercuts mass movements and is counter-productive to political progress. One other point the book makes, although it may be unintentional, is that it clearly illustrates the evolution of Sinn Fein in to the Party it is today and how it managed to overwhelm and absorb people and parties in to their particular version of politics. A MUST read.
Anthony S. Novosel  

Ross shows the complexity of alliances that composed the anti-H-Block campaign. Far from being a hunger strike inside the prison supported by Sinn Féin outside the prison, a conglomerate of forces made up the movement.

A necessary and long-overdue new look at a vital phase in our recent history.
  Derry Journal

This is an important book for the light it throws on the politics of the period and, in particular, in restoring the plain people to their proper place in the narrative….What the account makes clear is that the movement against the H-Blocks wasn’t whistled up by republican leaders but was—like many other significant developments, including the peace process—a bottom-up affair.…F. Stuart Ross’s book is essential for an understanding of what really happened in the hunger strike.
Eamonn McCann   Belfast Telegraph

The path from being on the political fringe of the political scene in Northern Ireland to its present position as the dominant voice of northern nationalism could not have been achieved without the events from 1976-1981. Ross has shed valuable new light on how this was achieved. For those attempting to understand Northern Ireland's past and present, Smashing H-Block will prove to be a important contribution.
Brendan Lynn   Irish Literary Supplement

...this book is a must. It’s a great read about a sad and tragic period. Stuart Ross is to be applauded for this worthy contribution to republican prison history.
  Bobby Sands Trust

A most interesting book based on solid and detailed historical research, yet immensely readable, written in a fluid, jargon-free and no-nonsense style.
Cillian McGrattan  
University of Ulster

Superbly written, this is the definitive, authoritative work on the protests beyond Maze/Long Kesh prison which accompanied the republican hunger strikes. One of the most absorbing academic works I have read for years. A riveting read.
Jon Tonge  
President, Political Studies Association, University of Liverpool

Format: Paperback

Size: 210 x 147 mm

226 Pages

ISBN: 9781846317101

Publication: August 31, 2011

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