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A Camp guard at Long Kesh
Long Kesh internment camp became the scene of protests
Long Kesh 1972-76
William Whitelaw, the first Northern Ireland Secretary under Direct Rule, reviewed internment and by August 1972 the number of internees had dropped to 243 - a figure that rose again as the security forces attempted to re-enter nationalist areas which had become out of bounds through rioting. Following protests by republican prisoners demanding political status, Whitelaw introduced Special Category Status for those sentenced for crimes relating to the civil violence.
The prisoners at Long Kesh were allowed free association, extra visits, food parcels and could wear their own clothes.
Both republican and loyalist paramilitaries began to organise compounds along prisoner-of-war lines with a command structure and "a duty to escape". By the end of 1974 there were more than 1,100 special category prisoners - about half of whom were housed at the site of the future H-Blocks.


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