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Dirty Protests
Republican Dirty Protest raised the stakes in the H-Blocks
From the BBC News archive
The BBC's Nicholas Witchell: "Both the prisoners and the government know this is a massive test of tactics"
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Protests grow 1978-1980
With no movement from London on political status, republican inmates at the Maze captured the world's attention by beginning the "Dirty Protests".
They refused to wash, smeared their own excrement on the walls and destroyed furniture. The men's supporters said that they believed that they had no choice but to take part in a debasing experience - but it was far less debasing than the denial of what they believed were their rights in a condition of "war".
The incoming 1979 Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher took a hard line and both sides embarked on an increasingly important publicity battle.
Republicans sought support on the streets and in the United States while the government allowed the media inside the prison, saying that without the protests it would be a model, modern facility.
Such was the strength of the prisoners' determination to have their rights restored, they chose the ultimate protest open to them - hunger strikes.


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