The Maze Prison shows how an establishment built to hold those involved in terrorism, atrocities, murder and allied crimes became a pawn in the partisan conflict that was Northern Ireland. There followed a breakdown of norms, values and control as the last of these shifted from Governors to Ministers, outside officials and even prisoners. This led to the (often random) killing of prison officers and countless allegations, denials and obfuscations, as Prison Rules came into conflict with claims to be treated as prisoners-of-war or be given Special Category status. A social document par excellence, this stark slant on The Troubles and Peace Process cuts through the propaganda and base politics to reveal the truth about the H-Blocks, hunger-strikes, escapes and power struggles. Based on actual records and personal accounts, it challenges myths and legends to warn how easily a community can descend into what the author calls anomie. An invaluable record of ‘One of the most dangerous prisons in the world’.
As featured in The Belfast Telegraph.
‘A must read for those interested in the legacy of our troubled past—Tom Murtagh restores the balance, exposes the truth and gives a unique insight into the mind-set of the terrorist godfathers incarcerated in the Maze’– The Rt Hon Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP.
‘I can well recall many of the examples of blatant concessions that Tom mentions. This was at a time in a prison where the abnormal became normal. The author exposes the myth that The Maze Prison was just an operational problem, rather than a political problem set in an operational environment’– Alan Longwell, former Governor, Northern Ireland Prison Service. (Read Alan Longwell’s full review).
‘Gives an accurate account of events as I recall them … I commend the book’– John Semple, Former Deputy Director of Operations, Northern Ireland Prison Service. (Read John Semple’s full review).
‘This is an important book not only for those who want to understand how The Troubles impacted on Northern Ireland’s largest prison but also for those interested in learning how little politicians care about the operational impact of their decisions and how adept they can be in avoiding political accountability for their mistakes. It is meticulously researched, describing life in The Maze Prison, which was on the front line of the terrorist campaigns of both Republican and Loyalist terrorists. A fascinating story of escapes, riots, murders, dirty protests and hunger strikes which fed a propaganda war, alongside an equally riveting account of the political and operational response to this most extreme situation’– Phillip Wheatley, former Director, National Offender Management Service.
‘Highlights the interesting mix of how government policy, ministers, civil servants, politicians and paramilitary groups worked at various levels to achieve disparate objectives, most of which were totally different to what was declared in public … The tensions described between the various stake holders were even greater than I had appreciated during the time I was involved, and the political intervention was, in reality, in stark contrast to the public perceptions and announcements and at times seemed to have little regard for those in the front line … This book is a graphic account of part of a political journey’– Independent Monitor.
Launched by Paul Givan MLA at the Lower Maze Social and Recreational Club in Lisburn, County Antrim – gallery and report.
Tom Murtagh OBE ended his long career in the Prison Service as an Area Manager in HM Prison Service having been a Governor in England and Ireland, including at The Maze during The Troubles. He is the author of The Blantyre House Prison Affair (Waterside Press, 2007).