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Hunger striking prisoners in Cork released
Map of Cork City Gaol Photo: National Archives of Ireland, CSO RP 1917 26715

Hunger striking prisoners in Cork released

Cork, 25 February 1918 - Three prisoners who had been on hunger strike at Cork Gaol have been released under the terms of the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act.

The men from Charleville – John Hickey, John Cronin and Cornelius McCarthy – were arrested for offences against public order. They were imprisoned in the county gaol, where they immediately went on hunger strike. They were moved to the South Infirmary, where hospital staff confirmed that the men’s lives were in ‘grave danger’ but refused to accept any further responsibility in the matter.

Leaflet protesting the treatment of prisoners in Cork Jail. Click image to enlarge (Image: National Library of Ireland, EPH C158)

This initial analysis of the men’s condition was provided by doctors to the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Butterfield, who, in a telegram earlier this week to Mr Duke, the Chief Secretary, had strongly urged their release. Mr Duke, in response stated that physical disability arising from a willful decision to refuse food was not a basis for releasing any prisoner.

This response follows comments made by Mr Duke in the House of Commons on the practice of force-feeding. He said that there were a number of prisoners in Ireland at the present time with either the ‘pretence or intention of exposing themselves to the peril of starvation’ that might result in their ‘suicidal death’. As suicide is a crime, the Executive is intent on using ‘every practical means to prevent’ it.

Reacting to Mr Duke’s contribution to the House of Commons, The Irish Times remarked that it failed to accurately convey the reality of the Irish situation.

‘The truth is that the law has ceased to exist in Ireland, and that its disappearance is largely due to that hunger-striking which Mr Duke discusses with academic detachment. A well-organised conspiracy to reduce the country to anarchy is in full swing. Agrarian and other outrages are reported in daily batches of five or six. Nobody is punished.’

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]

RTÉ

Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.