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Hunger strikes and force feeding spark protests around the country
Force feeding was an issue in the early 1900s when it was used on hunger striking suffragettes. This is what it looked like. Photo: 'The Suffragette' by Sylvia Pankhurst (1912). Via the Internet Archive.

Hunger strikes and force feeding spark protests around the country

Dublin, 25 September 1917 - Republican prisoners have gone on hunger strike in prisons around the country. They are protesting against their treatment as criminals and are demanding that they be considered prisoners of war.

There have been reports that authorities have resorted to force-feeding, which has resulted in a number of men – McDonagh, Kelleher and O’Brien – being hospitalised.

Four other prisoners – Mr Austin Stack, J.J. Walsh and the Brennan brothers from Meelick, Co. Clare – have been moved from the dark cells in the prison basement to ordinary cells, where bedclothes have been removed at the direction of the Prisons Board.

In recent days well-attended public meetings have been organised around the country in support of hunger strikers.

In Killarney, 2,000 people turned out at a protest in a show of solidarity with the prisoners. In Mountrath, Harry Boland from Dublin spoke at a meeting where he described Sinn Féin as a constitutional movement based on the Renunciation Act of 1782. In Rathdrum, Mr. J. Byrne of Tinahely told a crowd that, where Parnell and Davitt had lifted the people out of the tyranny of the landlords, Sinn Féin would complete the work.

Similar meetings were held in Cushendall, Co. Antrim; Drogheda, Co. Louth; Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford; Granard, Co. Longford; Youghal, Co. Cork; Nenagh, Co. Tipperary; Westport, Co. Mayo.

Meanwhile, at a large demonstration in Dublin’s Smithfield, 2,000 people heard Éamon de Valera declare, in connection with the treatment and force feeding of prisoners in Mountjoy Jail, that for every one man in Mountjoy there would be ‘hundreds outside to take their place’.

[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.]


Century Ireland

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