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Dirty protests: why Irish republican prisoners smeared their cells with faeces to make a political statement during the Troubles

By Seán McConville, Professor of Law and Public Policy, Queen Mary University of London
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For almost thirty years (1969-1998) Northern Ireland was gripped by violent conflict. Republicans wanted an end to British rule and Unionists and Loyalists wished to preserve their citizenship and place in the United Kingdom. Bitterness and animosities intensified on both sides and reciprocal atrocities spiralled. Almost 4,000 lost their lives, thousands more were injured, and the economy and social fabric were torn apart.

Those convicted of paramilitary offences came into the prisons in their


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