|Former Political Prisoner & Hunger-Striker, Dolours Price (RIP)|
Like everyone who joined the IRA and INLA to help liberate Ireland and her people from imperialist occupation. Volunteers were duly informed that they would endure many hardships, long years of imprisonment and possibly death as a result of Active Service. The process in joining a secret organisation as the IRA is pretty lengthy and one must pass a through a number hurdles before becoming a fully-fledged Oglach. Dolours already came from a strong Republican family. Her father, Albert was widely-respected for his valued contribution to the IRA in Belfast. He also spent a long time behind bars at the behest of the Stormont and British governments. Albert helped fellow Republicans to defend the Lower Falls area against the Loyalist Pogrom in August, 1969, aided by the sectarian RUC.
Dolours volunteered her services to the Provisional IRA, along with her sister, Marian. Both women soon became valued and trusted members of the fledgling Army in Belfast. It was no surprise that both sisters would play a vital role in rebuilding Oglaigh Na hEireann in the city. Between 1970 - 1973, the Provisionals successfully took on the British Crown Forces across Belfast and beyond.
The Price sisters were selected by the PIRA Leadership to be part of an Active Service Unit (ASU) to target the British capitol, London. Due to the war of attrition being waged in the North by the Crown Forces. They agreed and were given important roles alongside other Belfast Volunteers including, Ardoyne man, Paul Holmes and future Stormont MLA, Gerry Kelly. IRA Enginneers made and packed a number of cars with explosives and the ASU took them to London...
On March 8 1973, four PIRA car bombs exploded outside the Old Bailey, Hillgate House and Whitehall's British Army Recruitment Centre. The buildings were badly damaged and over 200 people were injured. The Irish War had came back to London. Almost immediately, seven Irish citizens attempted to board a plane back to Ireland. Although, they were arrested by English Police and held for questioning. They were tried and convicted later the same year and given Life Imprisonment. As Political Prisoners they demanded a transfer home to be closer to their families but were refused.
The Price sisters soon embarked on a Hunger-Strike followed by a number of their male comrades. However, the British government ordered them to be brutally force-fed. A callous and extremely invasive procedure by so-called Medical Staff. During the Strike, their father, Albert stood as a Candidate in the British General Election in West Belfast to highlight his daughters' conditions. He successfully received 5, 662 votes, (11.9%). For the next 200 days, both women suffered this inhuman treatment which seriously damaged their health. In one Media interview, years later Marian described how she was force-fed;
'Four male prison officers tie you into the chair so tightly with sheets you can't struggle. You clench your teeth to try to keep your mouth closed but they push a metal spring device around your jaw to prise it open. They force a wooden clamp with a hole in the middle into your mouth. Then, they insert a big rubber tube down that. They hold your head back. You can't move. They throw whatever they like into the food mixer – orange juice, soup, or cartons of cream if they want to beef up the calories. They take jugs of this gruel from the food mixer and pour it into a funnel attached to the tube. The force-feeding takes 15 minutes but it feels like forever. You're in control of nothing. You're terrified the food will go down the wrong way and you won't be able to let them know because you can't speak or move. You're frightened you'll choke to death'.
The practise of force-feeding ended after the brutal death of , Volunteer. Michael Gaughan (24) on June 3rd, 1974 in Parkhurst Prison. His death forced the British government to stop its ill-treatment of Irish Political Prisoners and assurances were given to the POWs' that they would be repatriated to Ireland. Following Gaughan's death, Dolours, Marian, Feeney and Kelly were transferred to Armagh Gaol and Long Kesh. However, fellow IRA Hunger-Striker, Frank Stagg was denied repatriation and he was instead transferred to Long Lartin Prison. Where he was held in isolation, humiliating Strip-Searches and ordered to work. Stagg refused to conform to the system and resumed his Hunger-Strike on December 14, 1975. The British government ignored his pleas and Volunteer. Frank Stagg (33) died on February 12, 1976 after 62 agonising days without food.
After their arrival in Armagh, it was clear to their comrades that the Price sisters had suffered immense health problems as a result of their Hunger-Strike, Force-Feeding and imprisonment in England. The POWs', Prison Chaplin, Fr. Raymond Murray, Doctors, Family and Sinn Fein all agreed that they needed to be released from gaol. Another campaign to have the sisters freed on humanitarian grounds began but it would be another few years before they were finally released in 1980.
|Dolours & Marian Outside the British Prime Minister's Residence|
After both sisters were released they remained politically active and used their experiences to help highlight conditions Irish Political Prisoners were forcced to endure in English Gaols. They also travelled throughout Ireland in support of the Blanketmen in the H-Blocks and Blanketwomen in Armagh. During the 1980 and 1981 Hunger-Strikes, Dolours and Marian worked passionately to help save the lives of the POWs'.
Dolours found love and married Irish Actor, Stephen Rea in 1983. They moved to Dublin, where they had two children, Danny and Oscar. Sadly, the trauma of her lengthy incarceration and ill-treatment remained for Dolours and she continued to suffer from depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The majority of former Republican Prisoners battle with the same medical conditions and Dolours was no different. It didn't help her marriage and the couple divorced in 2003.
Dolours and Marian were outspoken critics of Provisional Sinn Fein and gave many interviews about how they and other former Volunteers had been ignored by the Party in their rush to agree a political compromise in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement. They rejected the terms of the Treaty and were threatened by their former Comrades. Dolours was also one of the former Combatants who gave detailed interviews to the Boston College Project about their involvement in the Provisional IRA. She also gave an indepth interview to the Irish News about her role in the disappearance of Belfast woman, Jean McConnville who the Provisional's killed and secretly buried in 1972. Dolours wanted the McConnville family to know the truth behind their mother's killing to try and give them some closure.
As sisters, , friends, comrades, prisoners and Volunteers, Dolours and Marian were very close throughout their lives. It is a travesty of justice that Marian is currently imprisoned by the British Secretary of State has been refused to attend her sister's funeral tomorrow. The refusal is indicative of Britain's immoral occupation of part of Ireland given it's protracted rejection of Irish National Sovereignty. The Price sisters endured much to secure our Nation's right to liberty and Marian continues to be held in bondage. I would urge everyone to attend Dolours funeral tomorrow as an expression of our respect to her and her family. Likewise, I ask everyone to redouble their efforts to help break Marian's chains and have her return home to her loving family. Enough is enough. As another Irish Patriot said;
'We will not take any steps backwards, our steps will be onward,
For if we don't the ghost's of the martyrs who died for me, for you,
for this Country, will haunt us for eternity...'