Silent Grace

A fictional story based on true events.

The untold story of women's involvement In the 1980-1981Dirty Protest and Hunger Strikes In Northern Ireland.

In 1980/1981 there were major prison protests by Republican prisoners in Northern Ireland. The British Government had withdrawn political status for these prisoners and they became labelled criminals.

In response the prisoners embarked on the notorious 'Dirty Protest' - they smeared their excrement on the walls and didn't wash.

This then escalated into a Hunger Strike. There were two hunger strikes in a short time span. Ten men died - one of them was Bobby Sands. This became front page news internationally.

Women prisoners in Armagh jail were also involved in the Dirty Protest and in the first hungerstrike - yet somehow the womens story was unreported, untold - the women were forgotton - written out of history.

Maeve Murphy: "Though I was born and bought up in Belfast in Northern Ireland, I had no idea of the women's involvement until I came across a pamphlet by the journalist Neil McCaIfferty. I was shocked not only that there had been women on these protests, but also at the horrific conditions that they were being kept in, in a squalor which threatened them with sterility and disease.

"There were at times fears of an outbreak of a serious epidemic. This pamplet is now out of print. The only other book written on the subject is also out of print.

"I found poignancy in these women going through all of this and yet being forgotten. I thought it was important that somehow this story be told.

"I spoke to some of the women who had been on the protest. I then co-wrote a play with members of a women's theatre company, Trouble and Strife, called Now and at the Hour of Our Death, which was set on one day in Armagh prison (winner of the Time Out Award).

"This was the basis for the screenplay."

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