A story idea that I want to pursue while in Armagh is about the Armagh Gaol. Originally constructed in 1780, it became an all-female jail in 1920, and closed in 1986. Many of the women were in jail for their involvement with the Irish Republican Army, which was sparked over their belief that the British rule over Northern Ireland was unjust.
I want to get in contact with a former Armagh Gaol prisoner. I am specifically hoping to interview a woman who was a prisoner during the “dirty protest,” which started in 1980 and lasted for 13 months. During this time the prisoners, in response to their poor living conditions, refused to bathe, change their bed sheets, or clean their chamber pots, smearing the overflow on the walls instead.
I found the concept of protesting poor living conditions by creating worse conditions intriguing. I would like to speak with someone who either witnessed it, or was a part of it. Also, since most of the women were political protestors, I would love to hear their opinions about the state of Northern Ireland during The Troubles.
There are also current plans to turn the jail into a luxury hotel – plans that will reportedly cost £23 million. I plan to speak to locals on the subject to grasp the various opinions on this concept. I want to learn if they believe transforming the old building into a more visually appealing tourist magnet is a good idea, or if they believe they are unnecessarily changing a historical landmark in the city.