Dolours Price was a prolific writer and often contributed articles to The Blanket. We carry here a selection of her writings, listed in chronological order, with excerpted quotes below. Click the links for the full articles.
"The things we have in common from our past, long past, are often in my mind. Now that it is all over bar the final destruction of the weapons I look forward to the freedom to lay bare my experiences unfettered by codes now redundant.
This is the only freedom left to me and those Republicans of like mind." - Dolours Price, 2005
Irish News exchange:
Better an Honest Socialist than a Lying Republican
11 May 2004
I have no time for Stormont. I have no time for the Good Friday Agreement. I have no time for people who constantly change their position, cement hard gathered weapons into the ground, abduct people and put them down bogs, beat those who do not agree with their rules, have a finger in every financial pie going and seem to have done very nicely for themselves in their day to day lives. They are not Republicans, they are Stalinists. They have turned a once noble Army into an armed militia whose only role is to strong arm any opposition to their insatiable political greed and opportunism.
Give me an honest Socialist any day before a lying treacherous so-called Republican.
And further response:
Republicans who do not follow the Sinn Fein line are also entitled to their opinions
Is it that only those who share his enthusiasm for the Sinn Fein line have a right to free expression? [...] I have often "put pen to paper" expressing my position as a republican, I have spoken publicly and on radio on the same topic. Is the problem that I was not pushing the Good Friday line but speaking with honesty from my own long held beliefs?
As for cheering [..] "noble sons and daughters" to war [...] I would take no more joy in seeing my sons follow their convictions to prison or the grave than did my mother or the mothers of all those who lie in Republican plots. It was my free choice and I believe that we all have that freedom.
I have never been afraid of bullies be they in camouflage, blue or green uniforms, in politicians' suits or writing abusively in papers.
As for my contribution to the Republican cause, it continues to this day. I do not support the Good Friday Agreement or Sinn Fein but I will never abandon my Republican beliefs and state them wherever I choose. Nobody will deny me that right.
Flying the Flag
24 June 2004
The Sinn Fein motto for all elections is "An Ireland of Equals".
Over the past twenty years I have been aware of the spade-work being done by dedicated Sinn Fein members at times when that party was not flavour of the month, or any other month. I wonder why these experienced and articulate party members did not "make the grade" when it came to nomination time? Are nominations still the domain of the Cumann or is selection handed down by the "Leadership"? We have been told it is a "leadership led movement" (so was Stalin's Russia!).
Is it perhaps that the accents of the longterm member are more Donamede than Dun Laoirghe, that as politicised working-class people they did not, despite their obvious ability, have an opportunity to get a third level education?
Mary Lou has a fine political career ahead of her be that with Sinn Fein or Fianna Fail. I feel she will jump ship whenever it suits Mary Lou. What of the people who worked so tirelessly to put her on the career ladder; they will still be shinning up lampposts, manning the clinics, working for the party. I do not support Sinn Fein, but I give credit where it is due. It seems a pity that the "leadership" is more opportunistic than it is loyal to its members.
Can they call out for "An Ireland of Equals" from a Party that seems not to be all that "Equal"?
9 July 2004
I spend a considerable amount of time rummaging through my head. I come up with bits and pieces, some make me happy, others make me sad, and some make me downright angry, and I mean angry. The reader will know; I think we all rummage. [...]
Do Sinn Fein (you will change the name soon, won't you?) really believe that men died on Hunger-Strike for this defeat? That men walked to the scaffold for seats in Stormont, Westminster (when will you be taking your rightful place there, boys?) and Dail Eireann? That my own aunt lived without hands or eyes with quiet dignity and without complaint for forty years to hear that the tri-colour is lodged in the corner of some office in Stormont. Stormont! The symbol of Republican defeat in 1921? I defy anyone to tell me they did because I will call them liars and hypocrites.
Admit it, lads -- you lost the war; some of us see it as only having lost another battle. You can lose all the battles but only when you surrender do you lose your Soul.
Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa
14 July 2004
I am now deeply worried. I watched the news on July 12th and saw a former I.R.A comrade, Gerry Kelly, standing, arms spread wide across a retreating British Army jeep protecting the British soldiers inside!
I have not slept a wink since seeing that. Did some incompetent give me the wrong instructions when I joined the I.R.A? I will be very cross indeed if I find out that I was inducted into the Army by some eejet who got things arse about face!
I Once Knew a Boy... (on Gerry Kelly)
17 July 2004
Perhaps my own experiences with Gerry Kelly as a comrade on a difficult mission in England and our subsequent imprisonment together leaves me somewhat emotionally vulnerable to the person. We went through a lot together. It causes me a great deal of pain to ridicule the boy I once knew to be stubborn, anti-establishment, arrogant as only those who are convinced of the rightness of their cause can be. A man-boy who endured the same rigours of hunger-strike and force-feeding as myself, my sister, Hugh Feeney and others on our failed mission.
I got to know Gerry Kelly well, from the boy leaping over bollards at Trafalgar Square to the boy who stood proudly in the dock at Winchester Crown Court to receive his life sentence and twenty years; the boy who was dragged from the dock declaring his loyalty to the Republican Cause, “Damn your concessions England we want our country!” To now witness what he has become, a British lackey, a forelock tugging parody of an enslaved people, a puppet for the Brits and all that is bad in our country, that causes me deep pain, deep hurt, hurt because Gerry Kelly was a person that I once loved as one can only love a brother or a comrade.
When we starved together it was not 'to move the process forward', it was not for seats in a British Government, it was not to be treated as 'equals' in a Stormont Assembly. It was, I like to think, because we had a shared passion for justice and freedom for this island, the whole of this island of Ireland. I believe that we were dedicated to the old struggle to rid this land of any British interference, that our wish was to regain our dignity as Irishmen and women never again to bend the knee, never again to lie down except in death after a good fight. Death would never have been our defeat — living on our knees, now that is defeat!
The UnHung Hero (on Joe Cahill)
3 August 2004
Over the years and all through this phase of the struggle Joe has been produced like a rabbit from a hat. He the veteran I.R.A man, the elder of the tribe, the wise one, the one who knew the right way forward. Indeed, knew so much that he was able to assure us all that Tom Williams would be fully behind the Good Friday Agreement. Now if things had only been reversed in 1942 we could have heard Tom Williams say that for himself! Joe Cahill was still duping but this time it was not the Brits, it was other Republicans.
Speaking for the dead as Joe did must be the reserve of a very elite or gifted Provisional member. Gerry Adams speaks for Bobby Sands; Bobby, he told us, would be fully behind the Peace Process. I often wonder who would speak for me had my circumstances in Brixton Prison reached their expected conclusion? What praises would I be singing of the Good Friday Agreement?
"We have won the war....now let us win the Peace", another off the cuff declaration by Joe.
Correct me if I am wrong but my understanding of winning a war is when the Victor accepts the symbolic sword of surrender from the defeated who then sits down to be told the conditions they will accept. No ifs or buts if you are the losers.
Why then if "we (Provisionals) won the war" are the Provisional Sinn Fein Party still begging the 'defeated' (Brits I suppose) for more talks, for the re-establishment of the British Assembly at Stormont, for money and, oh yes please, their jobs back! Not my idea of having won a war. Suppose they had lost the war, where would we all be today? Doesn't bear thinking about!
Get On With It
14 September 2004
It will take time to recover from the mugging we got in the dark alley the Provisional leadership led us up. It has always been so. I remember in prison painting on hankies, "it is always darkest before the dawn". I can't see clearly before myself. I will wait until the fog lifts. Others will move on, settle into their new improved lives, but nothing tumultuous will have changed on our Island. Except for a few thousand dead, comrades killed or dead after the torture of long starvation, thousands of years in prison between us and all for what?
Money...Money...Money (on Northern Bank robbery)
17 January 2005
Again call me old fashioned but Republicans always claimed and stood accountable for their actions, successful or disastrous. "Bloody Friday" was a total tragedy, a nightmare with nightmare repercussions. It was claimed and apologised for (useless apology we all know).
"La Mon"? Where to begin apologising? Does the reader see where I'm going with this?
Lives versus money, and so much energy is going into denying the theft of money. The men in suits dodge around the question and answer with questions or not at all. "It didn't come my way," scoffed Gerry Kelly at one press interview. No, Gerry, but by the cut of you a lot is going your way. You are far from the 19 year old lad who walked into Brixton Prison with neither in you nor on you (and I mean that as a total compliment). It is coming your way in other ways.
The Provisional Movement claim to be Republican but seem somehow lost in a mad rush to get as much money from whatever source possible: governments, pubs, clubs, shops, banks, schemes, scams, skulduggery; and lost to them in all of this: integrity, principle and credibility. It seems to be everyman for himself, get on the bandwagon and you're a sorry eejit if you don't.
I remember Jack Hermon quoted as saying "everyman has his price". Not every, perhaps many.
A Salute to Comrades (review of Blanketmen)
18 May 2005
After reading 'Ten Men Dead' I swore that I would never again read about the Hunger Strike of 1981. I cried at every page and my husband eventually hid the book. I bought another.
My levels of sadness rose at the same rate as my levels of anger. The targets for my anger were the usual ones: those identified by the Republican Leadership as responsible for the death of Bobby Sands and his comrades. Top of the list was Margaret Thatcher, then came busybody priests, political opponents, an uncaring Free-State Government and more and more.
Hunger-striking, the last resort of the brutalised political prisoner. The ultimate weapon, one's own body. As a Republican I have always maintained that just as I could not be ordered to undertake a Hunger-Strike, then the control and ultimate decision as to where that hunger-strike might lead was also a matter for myself, the individual prisoner. That is not to say that guidance from comrades and particularly the leadership of my movement would at all times be of paramount importance in where that Strike would end for me, be that living or dying.
I read Richard O'Rawe's book 'Blanketmen' because I felt the years that have passed since the Hunger-Strike would let me better cope with the enormity of the sacrifices made then. I was also curious to hear how it was from the 'inside'.
Richard O'Rawe raises some very disturbing questions in his account of what was happening inside the prison during this period. How exactly was the Hunger-strike being conducted, particularly after the death of the first four men?
Was there a motive in what seemed like madness by the leadership? Richard O'Rawe points clearly to a very unpalatable one for Republicans to accept. Yes, men were sacrificed for the political ambitions of the Republican leadership. They trusted and they died. We should all be indebted to Richard O'Rawe for having the courage to put pen to paper and declare that to the world.
I find his memoir of that period both deeply moving and credible. Without being melodramatic, I will say that, allowing for the times we live in, Richard has probably made stronger enemies than he has friends and it is a credit to him that this consideration has not prevented the rest of us having access to this vital piece in the jigsaw, a very sad piece, a sad and dirty period in our history. I applaud Richard for his loyalty to our dead comrades who cannot speak for themselves.
An Open Letter to Gerry Adams
31 July 2005
The things we have in common from our past, long past, are often in my mind. Now that it is all over bar the final destruction of the weapons I look forward to the freedom to lay bare my experiences unfettered by codes now redundant.
This is the only freedom left to me and those Republicans of like mind.
28 June 2006
Republicans were never out in the cold, our position was always clear, and clearly right. I was never in the cold. I was always in the heat of the struggle. You fall into the old trap of feeling that you must belong to the Establishment before being kosher. It is that awful inbred sense of servitude and subserviance that causes you to make such remarks.
Republicans never knocked at the door of the Establishment, rather we placed a device at that door to remove it; those who choose to cross the door, invited by the enemy (whether in sheeps clothing or not) do no service to the Republican Cause. They make our Struggle harder because they join the enemy.
[...T]he Brits do not want to stay, the people who want them to stay will have the last word and, by God, "beidh linn an la". I looked deep into their eyes at Burntollett and I knew then, sixteen years old and I knew then who would make all the decisions about the six Northern Counties. I made my mind up then to fight for what was rightly mine and stolen by blackmail and brinkmanship, not to mention the possibility of an illegitimate son born from Michael Collins! The plot thickens!
Unity in the North, Power sharing, if you believe that will ever happen then you are away with the fairies.
Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
29 June 2006
What happens to prisoners who have often spent fifteen, twenty years in gaol? Often on the Blanket, in their own body waste, dirty, unstimulated, dependent on their own resources (which were massive), at the whim of a screw or a Governor. Living inside their own heads and sharing the bits they could with their cell mates.
Man is used to freedom. To walk the streets, to work a job, to love a wife, to hug their kids and put them to bed at night...to be free to do these simple things. Free.
Gaol is "abnormal" for the human spirit.
The rights or wrongs of prison are not my concern today, I mean at this very moment. My concern is for the man or woman who spent many years in prison and came out to a new world, a different world, a world they had to learn to live in all over again.
It is true that in the past Republican prisoners did their time and that was that. No help was sought or thought necessary after jail time was served, although in those days it tended to be of shorter duration than we went through from the 70's.
Anyone who did not do their time well were spoken about in hushed tones as if they were in some way "weak", not "up to it", "not the right calibre".
Truth be told being in prison is an "abnormal" way to spend a big part of your life. Why should normal people placed in this "abnormal" situation not be in some way changed? Damaged?
We are Republicans and we are strong in our beliefs and our Principles. But, the awful flaw is, that we are human. That means we can suffer or we can show no mercy, to others or to ourselves.
It is the human that has been neglected for too long.
Jury Duty Free State
5 July 2006
"I," said I, "am an Irish Republican."
"I do not recognise the sovereignty of your Free-State and I, being born into the six Northern Counties left out of your Nation, I feel that I cannot serve on an judicial system that pretends to represent the whole people of Ireland."
She did not blink. I believe perhaps the anseo had her prepared, but she said, "You are excused Jury Duty for Life."
Last person to say to me "for Life" was Sebag-Shaw. And that was for blowing up bits of England. Funny old world.
Ideals Live On
29 November, 2006
There is no solution to the problem of "Northern Ireland". To the majority on the island the idea of six small counties being a political entity is funny, if funny can be applied to the massive loss of life that has resulted from that dreadful Treaty decision to split the island of Ireland.
I am indeed beyond disappointment in my former comrades, now Sinn Fein, They are as they are, perhaps I was too expectant of their dedication and ideals, they have fulfilled neither. Was I out of touch with the reality of their position when we thought we shared a common ideology? Yes, probably.
My ideals have never faltered.
Don't Be Afraid, Do Not Be Fooled
16 January 2007
I recall a statement made by Kieran Nugent that they would have to nail the British prison uniform to his back. How easily will the Provos slip into their British Police uniforms?
Changed people, changed desires, but never a changed Cause. It will live long after they are worms' meat and remembered for their treachery.
Put on the coat of the enemy boys, it has been done before and changed nothing.
Will you never learn?
I want to address what is constantly called their "grassroots".
You, many, too many, have paid a heavy price for this dream we had.
You want to believe "the day has come"; who doesn't? I see you on the news sitting, taking in every lying word of your "leadership" and in your trust or lack of confidence in your own strong (stronger than theirs) abilities, you go along with their not very grand words (I cringe at the grammar).
But how do they do it?
They mesmerise, manipulate, intimidate and make it sound so logical and right.
They have that quiet way of putting you down and making you feel foolish if you ask the wrong question. An arrow is put above your head, a question mark beside your name. "This person might think for themselves," bad news for any Authoritian Leadership.
1984, George Orwell, bible to my son. Get the point?
Now, my comrades, how far has your, (once mine), leadership strayed from the original objectives of the Republican Cause?
From here to the moon and back!
Where is our 32 County Republic?
Our Socialist State?
When were the wrongs of a terrible blunder fixed? When did we get back our rightful six counties into an all Ireland establishment?
When did we cease to be the sacrificial lambs that Gerry Adams would wish us to continue to be?
Where is the Republican Agenda? Shaking hands with Blair and Bush?
They are doing very well, the leadership; jobs, prestige,"a life beyond their dreams". What of you, my friends, making ends meet, or maybe a black taxi? Not much for years in gaol — but we did not do it for the comeback, we did it for the belief!
[...] Gerry Adams, and the greatest letdown of my life, Gerry Kelly, will you put on the first British Coat, and will you kill me when I resist your mini-state?
Once Again, The Big Transition
28 January 2007
So, everything has been sold out on. Partition, Free-State, Stormont, R. U. C. (Remember the fun we had when they came in to wreck our homes and drag one or other of the family off to Castlereagh for a few days "interrogation"?")
Now, will Gerry Kelly and his members of the PSNI be doing the same because we regard them as Republican traitors? Will they be kicking in my door because I refuse to acknowledge Stormont as anything other than a sectarian parliament, created in times of confusion and massive threat, as a "sop" to the unionists of that time? As a geographical, economic and political unviable entity?
[...] I feel far away from humour at this time. It is, once again the big transition. It is taking the stone back to the bottom of the mountain and beginning to push it back up. I have pushed, and thought I was there, not so. I am gathering my strength again, what else can I do? I will push the stone as far as I can and hope that the young people coming behind will take over my burden, otherwise I will never stop pushing.
Rest, Do Not Surrender
3 March 2007
This is not the end. This is a new beginning. The dross will fall into comfort in Dail Eireann, Stormont, Europe. That is their life's desire. We are bigger than that, we want more than that because we want it for all the people, not just for ourselves. We want equality, in jobs, in thinking, in rights to opinion, in sexual orientation, in all the freedoms valid in a civilised society.
Hold firm. We are all low, but we are here, and we are not going away! You may well live to regret that statement, Mr. Adams. You are like the Titanic, and you can be sunk.
Bun Fights & Good Salaries
27 March 2007
What a day! I have been calling for it for so long: surrender, give it up, you know you will, but do not keep us all in this vacuum, this limbo. Get on with the sell out! And you did, and I thank you for puting my head at peace, at last. They say it is the uncertainty that causes most anxiety, it does, and now I, for one, am free of it. You mean nothing to me, you people with whom I once shared a dream, an aspiration, prison and pain, but all for "The Cause". You abandoned that today and brought me relief.
Is this what we killed for, died for? Not me; I respect life too much to reduce it to a return to the old "Status Quo". Joe Devlin did it first and never fired a shot, nor took or gave a life.
I had seen this day coming, wished for it, for closure, for relief and a chance to see off the confused. I have taken no pleasure in any of it. I have spent a great deal of the day in tears, for myself, my dead comrades, my damaged comrades, for innocents and even for squaddies. We have, none of us, with a soul or conscience, come through without some damage.
Yet it need not have lasted so long if this is what the Leadership had decided upon. Sunningdale provided this and more. So, where does that leave me, a Volunteer, ready and all too willing, to take the orders of my superior officers, they deny me, and the cock crows...
It leaves me a girl of 21 years with a sister of 19 years in an English prison and all of the horror that any Convent school girl could not imagine. My choice, my breeding, my heritage. No pity required.
I would never claim that my experiences in English Gaols, or in Armagh Gaol, did not have a severe effect on my physical and mental health. Gaol is not natural to human existence, how could one remain unaffected by it?
We bore it as well as we could. (I was not a good bearer!)
Yet we held fast to the notion of liberation, freedom, a United Ireland and victory, 1975, 1976, ... ... 1979... 1980... until I found all the handpainted hankies in the store cell when there were three of us left with political status, I cut them up, they were a dream never to be realised.
[...] And may God forgive you, Mr. Adams, and even more so, may your dead volunteers forgive you for spilling their blood in vain.
17 February 2008
If, as Martin McGuinness has described those of us opposed to the agreement with Britain, if Brendan was a "no hoper," then he stands amongst a brave and valiant crew. Cathal Brugha, Harry Boland, Maud Gonne, Mary MacSwiney, all, and many more, castigated because they were uncompromising Republicans.
Those who once professed to be Republicans and now act as British Administrators in the six counties, let them hang their heads in shame at the way in which they treated Brendan in his last years. Let them look into their souls and ask, "Could I have been that brave?"
Gerry, Come Clean, You'll Feel Better
26 February 2008
Just as Brendan once was, I too was a friend and comrade to Gerry Adams. No longer, yet looking at his lonely figure, clearly uneasy at the occasion, did bring a pang of sympathy to me for the man and the place in which he has put himself.
His ego has taken him to believe himself above the common people, he has set himself aside from numerous former comrades and must feel the burden of his present life, which is a lie.
How proud Brendan had been as commanding officer of "The Dogs", how willingly did he accept responsibility after responsibility within the Republican Movement. Always proud to serve "the Cause". There is little need to reiterate the fact that Brendan abhorred the direction Gerry Adams took the Movement.
Many of us shared that abhorrence, but Brendan was singled out for particularly harsh treatment for his non-conformity. He was ostracized, castigated and maligned. All of this contributed to his ill-health.
Gerry Adams knows who, and what he, himself, was during "the Long War". Let him unburden himself before it is done for him. What Brendan saw as a noble thing, Gerry Adams denies. It is time for Truth. Let it come from his own lips rather than mine. I too, like Brendan, was a proud Volunteer in Oglaigh na hEireann, an honour I hold dear.
Brendan has gone from this physical life but there are those of us who will carry on where he left off. We will be his litigants, his constant voice on this earth.
The night Brendan Hughes died, Dolours was with Anthony McIntyre and his wife, Carrie:
The following Friday my friend rang to tell me that there were signs of decreased brain activity. It did not augur well. He kept me updated over the next 24 hours. The next afternoon as I sat in the local cinema with my daughter I got a message from my wife that the machine supporting Brendan’s tenuous grasp on life was to be turned off. I returned home and rang Dolours Price. She arrived in our home. The rest of the evening saw me sit with three phones constantly ringing Belfast and taking calls. Dolours had been a long standing operational comrade of Brendan and it was in her company that my wife and I received the devastating news that our dear friend had slipped away. He had been with us at the best and worst of times, family bereavements, illnesses, and the birth of our children. It was he who was chosen to give my wife away on the day of our marriage. We fought a losing battle to suppress the tears. My wife put his framed photo on the mantelpiece and sat a lighted candle either side of it. In our living room The Dark shone through. Fear Dorcha, by Anthony McIntyre, February 25, 2008
Now the light shines through for Dolours.
Remember when you were young,
You shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there's a look in your eyes,
Like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the crossfire
Of childhood and stardom,
Blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter,
Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!
You reached for the secret too soon,
You cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night,
And exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome
With random precision,
Rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!
- Pink Floyd
For all that we struggle
For all we pretend
It don't come down to nothing
Except love in the end
And ours is a road
That is strewn with goodbyes
But as it unfolds
As it all unwinds
Remember your soul is the one thing
You can't compromise
Take my hand
We're gonna go where we can shine
- David Gray
Monday, Jun. 17, 1974
The World: Ulster's Price Sisters: Breaking the Long Fast
Each day passes and we fade a little more. But no matter how the body may fade, our determination never will. We have geared ourselves for this and there is no other answer. - Dolours Price, May 27 letter to her mother
Sometimes we can achieve more by death than we could ever hope to living. We 've dedicated our lives to a cause and it's supremely more important than any one individual's life. - Marion Price, May 27 letter to her mother
Fate and politics have a way sometimes of cheating would-be martyrs. Belfast's Price sisters -- Dolours, 23, and Marion, 20 -- were sentenced last Nov. 15 to life in prison for their part in the March 1973 London car bombings that injured 238 persons and led to the fatal heart attack of another. In an effort to gain attention for their Irish Republican cause and force British authorities to return them to Ulster for the rest of their prison term, the sisters pursued a grim path toward self-imposed death: for seven months they systematically starved themselves.
At week's end the British government announced that the Prices had ended their long fast after what appeared to be an eleventh-hour decision by Westminster to avert the risk of violent reprisals by the sisters' Irish Republican Army supporters. As soon as their health permits, the pair may be transferred from London's maximum-security Brixton Prison to jail in Northern Ireland.
Dolours and Marion are daughters of a former I.R. A. officer who once tunneled his way out of a Londonderry prison. The sisters were raised amid the revolutionary passions of Belfast's working-class Andersontown district, an I.R.A. stronghold. As teenagers, they shared a liking for the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as well as for Irish folk dances. Both girls were and are devout Roman Catholics: a notebook that Dolours was carrying when she was arrested for the London bombings contained notes on the Virgin Mary along with details about her I.R.A. contacts.
According to their older sister Clare, 26, the girls showed little active interest in politics until 1968, when they joined the civil rights movement, which was dedicated to securing equal voting rights for Northern Ireland's Catholic minority. The turning point in the Prices' conversion to hard-line militancy came when they participated in the 1969 civil rights march from Belfast to Londonderry; Protestant hooligans ambushed and stoned the young marchers.
Dolours and Hugh Feeney, an I.R.A. comrade who is also in jail for the London bombings, formed the "People's Democracy," a militant offshoot of the civil rights movement, and took their cause to the streets. The sisters had been studying to become teachers. But they also began to investigate the revolutionary polemics of Che Guevara and Soledad Brother George Jackson. The girls learned the techniques of bombmaking and small-arms use in I.R.A. training courses across the border in the Republic. By the time they plotted the London bombings, both girls had become seasoned veterans of back-alley skirmishes with British troops and of slow marches behind the coffins of I.R.A. dead.
Friends and relatives of the Price sisters have claimed that the pair were unjustly prosecuted and tried: that they received no legal advice until four days after their arrest, that authorities purposely shifted the trial from London to the more conservative town of Winchester. Their supporters have also charged that prison officials brutalized the sisters by force-feeding them during their long hunger strike.
Force-feeding -- in which a person's mouth is clamped open while a greased tube is inserted through his nose and a "complan" solution of iron, orange and milk-soaked glucose is poured directly into the stomach -- usually causes acute vomiting.
The procedure can provide a starving victim with 1,750 calories a day, but it is an exhausting and frightening experience. Shortly before the government announced that the Price girls had ended their fast, their sister Clare reported that they weighed less than 98 Ibs. each, that their skin had turned waxen, their hair was falling out and their mouths were covered with sores. The prison dentist confirmed that the sisters' teeth had been loosened under pressure from the mouth clamp. Last month, after doctors had said that the girls would probably die sooner from continued force-feeding than from fasting, officials halted the procedure.
At week's end it was still uncertain how soon, if ever, the Prices would recover from their ordeal. Or whether, even if their flirtation with martyrdom has been happily aborted, they will be able to retain their heroine status once they are no longer a political cause celebre.