Prison as a Liberated Zone: the Murals of Long Kesh, Northern Ireland

Bill Rolston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Northern Ireland’s Long Kesh prison in the late 1980s and 1990s, prisoners fromeach of the loyalist and republican groups painted highly politicized murals on the walls in their respective wings. This article seeks to examine these murals as both a symbol and a means whereby the politically motivated prisoners sought to appropriate the space of the prison for their own purposes. Their resistance, expressed in this and other ways, was not merely to the pains of imprisonment, the stripping of individuality and identity which was at the heart of the prison system. Rather imprisonment was seized as an opportunity to advance political understanding and build revolutionary structures whereby the prison was seen as one more front in their respective wars – that of republicans against the British state, and that of loyalists against republican insurgence. Each in their own way, republican and loyalist prisoners created virtual “liberated zones” within the prison and in doing so prepared for political power and conflict transformation on the other side of imprisonment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-172
JournalState Crime Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2013


  • prison
  • resistance
  • murals
  • Long Kesh
  • liberated zone


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