Dieter Reinisch

Nov 18, 2022

Learning behind Bars

How IRA Prisoners Shaped the Peace Process in Ireland

University of Toronto Press 2022

Dieter Reinisch is a Government of Ireland Irish Research Council Fellow in the School of Political Science and Sociology, University of Galway, and an Adjunct Professor in International Relations at Webster University, Campus Vienna. He holds a PhD in History from the European University Institute in Florence). Since 2016, he serves on the editorial board of the academic, open-access journal Studi irlandesi: A Journal of Irish Studies, published by Florence University Press. In addition to his new book on republican prisoners in Ireland, he is the co-editor (with Luisa Passerini) of Performing Memory: Corporeality, Visuality, and Mobility after 1968 published with Berghahn Books, and Irish Republican Counterpublic: Armed Struggle & the Construction of a Radical Nationalist Community in Northern Ireland, co-edited with Anne Kane and published with Routledge.

In this interview, he discusses his new book, Learning Behind Bars: How IRA Prisoners Shaped the Peace Process in Ireland (University of Toronto Press, 2022), which uncovers the everyday life and education of IRA prisoners during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Learning behind Bars is an oral history of former Irish republican prisoners in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland between 1971, the year internment was introduced, and 2000, when the high-security Long Kesh Detention Centre/HM Prison Maze closed. Dieter Reinisch outlines the role of politically motivated prisoners in ending armed conflicts as well as the personal and political development of these radical activists during their imprisonment. Based on extensive life-story interviews with Irish Republican Army (IRA) ex-prisoners, the book examines how political prisoners developed their intellectual positions through the interplay of political education and resistance. It sheds light on how prisoners used this experience to initiate the debates that eventually led to acceptance of the peace process in Northern Ireland. Politically relevant and instructive, Learning behind Bars illuminates the value of education, politics, and resistance in the harshest of social environments.

Learning Behind Bars: How IRA Prisoners Shaped the Peace Process in Ireland is published with University of Toronto Press.

Aidan Beatty is a historian at the Frederick Honors College of the University of Pittsburgh.

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