With the granting of political status in late 1972 the compound-or cage-system was set in place to house those prisoners who were deemed to be politically motivated. Four years later and government policy had changed with the inception of the new H blocks where those still deemed to be incarcerated for politically motivated “offences” had to endure a system set in place to criminalise them.
The compounds that remained from a UVF/RHC perspective diminished in keeping with the number of men being released when their determinate sentences expired. Gusty Spence was released in 1983 and two years later the last of the men who had been sentenced to 20 years were also gone.
In effect what was left was a group of men–now housed in a single compound-21–who were either Life Sentence prisoners or SOSP’s.–younger guys who were serving Secretary of State’s Pleasure. No new faces arrived into Long Kesh after early 1977 and they were people who had been sentenced for something that occurred pre March 1976. With the numbers dwindling–not just in the UFV/RHC compound–but in the others–compound 20 housed Official IRA men and the numbers there dropped to 3 before the decision was taken to close the compound and move the trio to the Crumlin Road jail. The talk then was the authorities had “done a deal” with the Stickies to close the cage. The theory was that they would be looked upon favourably in the next Life Sentence review.
By 1988 the writing was on the wall for the entire compound system and we knew for quite a while that the move was inevitable. The move actually came in June that year after much wrangling about how we would be locked up–free association–doors unlocked–yard opened up for running–being able to keep pigeon lofts and bird cages etc; By the time we moved there was less than thirty of us–just enough to occupy one leg of H2. There was–through our compound command staff–much negotiation and a host of communication from the highest echelons at Dundonald House. Here LKIO produce some of those communications that still–25 years later–make for fascinating reading and gives an insight into the lives of our Life Sentence prisoners.