July 2, 2019

Northern Ireland Prison Service reevaluates book ban on books about terrorism


The Northern Ireland Prison Service recently reevaluated its blanket policy that no books relating to terrorism or paramilitaries were allowed into the jail. Chris Lindsay of BBC interviewed the Director General of the NI Prison Service, Ronnie Armour, and reports,

From now on, books will be allowed into the prison “unless they breach specific guidelines which include the promotion of, or support for terrorism/paramilitaries, or overtly promote or encourage the commission of criminal acts.”

If there are concerns about a particular book, these will be reviewed by a deputy governor, and if a ban is upheld, there will be an appeals procedure.

The Northern Ireland Prison Service said this was “an in-depth review, which had prompted serious discussions” in the service.

It accepted that the blanket ban was not appropriate, adding that it was a “changing organisation and learning organisation.” 

The book that made prison officials take another look at their policy was Unfinished Business: the Politics of “Dissident” Irish Republicanism, written by Marisa McGlinchey. The online description for this book is, 

This book discusses the development of “dissident” Irish republicanism and considers its impact on politics throughout Ireland since the 1980s. Based on a series of interviews with over ninety radical republican activists from the wide range of groups and currents which make up “dissident” republicanism, the book provides an up-to-date assessment of the political significance and potential of the groups who continue to oppose the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. By assessing the inherent political tensions in “the new Northern Ireland” it shows that the “dissidents” are much more than traditionalist irreconcilables left behind by Gerry Adams’ entry into the mainstream. Instead the book suggests that the dynamics and trajectory of “dissident” republicanism are shaped more by contemporary forces than historical tradition and that by understanding the “dissidents” we can better understand the emerging forms of political challenge in an age of austerity and increasing political instability internationally.

This book was originally flagged as a terrorism book, but after Armour met with the author and explained the prison guidelines, he decided to lift the ban.



Christina Cerio is the Manager of Direct Sales & Special Projects at Melville House.