Belfast Gaol, on Crumlin Road, was completed in 1845. It was based on the design of Pentonville Prison in London and was viewed at the time of its construction a thoroughly modern Gaol. It was principally a men’s prison but did contain a female wing. Primarily designed as a prison for criminals, Belfast Gaol often housed political inmates. The Gaol did not house Irish political inmates immediately after the 1916 Rising. However, after a series of hunger strikes amongst Irish prisoners in 1918, and a swelling of prisoner numbers due to arrests under the Defence of the Realm Act, additional cells were needed that year. In March 1918 the women of Belfast Gaol were moved to Armagh, and in April 95 Irish political prisoners were moved to the Gaol. Amongst their number were Austin Stack and Joe MacDonagh who led a campaign amongst prisoners against their conditions. The Gaol would house political prisoners throughout the period of the Anglo-Irish War, 1919-21, and again from the late 1960s. The Gaol was closed in 1996.
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