Kieran Nugent

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Kieran Nugent (Irish: Ciarán Núinseann, 1958 - 4 May 2000) was a volunteer in the Provisional Irish Republican Army and best known for being the first IRA 'blanket man' in the H-Blocks. When sentenced to three years, Nugent refused to wear a prison uniform and said the prison guards would have to "...nail it to my back".[1][2]

Life before prison[edit]

Nugent's adolescence came at a time when Northern Ireland was exploding into turmoil. On 20 March 1973, aged 15, he was standing with a friend on the corner of Merrion Street and Grosvenor Road, when a car pulled up beside them and one of the occupants asked them for directions. Another occupant of the vehicle then opened fire with a sub machine gun. Nugent was seriously wounded after being shot eight times in the chest, arms and back by loyalists. A friend, Bernard McErlean, aged 16, standing nearby, was shot and killed [3][4]

Prison life[edit]

In the coming years he joined the IRA as a young man. He was arrested, aged 16, by the British Army and spent five months on remand in Crumlin Road Prison. When he was eventually tried, the case against him was withdrawn and he was released. He became an active volunteer until his arrest and imprisonment, without trial, on 9 February 1975 under Merlyn Rees, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. He spent nine months in Cage 4 of Long Kesh prison camp until 12 November 1975. He was imprisoned again after his arrest on 12 May 1976, and sentenced to three years imprisonment on 14 September 1976 for hijacking a vehicle and, upon entering the Maze Prison, refused to wear a prison uniform. He was not provided with alternative clothing and wrapped himself in the blanket from his cell beginning the "Blanket Protest".

He was soon joined in his protest; Jackie McMullan was the next prisoner to don the blanket,[5] followed by six more republican prisoners from the Beechmount area of Belfast. By Christmas 1976 the number had risen to over forty prisoners on protest. From this moment on republican prisoners emulated him and this started five years of prison protests in pursuit of political status, which ended in the 1981 Hunger Strike and the death of seven IRA and three INLA prisoners.[6]


On 4 May 2000 Nugent died from a heart attack. He was a father of four.[7]

See also[edit]

1981 Hunger Strike


  1. ^ Fra McCann. "Tribute to Kieran Nugent". Coiste Ireland. Archived from the original on 18 May 2006. Retrieved 5 October 2003. 
  2. ^ Laura Friel. "The first H Block blanket man". An Phoblacht. Retrieved 11 May 2000. 
  3. ^ H Block - British Jail for Irish Political Prisoners by Fr. Denis Faul and Fr. Raymond Murray 1979
  4. ^ Sutton Index of Deaths
  5. ^ Beresford, David (1987). Ten Men Dead. Atlantic Monthly Press. p. 66. ISBN 0-87113-702-X. 
  6. ^ CAIN
  7. ^ Laura Friel. "The first H Block blanket man". An Phoblacht. Retrieved 11 May 2000.