Kieran Nugent

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Kieran Nugent (1958 – 4 May 2000) was an Irish 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 submachine gun. Nugent was seriously wounded after being shot eight times in the chest, arms and back by the Ulster loyalists in the car. His friend, Bernard McErlean, aged 16, was killed [3][4]

Prison life[edit]

At some point afterwards, Nugent joined the Provisional IRA. 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 When he was eventually tried, the case against him was withdrawn and he was released.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 internment, without trial, on 9 February 1975.

He spent nine months in Cage 4 of Long Kesh prison camp until 12 November 1975. He was arrested and imprisoned again on 12 May 1976, following the hijacking of a bus.[5] On 14 September 1976 he was sentenced to three years, and he became the first Republican prisoner convicted since the withdrawal of Special Category Status for those convicted through juryless courts, due to the new British policy of 'criminalisation' introduced that March.[6][7] Among other things, this change in policy meant convicted paramilitaries could no longer wear their own clothes. He refused to wear the uniform, viewing himself as a political prisoner and not a criminal, which began the blanket protest.[5]

He was soon joined by Jackie McMullan, the next prisoner to don the blanket,[8] followed by six more Irish republican prisoners from the Beechmount area of Belfast. By Christmas 1976 the number of participants had risen to over forty prisoners. Most incoming republican prisoners emulated Nugent and this started five years of prison protests in pursuit of political status, which culminated in the 1981 hunger strike and the death of 11, including seven IRA and three Irish National Liberation Army prisoners.[9]


On 4 May 2000 Nugent died from a heart attack. He was a father of four.[2]


  1. ^ Fra McCann. "Tribute to Kieran Nugent". Coiste Ireland. Archived from the original on 18 May 2006. Retrieved 5 October 2003.
  2. ^ a b Laura Friel (11 May 2000). "The first H Block blanket man". An Phoblacht. Retrieved 21 May 2007.
  3. ^ H Block - British Jail for Irish Political Prisoners by Fr. Denis Faul and Fr. Raymond Murray 1979
  4. ^ Sutton Index of Deaths
  5. ^ a b Craig, Gary (2017-05-02). Seven Million: A Cop, a Priest, a Soldier for the IRA, and the Still-Unsolved Rochester Brink's Heist. University Press of New England. ISBN 9781512600629.
  6. ^ Ross, F. Stuart (2011). Smashing H-block: The Rise and Fall of the Popular Campaign Against Criminalization, 1976-1982. Liverpool University Press. ISBN 9781846317439.
  7. ^ Corcoran, Mary (2013-06-17). Out of Order. Routledge. ISBN 9781134019113.
  8. ^ Beresford, David (1987). Ten Men Dead. Atlantic Monthly Press. p. 66. ISBN 0-87113-702-X.
  9. ^ CAIN