The Shot Lock began as a series of work that explored aspects of the many forms of cultural and political imprisonment. Many of the images were inspired by the story of Long Kesh or the Maze Prison.  This work plays with light and colour to capture the sense of history and memory and the transformation of the empty site.  Importantly this body of work uses the idea of prison as a metaphor for difficulties in wider society. For example, compare the theme of isolated prisoners ingeniously overcoming physical barriers to maintain communication with the inability of society to overcome the unseen barriers that are generated by political and religious beliefs; these beliefs often prevent communication between communities and individuals.  This series of paintings is an ever evolving body of work.

A Long Walk

Going for a walk.  It was common during the protest for prisoners to lean the mattress against the wall and go for a ‘long walk’ up and down the cell.

Size:  47cm x 60cm

A Cold Floor

During the Blanket Protest prisoners who were naked in cold empty cells would often stand on the Bible to keep their feet warm.

Size:  47cm x 47cm

The Mexican

These ‘street’ lights surrounded the perimeter of each block and looked over the fence into the yards and the blocks.  They were nick named ‘Mexican Hats’ by some prisoners.

Size:  47cm x 35cm

The Dowser

These items symbolised intense search activity of prison staff and the inherent threat that this often involved.

Size: 60cm x 47cm

An Rang

A prisoner down the wing with Gaelic shouted the Irish lessons out and ‘students’ would write the lessons on the wall with the smuggled lead of a pencil.

Size:  47cm x 60cm

Water Bottle

During the protest, or solitary confinement, it was the only and highly important source of water.

Size: 47cm x 35cm

Empty Card Holder

Outside every cell was a card holder that contained the name, sentence, DOB and other details of the prisoner(s).  In many ways, for me, this image symbolises the now empty prison.

Size: 65cm x 60cm 

Emergency Button

These emergency buttons were located inside every strategic part of the H blocks and all around the prison perimeter; designed to be ‘hit by the screws’ to raise the alarm.  During the escape of 1983 they were among the first things to be ‘secured’ by escaping prisoners.

Size: 60cm x 47cm

The Comm. on Yellow

Cigarette papers were stuck together to make writing paper and inscribed with tiny script using smuggled biros.  The letters were wrapped tightly in cling film and smuggled out.

Size:  47cm x 35cm


The banality of the physical environment was everywhere – almost everything was sterile and functional and watched.

Size:  60cm x 47cm

Piss Pot Moon

An aerial view of a plastic poe (pot), a view that prisoners would have contemplated several times a day and night – portrayed here with a view of the waxing moon on the base, another view that was regularly observed.

Size:  47cm x 35cm

Centre Spot

The centre spot for kick-off in the exercise yard; football was always played in the prison often with balls made from a lump of mattress foam stuffed into an old sock.

Size:  35cm x 35cm

The Goalie

I have vivid personal memories of walking the yard with grey sky, grey corrugated iron fence and even the tarmac appeared grey, with the only colour being the ability of the human spirit to carry on with craic, sports and life.

Size:  70cm x 53cm

The Shot Lock

The lock image sums up the idea of confinement in a cell but the shot lock here is a symbol of freedom and the closed prison.  It is prison practice to shoot (or set) all the bolts on the door locks (so that the doors cannot be closed) when a prison is unmanned.

Size:  70cm x 60cm

An Train

Prisoners would smuggle mass leaflets back to their cells and use them for many things; one important function of the mass leaflet was to make a ‘train’; a stiff piece of paper that could be pushed through the gap between the wall and the heating pipe into the next cell.  The leaflet would contain smuggled messages, and tobacco etc.

Size:  60cm x 47cm

A Perimeter Tower

One of the security towers that surrounded the interior phases of the prison.

Size:  47cm x 47cm

Look Out Post

In later years tension wire was strung across the entire prison to prevent helicopter escapes, blocking even the sky from clear view.

Size:  70cm x 60cm

A Knife and Button

Prisoners would pull thread from their blankets, make a length of string and tie it to a button.  The button was then flicked under the door across the wing where it would entangle with a similar line flicked from the other side.  The thread would then be pulled across bringing messages from one side to the other.

Size:  47cm x 35cm

"Leg of Mutton". Fling the Button

Prisoners had many ingenious forms of by-passing the searches and a system designed to isolate them.  ‘Leg of Mutton’ was the slang term for the means of smuggling information under the door and across the wing.

Size:  47cm x 60cm

An Bfhuar Tu?

One of the many ways that protesting prisoners would maintain communication between blocks; at night a prisoner would ‘gullder’ out the window and into the darkness while those in another block would maintain absolute silence to hear the ‘sceal’ (news).

Size:  60cm x 47cm

The Legend

Limited edition photo etched print – created from a Maze Prison security map, hand prints and keys.  This print is a representation of how the Maze Prison is physically corroding away and being taken over by nature.  The hand prints printed over the security map represent community and family and how these primary influences can blot out the memory and history of the place.  The keys are a symbol of freedom also represents the ability to unlock our own prisons and to move forward into the future.

Nelson Mandela, 27 years

Wall and Bucket

Well Red Bucket

Watched Tower


Blue Door

Green Door

Blue Tower

Green Tower

Eloi, Lama sabchthani