Speech by Diarmuid Mac Dubhglais RSF to Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group meeting in London on 28 Feburary:
22/04/2013 by socialistfight
Firstly may I say thanks for the invitation to come here and speak on behalf of our Republican POW’s, who are incarcerated because of the part they have taken in the ongoing struggle against the occupation of my country. These people would never have seen the inside of a prison cell had it not for this occupation and their opposition to that occupation. I will divide my time between 3 main headings.
Firstly let me bring to your attention the case of Martin Corey; Martin is a 62 year old man from Co. Armagh, he was convicted in 1973 for his part in the killing of two RUC men. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and served 19 years before being released. The British government say he was released on licence although he never signed any documents to this effect. In April 2010, Martin was re-arrested and told his license was revoked on the authority of the secretary of state for northern Ireland. He remains in Maghaberry prison to date despite several appeals for his release. Of these appeals, the one on July 9th 2010 would be most significant as it was in front of the highly renowned human rights judge; Justice Treacy. At this hearing Justice Treacy ruled that Martin’s human rights were infringed under article 5 of the Human Rights Act of 1998; Article 5; Deprivation of liberty, and ordered his release, he Justice Treacy also pointed out that the so called “closed evidence”, i.e. the evidence that could not be shown to the defence but is normally shown to the Judge was a book of blank pages with the words, “the Secretary of State confirms that this evidence exists”.
Martin, his supporters and his legal team were understandably elated with this result and preparations were made for his return. It wasn’t until late that afternoon while Martin was sitting at the gate, with all his belongings that he was informed that the Sec. of State overruled the courts decision and ordered his continued internment. At present Martin and his supporters are awaiting a date for the Supreme court in London to appeal the Secretary of State’s decision.
Last year Martin’s brother died suddenly. Martin looked for compassionate parole to attend the removal and burial. His request was pushed from the prison governor to the courts and back. Eventually Martin was allowed out but only for 3 hours and only as long as he was escorted be 2 members of Provisional Sinn Féin…
Marion Price is another internee, her continued detention defies all logic and natural justice. This seriously ill woman poses no physical threat to the British state but they insist on keeping her interned. The so-called British justice system have gone as far as to keep her handcuffed to a hospital bed with both male and female screws constantly beside her 24 hours a day, even during examinations. This past week a prominent priest from the U.S. visited her and here is a quote from his report
“My heart was broken and my soul outraged by how this heroic Irishwoman has been treated. This seriously ill, lovely, soft-spoken woman should not be in prison. Her persecution – yes, persecution – makes a mockery of the Irish peace-process, questions the whole judicial system, and raises doubt as to whether there has, indeed, been a “ new beginning” to policing in Northern Ireland”
There are of course other internees; some interned by remand on trumped-up charge, Liam Campbell, who only last week the courts refused to extradite to Lithuania because he would be held in inhuman and degrading conditions is still in jail despite having no charges preferred against him in the 6 counties is another who’s plight needs attention.
Next I will speak about the Republican POW’s. Political Status was attained by all republican POW’s after the 1981 Hunger Strike. The deaths of 10 brave men to attain that status is well known to all here I am sure. Many others, men and women, had their health ruined and lives shortened as a result of this particular phase of the struggle. Sadly this hard won victory was sold out by P.S.F. (Provisional Sinn Fein) when their last prisoner was released after the “Good Friday Agreement” We now have Republican Prisoners struggling for the very same recognition; that is, to be recognition as political prisoners. They have four simple demands: 1/ an end to the brutal and degrading strip searching, 2/ free association, 3/ an end to controlled movement, 4/ a right to education.
In August 2010 an agreement was reached between the POW’s and the NIO brokered be independent facilitators. Its fundamental Principles were as follows;-
1. Arrangements are predicated on mutual respect;
2. Prisoner and staff safety must not be put at risk;
3. Arrangements should comply with human rights and equality requirements;
4. Revised arrangements and procedures should be achievable and sustainable;
5. Staff should be able to carry out their work professionally, free from harm, intimidation or threat;
6. The security of the establishment should not be diluted; and
7. The arrangements must strengthen public confidence in NIPS
The agreement set out in full, the steps to be taken by both the POW’s and the prison staff so as to resolve the deterioration in prison conditions and the health of the POW’s. Sadly but predictably once the POW’s came off their protest the screws reneged on all aspects of their side of the agreement and the POW’s were left with no alternative but to return to the dirty protest. Up to November 2012 the POW’s were still on protest. They were living in maggot infested cells with no washing facilities, their own excrement covering walls/doors and floors.
They were locked up for 23 hours a day and only allowed out one at a time. During their one hour out of the cell they had to try; shower, make phone calls, buy something from the tuck shop and perform and other tasks necessary. They were beaten up and strip searched on the way to and from court appearances; The constant strip searching is brutal in the extreme and is done as a form of torture, the POW’s have had no human contact other than the screws and particularly while during court cases. In November 2012 the POW’s took the lead and suspended their protest when it looked like a body scanner was to be installed in the prison. This type of scanner has been proven to work in airports/prisons and various other secure areas all over the world). Once again the NIPS back tracked, the screws have said that the scanners supplied allowed certain items through unnoticed. It has to be pointed out though that the scanners supplied were tested in other prisons and found to work perfectly well … In a case similar to that of Martin Corey, a POW whose father died suddenly was refused bail altogether, this to spite the fact that republican POW’s have consistently returned from compassionate leave. This was just another vindictive act on behalf of the prison.
Finally to the international struggle against imperialism and solidarity;- Because there the majority of so-called independent media are in fact aligned to different political parties, it is important the those involved in various struggles, whether for independence or against imperialism to co-operate in highlighting just causes. Governments across the globe are trying to stifle the independent voice of the oppressed. The likes of the Irish, Basque and Palestinian struggle are well known but it is getting harder for us to get the word out there that oppression continues end injustice is an everyday fact of life. The case of Mohammed Hamid is known to us in Sinn Féin Poblachtach, in 2011 the CPS attempted to use his case as a precedent against one members who was interviewed by Channel 4. The fact that people going out paint-balling can be used to infer guilt of terrorist training is very worrying. This in stark contrast to a statement made in Dec 2011 where Jeremy Clarkson said he would have Public Service workers shot for striking. Comrades we need to build a strong anti-imperialist movement where the plight of ordinary men and women are put ahead of the rich and powerful. From here today we should agree to highlight each other’s ongoing struggle; as long as this does not impinge on our own principles.