02/08/2017 by socialistfight
Statement from the Irish Republican Support Group in London, 2 August 2016
In December 2016, Dónal Billings was jailed for eight-and-a-half years after he planted a bomb on a bus during the Queen’s 2011 visit to Ireland.
The IRPSG unreservedly supports the democratic and human rights of unaligned 68-year-old Republican POW Dónal Billings in Portlaoise prison and demands that he be allowed back into the E1 landing with no restrictions on his rights.
The Republican Network for Unity, the Irish Republican Socialist Party, Republican Sinn Fein and Continuity Sinn Fein have supported him. Though unaligned the Irish Republican National Congress, are representing him.
Both Republican Sinn Fein and Continuity Sinn Fein have issued statements on 31 July in his defence. We concur with RSF’s statement that:
“Sinn Féin Poblachtach utterly condemns the removal of Dónal Billings from E1 landing, Portlaoise Gaol. Dónal is a lifelong Republican. He is incarcerated for actions against normalisation, and the occupation of part of Ireland. His service to the Republican cause is longer than that of some of those who had him removed from the landing are alive.”
“We call for Dónal’s immediate re-admittance onto E1 and the cessation of all bullying of the independent POWs and those Republicans whose numbers are low in the gaols of Ireland. While all Republican groups have their differences, it has always been the case that we agreed to unity on POW issues, the recent divisive actions make such unity difficulty and this can only have a knock-on effect for the POWs themselves. When all is said and done it play’s directly into the hands of the imperial partitionist States we all oppose.”
We also support CFS’s more detailed statement of the issues involved because President of Continuity Sinn Fein Seamus O’Suilleabhain and terminally ill veteran Republican Sean O’Neil visited him on 11 July:
“Dónal made a VERY BRAVE stand he refused to be bullied into having members of an organisation sit with him on a all visits to listen into private conversations and intimidate his visitors (even the prison officers do not do this).
After his visit, he was interrogated by members of this organisation aligned to the I.R.P.W.A trying to determine what the visit was about, they then went on to demand that Dónal was not to speak Gaelic on private telephone conversations or to other prisoner’s, staff or prison governors. (The simple reason is they don’t speak fluent Gaelic or understand their native tongue.)
Furthermore they refused Dónal permission to attend mass on Sunday thus not allowing him the right to practice his religious beliefs. When Dónal wanted to go to the library as he is an avid reader he was again met with you do not have permission from OC of the landing Tony Caroll. It finally came to a head and Dónal Billings has been forcibly removed from the republican landing and put over to the criminal wing.
Dónal Billings has taken the only option left to him as a republican and he has commenced his hunger strike.
He will not be criminalized.
He has the right to follow his republican convictions.
He has the right to legal counsel without a stranger to sit in on his visit
The right to follow his religious beliefs freely without interference.
He has the right to education.
The right to a private life.
MOST IMPORTANTLY HE HAS THE RIGHT TO BE TREATED AS AN INDIVIDUAL HUMAN BEING.”
The IRPSG supports the rights of all Republican POWs regardless of history or alignment. If they are imprisoned for activities against the occupation of the six north eastern counties of Ireland by Brutish imperialism and are for a united Ireland it is the duty of all Irish republican and all socialist and anti-imperialists in Britain and internationally to support them. These are our founding principles from 2009. In mid-2015 we supported the rights of CSF to be regarded as political prisoners despite many objections.
In Socialist Fight No. 20, Autumn 2015, the IRPSG published the following statement:
“Leading Republicans have objected to the inclusion of Continuity Sinn Fein in the list of POWs, making various allegations of criminality against them. However, the IRPSG cannot discriminate, CSF are self-declared Republicans and Joe Lynch has written two letters to us asking to highlight their situation. He has outlined the case of Sean O’Neill, also from Limerick, who is 76 years old and suffering from bowel cancer and is not receiving proper medical care. We cannot in conscience deny them our assistance, such as it is.” https://socialistfight.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/socialistfightno20.pdf, p.19
In May of this year we issued a statement in support of RSF member Gabriel Mackle:
“The Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group (IRPSG) in London recognises Gabriel Mackle, due for release shortly, as a genuine Irish Republican POW. We defend him against the appalling treatment meted out to him by the prison authorities outlined above by RSF. We defend his right to return to the republican wing of Maghaberry and continue to demand political status for him, for all CIRA and every other Republican POW in Maghaberry and elsewhere.
In keeping with our founding principles of 2009, advocated and constantly strongly defended by our founder leader, the late Michael Holden, we refuse to distinguish between and/or favour one section of the Irish Republican movement over another. If imprisoned for Republican activities against British Imperialism or its agents they are deserving of our full support and will get it.”
We were aware in both instances that our stance incurred the opposition of a section of Irish Republicans but we felt that it was necessary to defend those founding principles if we were to maintain credibility with all Republican POWs and assist in forging a united POW regime in the prisons. Similarly, we are aware that this statement will find many opponents but we do not seek cheap popularity.
The IRPWA has issued a statement today, 2-8-17, disclaiming responsibility for the situation, implying either Saoradh, the political wing or the prisoners themselves are responsible. They say: “The IRPWA are never consulted with on any matter when it comes to the running of the Republican Landings and nor, as a welfare body, would we expect to be”. Whatever the case these actions, clearly ongoing since Gabriel Mackle’s case – this has been reported as the reason John Paul Wootton and other have left the republican wing in Maghaberry – shows the need to re-establish the unity of all POWs and an end of one section attempting to claim that they are the ONLY IRA and the ONLY republicans.
As a non-aligned organisation if we can assist in any way in resolving this issue by negotiations we are willing to go to Ireland immediately and convene such a meeting. It would be a truly shocking thing if Dónal Billings were to die on hunger strike protesting not what the British or Irish state have done to Ireland and to him but because he was the victim of the bullying and harassment by other Republicans.
Gerry Downing, Secretary IRPSG
Annette Maloney Chair IRPSG