Press Release / Preas Ráiteas
12ú Aibreán 2014
Following greetings from the International Department of Republican Sinn Féin were sent to the participants of the International week for Political Prisoners in Paris, France. The message of solidarity will be read at a public meeting on Monday, April 14, by comrades of the group LIBERATION IRLANDE. The meeting will be held at Espace Louise Michel, 42ter rue des Cascades, Paris, 7pm. A full report will appear in the May-edition of SAOIRSE.
We want to use this opportunity and send greetings to all international organisations taking part in the International Week for Political Prisoners. Our greetings also go to the organisers of this important annual event in Paris. The International Department of Republican Sinn Féin has been saying in numerous statements in the last couple of years: Internationalism is the key for victory of the international working class and the oppressed people and nations.
Indeed, in particular Republican Sinn Féin commends our comrades of Liberation Irlande for organising this important event and spreading the message of the Republican POWs in France. Liberation Irlande is an active and staunch supporter of Republican Sinn Féin, the Republican Movement and the Republican POWs for years and we acknowledge their vital role in supporting the cause of Irish Freedom on international level.
We want to start these greetings with quoting a statement recently received from the POWs in Maghaberry jail. In a statement on April 7, the Continuity POWs in Roe 3, Maghaberry jail, said they wished to thank “all those who have supported them down the years. We will continue to demand political status, an end to the barbaric practice of strip-searching and controlled movement [the right to free association].
“We welcome support from people willing to back our just demands and we hope they continue to come out to support our stance against the unjust system that operates in Maghaberry today” the Continuity POWs wrote.
As we write these greetings harassment and repression against Irish people spreads in Ireland, both in the neo-colonial Freestate, the 6 occupied Counties as well as the prisons in such as Maghaberry, Mountjoy, Magilligan, Portlaoise and Hydebank.
While the campaign for republican prisoners has seen important victories in the previous twelve months – the release of Marian Price, Stephen Murney, Michael Campbell or Martin Corey – there are still over 100 political prisoners held in jails all over Ireland.
In recent weeks, the Republican Prisoners showed their solidarity in holding 72-hour solidarity fast, for fellow republican prisoners Gavin Coyle who is held in the isolation unit SSU in Maghaberry jail. The Republican prisoners and the Republican Sinn Féin POW-Department demand his immediate transfer to Roe House, the Republican wing in the high-security jail.
In a statement the Continuity IRA prisoners said: “During his time in Maghaberry several failed attempts have been made by MI5 to recruit him as an informer – a despicable practice facilitated by the regime in Maghaberry and the British government itself. The regime also lied about a threat to Gavin from other Republican POWs, this threat is untrue and unfounded. It has been confirmed to both the prison administration and the so called justice miniser David Ford that no threat on Gavin exists from and of the POW’s in Roe House. It is believed that this is merely a strategy of isolation by the RUC/MI5.
“There is a threat to his health however, isolation is designed to break a prisoner, and the longer he is isolated the more pressure he is put under. The use of MI5 to try to intimidate a POW into becoming an informer is also used as pressure. This type of treatment breaks all the rules of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“The CIRA POW’s will commence their fast from midnight on Monday, March 24, 2014.”
As we write these greetings Irish Republicans all over the world prepare for the annual Easter Commemorations, marking the anniversary of the glorious uprising against British Imperialism in 1916. In 2014, once again the wearing of the Easter Lily to celebrate the anniversary of the 1916-Rising has been banned in Maghaberry. The International Department learnt that the Republican Prisoners in Roe House will not be permitted to wear their Easter Lilies out of their cells.
This ban on the Lily has seen the POWs on the boards for three days in past years. It is a disgraceful situation that the Poppy can be worn outside of their cells but the Easter Lily cannot.
Repression and harassment continues also outside the jails. Five members of Republican Sinn Féin in the Lurgan/Craigavon area of Co Armagh were arrested on April 2, 2014.
The area was flooded with heavily-armed members of the RUC/PSNI, accompanied by plain-clothes Special Branch/MI5 from 5.45am. Raids were carried out in several nationalist homes and five arrests were made. Items of furniture were damaged in some homes and in one home in an outbuilding under construction the concrete foundation was dug up.
Computers and phones were taken and in one house a member of the RUC went through the computer a child was using for his exams. Documents were also taken.
During the raid in Drumbeg the seven-year-old son of one of the households went to his mother’s car to get his coat. A heavily-armed member of the RUC/PSNI with his gun in his hand ran over to the car and was about to search the child when the mother ran out of the house and prevented him from carrying out the search.
Later in the day two members of Republican Sinn Féin were prevented from visiting a POW in Maghaberry when the sniffer-dog sat down beside the woman. The usual pull of the chain by the prison warders ensured the dog sat down beside the woman.
A spokesperson for Republican Sinn Féin said that is was quite obvious that the arrests and the confiscation of mobile phones and computers was politically motivated in an attempt to disrupt the organisation of the Easter Commemoration in Lurgan.
North Armagh is one of the areas hit hardest by British repression and criminalisation of nationalist communities. Further house raids continued in the following days. While former Republican Martin McGuinness dines with the head of the British Armed forces which continues to occupy 6 Counties of Ireland, the British Military are ransacking and terrorising communities which have not bought into the sell-out that was the 1998-Belfast Agreement.
For the second time in a week swarms of PSNI land-rovers and British Military vehicles have invaded Craigavon in typical fashion tearing through homes and abusing the inhabitants.
A warrant for one of the houses said: “Military on behalf of PSNI”. This is despite media propaganda which suggests the British Army are not on Irish streets. More lies from an imperial force whose days are spent. During these raids two more people were arrested in the Drum beg estate of Craigavon.
Before ending this message, we want to take this opportunity to give a brief note on the number of Republican and political prisoners in Ireland. When attending international conferences, Irish Republicans are often confronted by following question: “How many prisoners do you have?” As soon as you give the answer saying “a few dozen”, political activists from countries such as Palestine, Iraq, Kurdistan, or Turkey seem to be astonished. They would regard “a few dozen” as a very low number compared to the situation in their own countries. Of course, there are thousands of political prisoners in the Near East, hundreds of socialist prisoners in Turkey, let alone the almost ten thousands Kurdish prisoners and the detention camps were masses of Tamils are held in North and East Sri Lanka.
Though, comparing these situations with the political situation in Ireland would be comparing apples with pears. It is recognised all over the world that Palestine, Kurdistan, or the Philippines are on-going conflicts while everyone is told that the conflict in Ireland has been settled with the signing of the 1998-Agreement. Therefore the very fact that there are still political prisoners in a so-called ‘post-conflict society’ is in itself astonishing. Indeed, we all know that the conflict in Ireland is far from settlement; it has merely entered a new stage since 1994/98.
Furthermore, when discussing Ireland, we talk about a Western country and both states in Ireland – the one that rules the 26 Counties and the one that occupies the 6 Counties – are EU member states. Andrew Silke, in a recently published volume on Prisons, Terrorism and Extremism (Routledge 2014) acknowledges that more than half of the states in the European Union have currently no political prisoners at all “and most of the rest have only a handful”. As we all know, the number of political prisoners in Ireland is far from “only a handful”.
In the same volume, Colin Murray writes that on 31 December 2010 there were “only 123 individuals were imprisoned in Great Britain on the basis of terrorism/extremism offences”. Indeed, this means 123 political prisoners in England, Scotland, and Wales. They are made up of mainly Muslim prisoners as well as a smaller number of radical Animal Liberation activists and militant socialists.
If we take into consideration the overall number of prisoners related to republican charges in Ireland – this includes prisoners from Maghaberry, Portlaoise, as well as smaller amounts of prisoners in Magilligan, Hydebank and Mountjoy – we have an average number of prisoners ranging between 100 and 120 here in Ireland. Indeed, this number is constantly rising over the last couple of years. The number of 123 political prisoners in England, Scotland, and Wales becomes even more astonishing if we compare it with the more than 20 political prisoners from the small area of North Armagh.
To conclude, we see that the number of political prisoners from North Armagh makes up one-sixth of the number of all political prisoners in England, Scotland, and Wales. Furthermore, the numbers of republican prisoners in Ireland and political prisoners in England, Scotland, and Wales are more or less equal. Understanding the number of POWs in this context makes it even more astonishing.
Long live international solidarity! Free all political prisoners worldwide!
Beirígí bua agus an Phoblacht abú!
International Department Republican Sinn Féin
Stiftgasse 8, 1070 Vienna, Austria