Ireland, the POW’s & Anti-imperialism, Istanbul, April 2014

For Publication
25ú Aibreán 2014

Speech by Diarmuid MacDubhghlais, Sinn Féin Poblachtach Roinn Gnóthaí Idirnáisiúnta, held at Anti-imperialist Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, April 2014.

Comrades, let me begin by thanking the organisers for inviting me to speak here on behalf of the Republican movement in Ireland. It is important to our POW’s to know that there are people at home and overseas that know of their plight and know that the struggle for which they have been jailed is a just and legitimate one. I will start by 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,

“We wish 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”

Since last I spoke here in Turkey there have been some important victories for the POW’s. We have seen the release of Marion Price, Stephen Murney, Michael Campbell and Martin Corey. All of these people were interned illegally. Unfortunately for Martin he has had very strict conditions imposed on him, for me to confirm these conditions would be to put this man’s liberty at risk. In the T.V. and print media they have mentioned that he is not allowed to even associate with people the have political opinions or live in his home town. This for a man who has been involved in the struggle his whole life means he can no longer talk to any of his friends/comrades, people he has known since he was a child. Effectively he is in internal exile, if he had not agreed to these conditions the British were willing to let him die in jail.

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 minister 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.”

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 Lilly to celebrate the anniversary of the 1916-Rising has been banned in Maghaberry. The Prisoner Of War 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 Lilly 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 Lilly cannot.

I am always conscious when talking at these conferences that in many other countries there are many thousands of POW’s while in Ireland there are little more than one hundred. It is recognized 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. At present there are about 100-120 Republican Prisoners in Maghaberry, Portlaoise, as well as smaller amounts of prisoners in Magilligan, Hydebank and Mountjoy. Indeed, this number has been 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.

Across the world former comrades have been situation in Ireland as being solved, we now have peace. The more than 800 years of war in Ireland was never about attaining peace; it was and IS about freeing Ireland from British imperialism and corrupt political regimes in both parts of the British imposed border. Main stream media now ignore the facts on the ground- that there is still ongoing discrimination and bigotry within the police and government departments. Only last month I was arrested for no more than giving my name in Gaeilic (my native language).

On two separate days last week swarms of PSNI/RUC land-rovers and British Military vehicles have invaded Craigavon in typical fashion tearing through homes and abusing the inhabitants. They confiscated materials that were to be used this weekend in commemorations to mark the 1916 revolution; when a small number of men, women and youth took on the might of the British Empire.

Let these simple facts serve as a warning to those who enter dialogue with the occupier/invader on the pretext that “it has worked in Ireland and can work here” This is a lie, to divide and conquer. The Irish Revolutionary movement was divided this way over a decade ago, massive damage was done to our cause and we are only now beginning to regain our strength.

Long live international solidarity! Free all political prisoners worldwide!
Beirígí bua agus an Phoblacht abú!

Diarmuid MacDubhghlais is Ard-Christeoir, Sinn Féin Poblachtach, member of the Ard Chomhairle and member of Sinn Féin Poblachtach Roinn Gnóthaí Idirnáisiúnta.


For confirmation:
International Department Republican Sinn Féin,
Stiftgasse 8, 1070 Vienna, Austria

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