This speech was given by the International PRO of Republican Sinn Féin and Chairperson of the Anti Makapaltis/Fritz Langsdorf Cumann at the 12th Symposium against Isolation and Torture on Friday, February 27. The revolutionary conference was held in Beirut, Lebanon, from February 26 to March 1.
As many of you will know Ireland has been occupied for eight centuries; throughout these years the British occupier has maimed, murdered and tortured all who dare resist that occupation. That resistance has increased and decreased in line with the Republican Movement’s tactics, but it has never ceased.
In 1921, Ireland has been partitioned into the North, the occupied 6 Counties still under British imperial rule, and the pro-EU, neo-liberal, capitalist and corrupt South, the Irish Freestate. Both governments in the North and the South are characterized by the Republican Movement as pro-imperialist and not representative of the will of the Irish people since they were installed under British occupation. Therefore, they are a direct product of the colonial rule in Ireland and bare their legacy.
In the 1970’s there were operations against the occupier every day due to the increased oppression of the British. The reaction of the British government/army was increased repression of the Republican population and the torture of prisoners, whether they were convicted of “crimes or not. Also widely used was the practice of framing republicans for crimes they did not commit. I am sure that some of you have heard of The Birmingham Six and The Guildford Four, these are just two groups of people framed for crimes they did not commit and held for many years even though the British judicial system knew they were innocent.
Another infamous example are the Hooded Men. These were innocent Civil Rights activist who were used as test-balloons for British and US-torture practices such as water-boarding; nowadays used in many places in the world by the US occupation forces and their allies. Thus, there is a direct line from torturing innocent men in Ireland in the early 1970s to torturing innocent men in Guantanamo Concentration Camp in the 21st Century.
Yet, let us talk about today’s situation in Ireland. Since the ceasefire by Provisional IRA in 1994, the British government would have the world think that all is peaceful in the occupied six counties and that all is now normal within the six counties. With a compliant media this lie is sent around the world. But this is a lie, in the occupied six counties tensions are high, attacks on the British police are on the rise and the oppression in republican areas is increasing daily. Sadly, with an increase in attacks and oppression there is also an increase in the population of Prisoners Of War (POW’s). Today, the number of republican and political prisoners in Ireland is more than 100. This number is surprisingly high considered the small size of Ireland as well as the Western European context of Ireland.
The same tactics of framing republicans and torturing POW’s are coming to light with increasing regularity. All Republican POW’s who must attend court will be forcibly stripped naked and intimately searched on the way to and from court even if the POW has had no contact with other people. As we all know there are now X-ray machines that render strip searches unnecessary, I am sure we all passed through them this week at airports as we travelled here. It had been agreed in 2010 that strip searching would cease and X-rays used instead but prison staff would rather torture and degrade POW’s.
Since that start of 2015 there have been several attacks on the POW’s within the jail, in early January many POW’s were attacked by the prison staff over several days. The prison staff denied there were any injuries but it soon emerged that some POW’s were badly injured. One of the injured, Martin Kelly, received a fractured arm, swollen neck and head, a deep laceration to his face as well as blood in his urine. He was initially only seen by a prison medic, who confirmed the fracture and recommended he be transported to hospital. Martin was in process of being sent by ambulance to hospital, when the prison ordered he go through degrading strip search at the gates. This act was in direct contravention of doctors’ orders. Martin rightfully refused this needless addition of humiliation and degradation to his medical care. As I write this Martin is still awaiting proper medical attention, he needs a cast on his arm, stitches to his face as well as a scan to detect the cause of the blood in his urine.
Another POW, Thomas Ashe Mellon was assaulted by the notorious Riot Squad. Thomas was on his way for a legal visit when he was surrounded by a Governor and the Riot Squad who demanded that they see his legal papers. Thomas refused, as his right privacy of these papers is meant to be guaranteed be law, a standoff occurred for some time before eight Riot Squad members attacked him demanding that he hand them over as they believed they contained a statement in which Prison officers were named. Thomas’ arms were then forced up his back and his legal papers taken from him. The legal papers were read before being returned to him when they were satisfied with their content. The sectarian prison staff will use any reason as an excuse to assault the POW’s and deny them even the minimum recreation time outside the cell.
There have been several other assaults and injuries to POW’s, all of which is denied by the British establishment, and again the media will toe the line and deny the truth to the public. The conduct of prison riot squads are well known to all of us here, they act with impunity, and I have yet to hear of a single prison officer charged and convicted of assaulting a prisoner. A protest was organized outside the prison where many media outlets interviewed the protesters, yet when the so-called justice minister was interviewed he said that no prisoner of prison officer was injured.
Another tactic of the whole of the British establishment used all too often in the occupied six counties is that of framing known activists, this is sadly still in use in the occupied six counties. Two men are currently imprisoned in Maghaberry after being convicted on the most questionable evidence following the most unconvincing of trials and subsequent farce of an appeal. This is just another in a long line of miscarriages of justice that will sooner or later be accepted by the British establishment, but not before some innocent young men send their youth unjustly jailed Sadly this is one more in a long line of miscarriages of justice perpetrated by the so-called British justice system.
Whole all republican POW’s deserve equal attention, I think there is currently one case that stands out above all others. This case is the miscarriage of the two men, John Paul Wooten and Brendan McConville, who have become known as the Craigavon Two is a case that should be of great concern to all. The Craigavon two have protested their innocence since their arrest for the shooting dead by the Irish Republican Army of British Constable Stephen Carroll in 2009.
A concerning but not surprising aspects of the case are allegations of police harassment and interference, including the arrest of a witness for the defence and attempts to sully the professional integrity of the legal team involved in the case. This witness has been described by his own family member as a man who is known to embellish stories to make himself seem important.
Furthermore, it has been alleged that the British Security Services tampered with surveillance equipment resulting in the disappearance of alleged evidence from a tracking device which may have proved that John Paul Wooten was elsewhere when the British policeman was killed by the Irish Republican Army. With these factors in mind we can only conclude that this case involves an element of malevolence and exposes the inbuilt weaknesses in the British justice system and failings of the British Police RUC/PSNI to carry out a robust and comprehensive investigation into the Carroll killing.
Indeed, the reasons why people are imprisoned in Ireland are three-folded: First, it is the resistance against British imperialism, repression, and harassments in the occupied 6 Counties. However, as former IRA Chief-of-Staff and Patron Ruairí Ó Brádaigh said: “As long as British rule remains in Ireland, there will always be a section of the Irish people resisting this imperial rule.”
Second, while the North remains under illegal British jurisdiction, the South is ruled by a corrupt and pro-British political establishment, that forces social-cuttings and a neo-liberal agenda in the behest of the British government, the EU, and the ECB. These institutions have introduced a neo-colonial rule over Ireland.
Finally, third, republican organisations are still black-listed in Ireland and abroad. My own organisation is illegal, classified as an organisation supporting terrorism under US law. The revolutionary organisation Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Irish Republican Army, acting under the leadership of the Continuity Army Council, is classified as a terrorist organisation both by the US and the EU. Furthermore, the republican women’s organisation Cumann na mBan and the republican youth movement Na Fianna Éireann are listed as “foreign terrorist organisations” by the British government.
We all here at this conference, the Irish Republican Movement as well as all my comrades in this panel and in this hall here today, we know that we are no terrorist. We are progressive, revolutionary freedom fighters! This is the very reason why the imperialists and the political establishments label us “terrorists”. Well, to be sure, under those circumstances it is an honour to be called a “terrorist” by those imperialist forces imprisoning our comrades and torturing our people!
For confirmation: International PRO Republican Sinn Féin, Anti Makapaltis/Fritz Langsdorf Cumann, firstname.lastname@example.org
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