- Created: Tuesday, 12 June 2012 11:01
- Written by Paul Mallon
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 227 June/July 2012
The situation of political prisoners in the north of Ireland acutely exposes the reality of continued British rule. Imprisonment is being used in an attempt to silence those such as Marian Price and Gerry McGeough who criticise Sinn Fein’s collaboration with British rule. There are currently around 50 prisoners in Maghaberry prison on a dirty protest, following the repeated failure to implement an agreement reached in August 2010, which was intended to resolve a dispute over the use of strip-searches. In a further recent development, the Public Prosecution Service is now increasing the use of ‘intercept evidence’ in the non-jury Diplock courts in order to secure convictions against those accused of political offences.
Marian Price has been held in prison for over a year, for the large part in solitary confinement. The Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson has deliberately ignored the fact that her 1980 release from prison was effected on compassionate grounds via the ‘Royal Prerogative of Mercy’, and claims that instead she was on life licence, meaning that she can be recalled for the smallest alleged violation. Marian, who is 57 years old and suffers from ill health as a result of her time on hunger strike in the 1970s, was arrested during a police raid on her Belfast home on 13 May 2011 and charged with encouraging support for an illegal organisation. She was granted bail in court on this charge, but Patterson then blocked her release claiming she was in breach of licence.
Gerry McGeough, who in the 1980s was imprisoned in Germany and the US on charges related to IRA armed activity, was arrested in 2007 and subsequently sentenced to serve 20 years imprisonment for the attempted murder of an Ulster Defence Regiment soldier in 1981. Gerry and his supporters are certain that the reason he is actually serving this term, as opposed to having the sentence set aside under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, is that he left Sinn Fein and stood as an independent republican candidate in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections of 2007.
On 19 May seven people appeared in court facing terrorist charges following a series of arrests and house raids; three of them are relatives of prominent republican Colin Duffy. Paul Duffy is accused of ‘directing terrorism’, while his brother Damien Duffy and cousin Shane Duffy are accused of conspiracy offences including ‘conspiracy to murder persons unknown’. The so-called ‘intercept evidence’ is said to originate from covert recordings and tracking of cars and people. Spearheading the use of such tactics is the new north of Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory QC, a nationalist lawyer from West Belfast, who has represented Sinn Fein and who is a keen supporter of the reintroduction of the discredited use of supergrasses.
Free all Irish political prisoners!