The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
'The Solidarity of Those Who Struggle for Justice'
IRSP Speech to the International Symposium on the Isolation of Prisoners



Willie Gallagher • December 2003

Firstly as an ex-political prisoner who has served a total of 18 years in prison from 1975 until 1993 I would like to express my solidarity to all political prisoners throughout the world, particularly those who are enduring isolation and torture and especially to the political prisoners in Turkey whose courage and dedication are an inspiration to all of us. As someone who has experienced every aspect of prison life during the present conflict in Ireland which included physical and psychological brutality, long and regular periods of solitary confinement, forced starvation diets and various protests including a 50 day hunger-strike in 1978 when I was 20 years of age. I will always feel a great affinity with all political prisoners throughout the world. Therefore I would like to thank the organizers of this Symposium for giving me the opportunity to speak here today and express my personal solidarity and the solidarity of the Irish Republican Socialist Party and of Irish National Liberation prisoners currently imprisoned in Ireland.

The isolation of political prisoners is nothing new to people who know what it is like to live under poltical oppression. In Ireland the British have used this tactic for over 200 years with the sole purpose of not just breaking the spirit of captured freedom fighters and their families but of the overall struggle for freedom itself.

Prison struggles have been part and parcel of Republican resistance since the imprisonment and death of Wolfe Tone in 1798. Republican political prisoners have a long and honourable history of fighting back against British brutality within the prisons which was clearly demonstrated in 1981 when ten Republican prisoners died on hunger-strike. Their deaths eventually smashed Britain's criminalization policy.

The signing of the so called Good Friday Agreement did bring about the release of the majority of political prisoners in Ireland in 1998. However it also brought about the ending of political status for any further political prisoners captured after the signing of the GFA. The British, with the endorsement of all political parties who supported the GFA, including Provisional Sinn Fein, felt free to deny anti-GFA Republican prisoners the rights that our comrades battled hard for and died for. Once again Republican prisoners embarked on protests as outlined by Marian (Marian Price ex-political prisoner from the IRPWA) in her speech yesterday and the prisoners did indeed win a victory of separation from pro-British death squad loyalist prisoners. Their victory this year, against all odds, is a reflection of their resilience and commitment to the cause of national liberation in Ireland. The fact that political status was traded away as part of the empty promises known as the Good Friday Agreement is nothing short of criminal.

The IRSP are opposed to the GFA and we fully and actively supported the prisoners in Maghaberry. It was our own experiences with prisoner isolation and our response to it that led us to support the prisoners of the DHKC on hunger-strike in Turkey. In all, there were hundreds of prisoners on hunger-strike in Turkey seeking the same rights that Irish revolutionaries gave their lives for in 1981. We salute the courage and dedication of our Turkish comrades and wish them a speedy victory.

In like manner the IRSP and INLA prisoners wish to extend our solidarity to Basque political prisoners, to political prisoners in Chile, Puerto Rico, the United States, Palestinian political prisoners and all political prisoners throughout the world. And that is why we join you today, each of us, who have had experiences of prison isolation, criminalization, torture, abuse and dehumanization through the prison system in our own nations, cannot look upon the struggles of others elsewhere in the world against similar evils and remain unmoved.

As someone who has went through prison isolation and a hunger-strike I know the importance of International solidarity. Therefore, I would encourage all here today to join forces in exposing and combating the torture of political prisoners and prisoners of war throughout the world. What we need is a strong unified international response. So in conclusion we in the IRSP join with you all today in demanding an end to prison isolation and torture of political prisoners.

In unity let us find strength. Through that strength let us find victory. Long live the solidarity of those who struggle for justice.







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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

22 March 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


A Momentous Week in Madrid
Douglas Hamilton


Shinner Sing-A-Long
Brian Mór


Biggles and the Provos

Kevin Bean


'The Solidarity of Those Who Struggle for Justice'
Willie Gallagher


Truth, Power and Dissent
Anthony McIntyre


The Irish Hero - A Multidisciplinary Conference in Irish Studies
Centre for Irish Studies


The 2004 Jonathan Swift Poetry Competition
Dr John Hirsch


The Letters page has been updated.


19 March 2004


Terrorism Defined and Exemplified
Don Mullan and James Mullin


Can Catholics Now Trust the Police?
Sean Mc Manus


Sinn Fein & The Hate: Interview with Martin Cunningham

Anthony McIntyre


Splits and Distortions?
George Young


Cellar Dwellers
Brian Mór


The Blanket, Eamonn McCann and the use of language
Gerry Ruddy


From Paras to the FRU
Kathleen O Halloran


"Expose the Awful Truth"
Carrie Twomey


The Maze
Belfast Exposed


Dublin Public Meeting on Referendum
Residents Against Racism




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