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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Sinn Fein Support for Prisoners' Demand

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it's right. -Martin Luther King Jr

Mick Hall • July 20, 2003

One can only welcome Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly's recent demand for the restoration of Republican and by definition also loyalist prisoners democratic rights. One does not have to support the continuation of the armed struggle by a small group of republicans to recognise that the current republican inmates of prisons in the north of Ireland and England, would not be there if it were not for the abnormal, undemocratic nature of the six counties Statelet brought about by the continuous partition of the island of Ireland.

This being so these prisoners should be treated whilst in jail under the same conditions that were attained through struggle by previous generations of Republican prisoners. To attempt to return to year zero as the prison authorities, under what appears to be if not direct instructions, then active connivance from the Secretary of State Murphy, is simply unacceptable. The recent statement by the Minister responsible in the North for prisons, Ms J. Kennedy is one either of crass stupidity and historical ignorance, or provocation, brought about by the Blair governments belief that Sinn Fein will not publicly join the campaign to demand that these prisoners are treated in the proper manner, for fear of jeopardising their position viv a vis the GFA.

Lets hope that Gerry Kelly's statement proves the aforementioned incorrect, after all Sinn Fein MPs, Councillors, etc. have a duty to represent their constituents and if requested to do so, intercede on their behalf in an impartial manner. I am sure they do their best to do this, but it has to be said that at this time there can be few of their constituents who deserve and should therefore get their elected representatives support than those prisoners currently suffering discrimination in Maghaberry and elsewhere. The more so as history has taught us that what happens within the British administered prisons of the north of Ireland, has an effect way beyond the confines of those sad and oppressive institutions.

Sinn Fein has enormous experience of dealing with the type of crisis that is steadily building up within Maghaberry jail, Already we have seen the republican prisoners, perhaps through inexperience, isolation or downright frustration embark on a series of protests that could well have been avoided with earlier wholehearted intervention by outside forces such as Sinn Fein. After all these republican prisoners despite political differences with SF are part of its constituency. This is an enormous opportunity for SF to show that the political course it has set by accepting the end of the armed struggle and the Good Friday Agreement, is one that can deliver not only long term but immediate benefits to the communities from which the overwhelming majority of SF activist and supporters come.

That the acceptance of the GFA has not resulted in a dilution of SF core republican values, after all the manner in which republican prisoners are treated stands at the fore of these, no matter what political differences the prisoners may have had on the outside. One only has to see the unity in death of the PIRA and INLA hunger strikers to understand this.

To conclude then it is not enough for leading SF activists, no matter how well intentioned to make isolated calls on the prisoners behalf, Sinn Fein must bring to bear all its considerable resources to ensure that the abuse of republicans currently within Maghaberry jail ceases forthwith. After all what is the point of having Sinn Fein Ministers administering the northern Statelet if they cannot protect some of their most vulnerable constituents.


 

 

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"As a rule, dictatorships guarantee safe streets and terror of the doorbell. In democracy the streets may be unsafe after dark, but the most likely visitor in the early hours will be the milkman."
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Index: Current Articles



20 July 2003

 

Other Articles From This Issue:

 

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
Anthony McIntyre

 

Sinn Fein Support for Prisoners' Demand
Mick Hall

 

Alternatives

Liam O Ruairc

 

Revenge of the Bureaucrats
Julie Brown

 

What It's Like to be Raided
Carrie Twomey

 

Raid on McIntyre Home

 

3 July 2003

 

Protest at Dundonald House
Anthony McIntyre

 

Dundonald House Protest (Photos)
Carrie Twomey

 

Conditions at Maghaberry Worsen

Lorraine Corr, relative; and statements from the IRPWA

 

Letters from Republican Prisoners
Rory O'More and Martin Brogan

 

 

 

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