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RPAG stage very successful rally in lurgan
rights, freedoms and repression |
Monday August 21, 2006 12:42 by Seán Ó Murchú - Republican Sinn Féin - Cork
prison struggle same as 1981 death sacrifice says RSF
In spite of a large RUC presence a very large crowd turned out to support the five demands of the Republican POWs currently on protest in Maghaberry Gaol. The protest – organised by the Republican Prisoners’ Action Group (RPAG) – took place in the Edward Street area of Lurgan, County Armagh, at 2p.m. on Saturday, 19th August. The weekend also marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Mickey Devine on Hunger Strike in 1981.
A white-line picket took place on Edward Street, followed by a rally nearby. A former Independent Councillor for Fermanagh, Tony McPhillips, chaired the proceedings. He introduced Mrs. McKenna – the mother of one of the protesting prisoners from the Lurgan area – who read a statement on behalf of the POWs. Mr. McPhillips then introduced lifelong Republican Des Long from Limerick, who was the main speaker for the occasion.
Mr. Long branded the Provos "liars and hypocrites" for signing away political status under the terms of the Stormont Agreement of 1998, and seeking to criminalise the struggle for Irish freedom. He also emphasised the continuity of the prison struggle from 1981 to the present day, adding that, unfortunately, whilst English rule continues in Ireland there will continue to be prisoners. Political status remained a right and was never a privilege, said Mr. Long.
Tony McPhillips concluded by saying that "those who do not support the prisoners do not support Republicanism and they should be treated like the traitors that they are."
The proceedings closed with Brendan Magill of Lurgan singing the National Anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann.
The British colonial police harassed many of the protesters that had turned out for the event. A car was stopped by an unmarked RUC vehicle in the Church Place area of Lurgan shortly before the protest was due to begin, holding the driver for approximately 20 minutes and asking how concerned people knew him. A minibus returning from the parade was also stopped under the Road Traffic Order, with the occupants subsequently being questioned under Britain’s so-called "Terrorism Act". Backup units from the RUC’s DMSU (Divisional Mobile Support Unit) also arrived on the scene.
The RPAG will not be swayed by this harassment, however, and will continue to highlight the plight of the Republican POWs in Maghaberry Gaol.
PRISON STRUGGLE SAME AS 1981 DEATH SACRIFICE SAYS RSF
The same struggle as the 1981 hunger strikes is now being waged in jails throughout the 32-Counties, a member of Republican Sinn Féin said today.
Limerick Republican Des Long said that the failed Stormont Agreement is responsible for the current plight of Republican prisoners who are being criminalised by the political Administrations in Dublin, Belfast and London.
Speaking at a Republican prisoners’ support rally in Lurgan, County Armagh, on Saturday 19th August, Mr. Long said that the current crisis in Maghaberry prison could easily be resolved by the granting of political status.
"It gives the lie to all those who say that there is no Republican resistance to British rule in Ireland," said Mr. Long.
"In every struggle for national liberation it is recognised that the actions of the resistance arise out of the political situation and in Ireland it is no different.
"The sad fact is that ten men died on hunger strike to establish and enshrine the principle of political status and as a member of the National H-Block Committee at the time I have no hesitation in saying that today the same struggle is being waged by true Republicans who are incarcerated in jail.
"It is even more tragic for the families of the men who died on hunger strike to realise that their noble sacrifice was sold out during the negotiations for the failed Stormont Agreement – sold out by a discredited and disgraced Provisional leadership who embraced and emboldened British rule in Ireland.
"It gives me no pleasure to say this but in the eyes of the Provisional leadership; in the eyes of their political masters in London and Dublin, the men in prison today are regarded as criminals and they are being treated as criminals – however we as true Republicans must never tolerate this treatment and above all we must never accept that true Republican prisoners are criminals – they are resisting British rule in Ireland – and we are proud of them – because like us they know that the failed Stormont Agreement can never bring a real and lasting peace to Ireland.
"It is despicable that former comrades in the Provos are to the forefront of attempts to criminalise these men. It is even more disgusting that the Provos continue to condemn the continued resistance to British rule.
"Calling us ‘micro-groups without support’ may be pleasing their British masters, but the Provos cannot crush the age old aspiration to national self-determination. Just because they have sold out and taken the Queen’s Shilling does not end the struggle for Irish unity!
"The principled actions of the Republican prisoners are aimed at ensuring that they are not treated as criminals – and their demands are in line with the accepted status of political prisoners throughout the world. There are five demands and these five demands will be met – or else there will be a return to the dark days of the 1980’s when Republicans made the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of political status:
1. RIGHT TO FREE ASSOCIATION
2. END TO CONTROLLED MOVEMENT
3. RIGHT TO FULL TIME education
4. SEPARATE VISITING FACILITY
5. RIGHT TO ORGANISE THEIR OWN LANDINGS
Thirty-eight Republican Prisoners currently imprisoned in Maghaberry Gaol.
"Controlled movement" is imposed on Republican landings with only three prisoners permitted out of their cells on the landing at any one time with each prisoner accompanied by two prison officers. Free Association on landings completely removed.
Legislation introduced by the British government following the Stormont Agreement removed the right of Republican prisoners to organise themselves on their own landings and removed the right of Republican prisoners to spend their time in prison constructively.
Prisoners made to choose between daily exercise or education. Prisoners denied educational facilities to enable them to organise their own education.
Easter Lilies banned in the prison. Other Republican handicrafts confiscated and destroyed by prison officers.
RUC/PSNI approval required before prisoners permitted on Republican landing.
Republican prisoners’ parole entitlement has been reduced to half that of other prisoners.
Denial of compassionate parole for family and religious occasions. Parole for funerals of immediate family members often restricted to six hours or less.
Constant use of strip-searching to humiliate prisoners contrary to international law. One prisoner received 31 strip-searches and 1,135 rub-down searches in a six-month period.
Prisoners locked in their cells alternately for 21/23 hours per day.
Abuse of the sniffer dogs in an attempt to criminalise political prisoners.
Families and prisoners are wrongly accused of smuggling drugs into the prison. Families are forced to have closed family visits which take place through Perspex screen while prisoners returning from parole are placed in solitary confinement for 48 hours.
Family visitors exposed to Loyalist visitors while visiting prison. Prisoners exposed to Loyalists going to and from legal visits.
The power of the Governor to punish a prisoner by taking away remission was reintroduced specifically for Republican prisoners after it was banned by the European Court of Human Rights in 2002.
Access to a doctor available only once a week.
Interference with correspondence.
Irish language and cultural items including handicrafts made relating to hunger strikes confiscated or destroyed by prison officers.
POLITICAL STATUS IS A RIGHT NOT A PRIVILEGE.