There have been nationwide demonstrations over the imprisonment of 79-year old feminist and peace activist Margaretta D’Arcy for her repeated protests against the use of Shannon Airport in international wars.
Ms D’Arcy, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and is undergoing cancer treatment, was arrested at her Galway home on Wednesday morning after she refused to sign a bond to keep away from unauthorised zones at Shannon.
Her son Finn Arden, said that he had spoken to his mother by phone from Limerick. “She said she understood she was going to have to serve the full three months,” he said.
Shannonwatch spokesman John Lannon said it was a “travesty of justice when the peace activists end up in prison, while there is no investigation of war criminals using the airport”.
“While protesters at Shannon have been arrested before, and have been before the courts, all have been acquitted to date,” he pointed out.
Ms D’Arcy, who was married to the late playwright John Arden, has been an activist since joining the anti-nuclear Committee of 100 led by Bertrand Russell in 1961.
She was a member of the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, and spent time in prison in the North in the early 1980s. She is also a lifetime member of the Aosdana arts body.
Last month, Ms D’Arcy clashed with a judge who she accused of being complicit in illegal acts at Shannon Airport by ignoring Articles 28 and 29 of the Irish Constitution. She received a three-month suspended sentence.
“So long as I observe crimes that are going on in Shannon from the outside I don’t go to jail but if I try and stop war crimes inside the airport I will be locked up for three months”, she said then.
In prison today, she remained defiant, asking that protestors demand not for her own release but the release of Shannon airport from the warmongers.
In an open letter Irish artists Dylan Tighe and Donal O’Kelly said the treatment of their colleague was “grossly inappropriate and shameful”. They said it was “all the more shocking” because the state has refused to jail any of the politicians or bankers responsible for the “near collapse of the state, yet seeks to jail an elderly artist for standing up for integrity and human rights.”
They said they were “in complete solidarity with her actions, applaud her bravery in a time of tremendous cowardice, and call for her immediate release.”
Protests were held in Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Derry, demanding her release.
Niall Farrell, who protested alongside Ms D’Arcy at Shannon Airport but was not arrested, spoke at the Galway demonstration today.
“Margaretta should not be in jail,” he said. Margaretta should be given the freedom of Galway, the freedom of Dublin, the freedom of Shannon and the freedom of the country, for standing up to the human rights abuse of these spineless individuals that we have running this State.”