Concern is growing for the well-being of jailed peace activist and writer Margaretta D’Arcy who remains in Limerick prison despite international protests for her release.
The 79-year-old cancer-sufferer is understood to be feeling increasingly stressed by her three-month detention, ordered by a judge after she refused to be bound to keep the peace -- by staying away from Shannon Aiport.
The airport is used as a transport hub by the US military in its wars in the Middle East, and is regularly the subject of protests by peace and neutrality campaigners.
Her son, Finn Arden, said he feared the ordeal was taking its toll on his frail mother’s health. He said he only gets very brief phone calls to speak to his mother, who also suffers from Parkinson’s Disease.
“It’s difficult trying to get concrete information from her because, while I talk to her most days over the phone, we only get six minutes,” he said.
“She’s got ongoing cancer treatment and I’m waiting for a letter from the hospital for her next check-up within the next month. I’m hoping they will let her out for that,” he said.
Ms D’Arcy is only allowed two visits each week with a maximum of three people each visit. Mr Arden said the visit of her long-time friend Sabina Higgins, wife of Irish President Michael D. Higgins, had given her a boost.
On October 7th, 2012, Ms D’Arcy was found guilty of an illegal incursion on a runway at Shannon Airport and given a suspended sentence of three months. After refusing to back down from her campaign to stop the warplanes, she was detained in an early morning arrest at her home in Galway city, and transferred to jail.
Many have contrasted her treatment with the justice system’s machinations in other cases. Three Anglo-Irish bank chiefs who appeared in court this week in connection with the collapse of the bank which brought the 26 County state to the point of insolvency six years ago -- on the sole charge of improperly lending money for the purposes of buying shares in the bank -- have not yet spent a night behind bars.
While other corruption and fraud scandals are unchecked, an elderly woman who has demonstrated unwavering moral courage in committing to a selfless cause has been locked up.
Protests are held every weekend to demand she be released or pardoned. But Ms D’Arcy said she might not now accept a pardon.
“Pardon me for what?,” she said. “It seems that you can observe a war. You can comment on war. But you can’t stop war. I am a person who is trying to stop war. I would like the Minister to explain that. So it would depend on what the pardon was for.”
She said life in Limerick prison was “shocking” and that the level of sensory deprivation was “terrible”.
“There is nothing to do. In Holloway Prison, for example” - she spent time there in the 1980s, during the Greenham Common anti-nuclear protests in Britain - “the library was well stocked and the recreation room had things to do. Here, when you are out for exercise, it is just as you see in the films, with people walking around in circles.”
Fifteen MEPs from 8 different countries have now written to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter calling on him to release her. Female TDs Mary Lou McDonald, Clare Daly, Catherine Murphy and Joan Collins tied yellow ribbons to the gates of the Dublin parliament on Tuesday in a symbolic protest marking Margaretta’s twenty-first day behind bars in Limerick Prison.
eirigi Dublin City Councillor Louise Minihan has also called for her immediate release. “All republican, socialists, trade unionists and other progressives should support the weekly protests in solidarity with Margaretta and work together to bring pressure on the Fine Gael/Labour coalition to ensure her immediate release,” she said.
Activists from the Shannonwatch campaign who visited Ms D’Arcy recently were struck by her continued humanity and integrity.
“As always, she is concerned about the goal, stopping Ireland’s shameful collusion with US war crimes through allowing the military to use Shannon warport, and also about the conditions of the women prisoners in Limerick which are very poor” said Zoe Lawlor.
A large peace demonstration will take place in Shannon on Sunday February 9th from 2pm to 3pm. The demonstration is being held in solidarity with Margaretta and also in opposition to the use of the airport for the purposes of international war.