Republican News · Thursday 19 August 1999

[An Phoblacht]

The last word

The current issue of An Glór Gafa/The Captive Voice, the magazine written and produced by republican prisoners, is currently on sale. Here, former hunger striker Laurence McKeown, one of the magazine's founders, discusses the inspiration and history of the magazine.

As one of the founders of An Glór Gafa/The Captive Voice back in 1989, I welcome the opportunity to write these few lines to mark the last edition of the magazine. Our intention back then was to produce a high-quality magazine that would be widely available to the public and through which republican prisoners would have their own voice. Not someone else writing that what they thought we might think but we ourselves articulating our own politics, our hopes, desires, fears, doubts, talents and aspirations. It was a part of a process of us `writing our own history' and arose out of an upsurge in creative writings following the establishment of poetry workshops in 1988. It was followed by the publication of Nor Meekly Serve My Time: the H-Block Struggle 1976-1981, which told the personal accounts of 28 prisoners who experienced the blanket protest and hunger strikes. Later The Crime of Castlereagh, was produced within the prison, which adapted Bobby Sands' trilogy of Castlereagh, Diplock Courts and the H-Blocks into dramatic form and which chieved great success.

These were but a few of the significant developments that arose out of the decision taken by republican prisoners that they had a story to tell, that they were the ones best placed to tell it and they also had the talents to tell it in whatever form best suited their needs. It is a source of pride to me, therefore, that the initial aspirations we had for the magazine have been well and truly met. Looking back over the issues that span a ten-year period the consistent quality is ever present as is the wit, the sincerity and the artistic talent. To all those who have contributed to the production of the magazine over the years in whatever capacity we owe a large debt of gratitude. Likewise to those who distributed the magazine far and wide.

In other circumstances, it would be sad to see such an exciting, innovative publication come to an end but if it signals the release of all republican prisoners then it is to be welcomed. Let's hope though that the creative talents and radical voices that came together to make An Glór Gafa the success that it was continue to find expression on the outside. Our voices may no longer be held in captivity but that doesn't mean that they are totally free.

Beirigí bua uilig.

Glór Gafa is available from the Sinn Féin shops in Dublin and Belfast, priced 1, or can be ordered via the POW Department in Belfast, Tel (0801232) 249975.

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