Republican News · Thursday 8 June 1999

[An Phoblacht]

Release these POWs

Gerry Sheehy, John Quinn, Mick O'Neill, Pearse McCauley, Kevin Walsh

Monday, 22 May saw what should have been the final release of all republican prisoners in the 26 Counties. Those POWs on extended temporary release were given their final release forms on that date. The Dublin government is, however, refusing to release a number of republican prisoners who have become the focus of a Garda vendetta. These republican prisoners, Kevin Walsh, Pearse McCauley, Mick O’Neill and Gerry Sheedy were convicted of the manslaughter of a police detective in Adare, Co. Limerick, in June 1996. A fifth prisoner, John Quinn, was convicted on a peripheral charge. They were transferred to Castlerea prison along with the remaining IRA prisoners in Portlaoise prison last December. Certain elements within the state, particularly the Special Branch and Special Branch hacks within the media have been lobbying against the release of these prisoners despite the fact that their case clearly comes within the terms of the Good Friday Agreement for early release. They are attempting to treat these POWs as if they are a unique species of prisoner whose case can be divorced from its political context.

One aspect of the campaign against these men is to rail against their `soft’ treatment in the Castelrea `holiday camp’. This is a particular goad to the hang `em and flog `em brigade and the `throw away the key’ cranks who phone RTE chat shows with their vision of prisons as hell holes of retribution and revenge. Unlike our prisoners in Castlerea, these vindictive little men and women were nowhere to be seen during the fight for Irish freedom. Perhaps they were none too keen to risk an extended stay at one of their state’s so-called holiday camps. The fact is that prison is prison. Anyone who has been inside will know exactly what that means. The taking away of one’s personal liberty and ability to associate with friends and family is the real hardship. No snooker table or colour television in the recreation room can obscure that hard reality.

other aspect is the sinister spin put on everything the POWs say and do by sections of the media. Lies are manufactured and printed as fact. Minor incidents that would be shrugged off as irrelevant prison trivia are blown completely out of proportion and twisted to place the POWs in the worst possible light.

It is totally unacceptable to republicans that the Dublin government would cherry pick which IRA prisoners qualify for release under the Good Friday Agreement or that certain prisoners should be victimised for reasons of political expediency. The expediency in this case being principally the government’s reluctance to confront the Gardai on this issue. Apparently, the Gardai believe everyone but themselves have to swallow bitter pills in this process.

Republicans cannot and will not allow their prisoners to remain in custody when an international agreement has been signed by the custodial power providing for their release. They are unquestionably ``qualifying’’ prisoners under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Contrary to widespread belief, all republican prisoners are not out of gaol. We must never slacken the campaign to free our prisoners until all are home again with their families.

John Crawley
Former POW

Jackie Griffith Commemoration

A Chairde,

At the recent AGM of the Jackie Griffith/Mairead Farrell cumann, it was decided to revive the annual Volunteer Jackie Griffith commemoration.

The parade will assemble on Saturday 8 July at 2.30pm in Ringsend village and march to Holles Street, where the young volunteer was shot dead by ``Special Police’’ on 4 July 1943.

Local republicans were disappointed at the low turnout the last time this commemoration was held back in 1993, Jackie’s 50th anniversary. We intend to rectify this from this year onwards, and so we are appealing to republicans across Dublin to turn out in large numbers to honour this fallen soldier of Óglaigh na hÉireann. A senior Sinn Féin member has been invited to deliver the main oration and both the Vols. Smith/Harford/Doherty RFB and the Vol. Hugh Hehir RFB have been required to attend.

A function is being organised for that weekend in the Widow Scallans, Pearse Street, and details will follow in further editions of An Phoblacht.

Once again, we appeal to republicans across the city to make the effort and attend on the day.

Iásan Mac Giolla Eain,
Cumann Jackie Griffith/Mairead Farrell,
Dublin South East

Strategic anti-racism welcomed

A Chairde,

As militant anti-fascists in England we welcome the comments of Gerry Adams in relation to the asylum issue in Ireland. As he points out (An Phoblacht, 25 May) ``not only has the government failed to address the needs and rights of asylum seekers’’ it has also ignored the needs and rights of the working class communities expected to play host to them.

Again, as he makes clear, ``communities have a right to be consulted and to expect adequate resources and supports’’. A failure to demand adequate resources along with the rights of refugees can only, as in many communities in England, pit the most wretched against the most disadvantaged. For liberals and professional anti-racists to then `take sides’ on the issue of resources without addressing the £30 million shortfall by the New Labour government in recompensing local authorities compounds the problem. A fourfold increase in support for the Far Right in the recent elections in Long and a doubling of race attacks are some of the consequences.

To our knowledge, the Sinn Féin president is the first political leader to promote an anti-rascist strategy that is not perceived to be anti-working class, and through that has hopefully helped move anti-rascist thinking from the purely moral to the strategic. If so it will prove to be a timely intervention.

Eamonn Kent,

London Anti-Fascist Action

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