Republican News · Thursday 02 March 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Ógra organiser held under PTA

Maginnis insults Hamill family

The National Union of Students in Britain has condemned the arrest under the PTA of Sinn Féin Councillor and Ógra Shinn Féin national organiser Matt Carthy, who was in Britain at the invitation of NUS last week to speak at two meetings in support of the Good Friday Agreement. Arriving at Liverpool airport on Wednesday, 24 February, Carthy was arrested and held for nearly two hours on the basis that he was a member of Sinn Féin and was carrying Sinn Féin documents.

NUS issued a press release condemning the detention, pointing out that Carthy, along with Esmond Birnie of the UUP and the Alliance's Stephen Farry, had all arrived in Liverpool at NUS's invitation, but neither Farry nor Birnie were detained. The statement said: ``NUS believes that this interpretation and use of the PTA goes against the objectives and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement and does not serve to aid the peace process at this critical time. We are calling for an apology from the Merseyside Police to Matt Carthy and Sinn Féin.'' NUS president Andrew Pakes said: ``We were very pleased that Sinn Féin and other parties supporting the Good Friday Agreement had agreed to come and speak to students in Britain at this critical time. The actions of the Merseyside Police only served to undermine the peace process and are wholly unacceptable.'

Ken Maginnis claimed that Robert Hamill died because of a ``misdiagnosis'' at the hospital
In contrast to the negative actions of the police, the two student meetings were overwhelmingly supportive of implementing the Agreement. More than 300 students attended the events, organised by NUS, at Liverpool University and the University of North London to discuss the theme The Good Friday Agreement - The Way Forward. All pro-Agreement Assembly parties were invited, and speakers included Matt Carthy, Elizabeth Hanna from the Alliance Party, Kate Fearon from the Women's Coalition, Ken Maginnis from the UUP and Lucy Smith from the Anglo-Irish Network. The meetings were part of a speaking tour to raise awareness and build support for the Agreement among students in Britain. It was supported by the NUS-USI, the cross party lobby group Friends of Ireland - Friends of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish Students Network and the UNL Irish Studies Unit.

At the London meeting, Matt Carthy called for the immediate reinstatement of the institutions and slammed the British government's ``willful disregard of the magnitude of the IRA ceasefire'' which had been such a major contribution to the peace process. Kate Fearon for the Women's Coalition criticised the suspension of the institutions as a mistaken unilateral action of one government.

Most of the platform responded to audience questions positively, endorsing the need for renewed dialogue between the parties to overcome the current difficulties, stressing that the Agreement was the only way forward.

However, Ken Maginnis threatened to walk out of the meeting during the lively question and answer session. After he had referred to a `normalised society', he was asked whether he believed it was `normal' for police to stand by while a man - Robert Hamill - was kicked to death by a loyalist mob in Portadown and if he, therefore, would support the call for an independent inquiry. Maginnis' reply was that Robert Hamill had died because of a ``misdiagnosis'' at the hospital. Unsurprisingly, this provoked some remarkedly restrained heckling and was followed by another question. Maginnis then put on his coat and jumped up, threatening to leave the meeting. He was eventually persuaded to rejoin the platform.

Sophie Bolt, from the NUS executive, rounded up by announcing that the success of the meetings would be followed up by establishing a network of students in Britain supporting the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Further information can be obtained from Sophie Bolt, National Union of Students, 461 Holloway Road, London, N7.

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