Ex-prisoners endure suspicion, discrimination

A new report has revealed that thousands of ex-prisoners have suffered mental illness and considerable difficulty in readjustment on their release.

Some 4,000 settled in the border counties of Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan, and Louth following their release, including about 2,000 originally from the North.

A total of about 11,000 displaced people arrived in the southern border counties during the troubles and until the Emerald Curtain study was carried out these people have been largely ignored as a subject for research.

The researchers explained that many of the ex-prisoners feel a sense of isolation, stigmatisation and discrimination and, some of them were put under surveillance for many years after the ceasefires.

“This group continues to face difficulty in accessing employment due to both legal and illegal discrimination. Legal barriers prevent the holding of vehicle licences and travel,” said Brian Harvey, one of the report’s authors.

Support groups for former Republican prisoners welcomed the report.

“It was a very common experience for people moving into the Southern Border counties from the North to be treated in that way,” said Manghan-based ex-prisoner’s worker Tommy McKearney.

“There was an ongoing suspicion that people from the North were troublemakers. People in the South wanted to keep the Troubles in the North and there was a concern that Northern people were different and prone to violence. It was all part of the project of preserving the Southern state.”

He added, “If you were a known Republican or a former prisoner, you were treated as a people apart from everyone else.”

Kevin Mulgrew, of the Dundalk based Fáilte Abháile group also agreed with the study’s finding that it was extremely difficult for ex-prisoners and displaced people to find employment in the Southern Border counties.

“What a lot of people forget is that the displaced and political prisoners were coming from working class estates in the North to working class estates in the South,” he explained.

“When you couple this with anti-Republican and anti-Northern bias it was extremely difficult for these people to get jobs.”

The Emerald Curtain report also revealed that many of the republicans’ children now have an identity crisis.

“What some of the young people whose parents are from the North find is a lack of identity. When their parents moved South the children were left with no family support structures as their wider family lived in the North,” he added.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News