An anti-internment/Free Marian Price march takes place this Saturday, 1st October at 2pm, Dublin, from the Garden of Remembrance to the GPO. In the following interview Martin Rafferty, of the 32CSM, discusses the Marian Price campaign, internment, and the prospects for a united Ireland.
How’s Marian Price?
Gerry - Marian’s husband - was visiting yesterday, and said her spirits are high, but he could see strain on her. Given the fact the all studies show how solitary confinement is the worse form of torture within jail, this is not surprising. But Marian is strong and an inspiration to us all and we know no matter what they try they will not break her.
Republicans took to the streets all over Ireland with passion and dignified protests. What are the next initiative to support the immediate release of Marian Price?
At the moment a lot of our energies have been putting into wider protest within Maghaberry but we plant to incorporate the protest for Marian within her framework. Obviously we do not want to go into much detail. But along with the white line pickets and poster campaigns, we will be embarking on other actions.
The only female detainee in a male prison in Europe. Is there any jurisprudential action to bring her case to the international European human rights court (ECtHR) ?
Giving the response from Hillary Clinton, the British administrations and Church leaders to the incarceration of an Iranian woman in an all male jail in Iran, last year, you would think that morally, never mind legally, the case would be won, meaning that is totally wrong to have any woman held in these conditions. But Marian’s legal team are exploring the legality of the British actions. Not just holding her in an all males jail, but also the circumstances of her arrest and the revoking of her license.
Marian has declared that “the ongoing policy of criminalization of the republican struggle has intensified in the last few years; as it is always the case, the republican prisoners in Maghaberry jail being at the coal face of this; well tried but failed policy’’. How would you comment?
In 1981 Thatcher tried a criminalization policy implying that all republican actions where deemed to be a crime and all us republicans where nothing more than criminals.
The policy failed then, and today the Brits feel that if they get former comrades to criminalize the republican struggle today, they may somehow succeed where Thatcher failed. No matter who is pronouncing the words: Thatcher, Cameron, Ford, McGuinness or Kelly; Republicans never were criminals and today it remains the same. As long as there is an occupied part of Ireland there will be Republicans willing to oppose it and given that 75% of Irish people voted for a United Ireland and the British responded by creating a Six Counties State, it is not surprising that today there are still republicans willing to stand and defend the right of Irish people to self-determination.
Her license immediately revoked despite a pardon conferred in the 1981. Can you see the possibility that the pardon she received for her offences prior to 1974 could be restored during next month hearing?
The toll the British State is using at the moment is one of fear and intimidation against all republicans, active and no-active; the no-active republicans, most of whom have life sentences hanging over their heads, in the form licenses, have been warned not to re-engage in any form of republican activity or they too will have their license suspended. In this context the British will do everything in their power to keep Marian in jail. Not because she is a threat to society or is engaging in any activity to justify the treatment she’s receiving, but as a warning to others to keep their heads down.
Interned, marginalized and criminalized. How far is the battle in order to restore the political status?
As it happened in 1981, the British have miscalculated the mood of Republican community. In ‘81 they were told by constitutional nationalists and securocrats that the republican movement was on its knees and almost defeated. At that time they thought the criminalization policy would defeat the republican movement: they were wrong then, and today, as in ‘81, the Brits have been told that the Republican Movement is almost defeated and they are again trying to roll out the policy of criminalization inside and outside the jail. But instead to having the effect of demoralizing and breaking the Republican Movement, it has once again galvanized and spurred the Republican Movement on.
During a recent commemoration of Brendan Hughes in County Louth, Martin Galvin prayed Republicans, all Republicans today, to forge a unity and strategy which can break through once more, and get the struggle back on the path of the united and free Ireland which “unrepentant Fenians and so many others sacrificed for and so much to win for us”. Can you see today that opportunity for a shared or a single platform with Republican Network for Unity?
Throughout history of Ireland, and further afield, the British have engaged in a tactic of “divide and conquer”, and today a lot of energy has been put into this tactic. In 1974, during the Sinn Fein split, there were running battle in the streets between former comrades and lives were lost. The Brits and their agents, have been trying to create a similar situation today by releasing misinformation and trying to foment confrontation between different groups. We all acknowledge we are struggling for the same goal and we will not be manipulated by anyone, British or former comrades, into any kind of confrontation with each other. Today we see the hemorrhaging of Sinn Fein and understandably a lot of the people leaving the party do not feel confortable joining with other groupings just yet. We understand and respect this but we are able to have a working relationship with them on matters relating to the jails and other issues. We also have a good working relationship with Republican Network for Unity and we have learnt that if you impose people to accept your interpretation and position on issues, then we will always be divided.
Do you believe in a referendum? And in the perspective of a referendum on national unity, how will the Irish Republican strategies change?
In my view we cannot trust either the British or Government in the free State regarding any form of referendum at the moment. Giving the Irish Government attitude to the Maastricht treaty, when they held the referendum and did not get the answer they wanted the first time, subsequently engaged in an vicious campaign of lies and threats in order to achieve they outcome they wanted. I do not think they have any credibility in organizing a referendum that would remove them from well paid jobs and powerful influences.
Some republicans are asking the “equality of arrests” in regard to the case of recent riots in loyalists and republican areas as well as the use of plastic bullets in England, in line with the “50/50 formula” that can be considered the dorsal spine of nationalist revisionism. DUP’s Nigel Dodds, in the aftermath of Ardoyne’s riots, called the people opposing the Orange Order parade through the district as Republicans, while Sinn Fein called them “thugs”. How do you see the issue in the wider Republican Movement and what are the differences today between being a Republican and a Nationalist and when does it become a thug?
Regarding the recent events of the marching season, and the actions of the police, it is a fact that no matter how hard they try to paper over the cracks, the cracks will always come through. James Connolly said that until the constitutional question has been addressed there will never be equality. Be it in housing, employment, administration of justice, or any other area of a “normal society”, the things will never be dealt with until the outside interference has been removed. In the Six Counties, sectarianism, equality and injustice are all symptoms of the problem and not the problem itself. People tend to forget that the police role here is to uphold the State and we expect nothing else from them but what we have seen over the marching season. As regarding Kelly and Dodds, as long as there will be Republicans, there will also be people trying to criminalize them. Michael Collins said of the De Valera that he was an illegitimate republican, De Valera said the same of Tom Barry and Gerry Kelly says it of today Republicans. In order to hide the fact that Sinn Fein has now become a constitutional nationalist party, they have to try and discredit Republicans who are engaged to opposing the British presence, be it in Westminster or Stormont.
Sometimes it seems a war under the pillows with Republicans absolutely protagonists over their divisions. “An Irish disease” has been called this chronically split. Unrolled by intelligence and counterintelligence, it appears that the only defeated are Republicans themselves. Are agitprop activities influencing 'the Irish Question'?
The British have always used the tool of informers not only to gather intelligence but also to lead the republican movement in the direction of their liking. As can be seen today through the cases of Stakeknife and Denis Donaldson, they have perfected this art and they are continuing with this strategy. The recent building of the new MI5 headquarters just outside Belfast (Holywood) shows their intent. It is estimated that have hundreds of plain-clothes agents working flat out trying to recruit informers into the ranks. I myself have been approached three times in the recent past with offers of money or threats to my life and my family to make me become an informer. I am more than confident that this practice is widespread and unfortunately some people are giving in to the threats. I spent three years in jail due to a paid informer who engaged in the activities of the State provocateur.
Pearse said- “If we today are fighting for something either greater than or less than the thing our fathers fought for, either our fathers did not fight for freedom at all or we are not fighting for freedom”. Martin Rafferty, who owns today that inheritance?
Today Republicans, from wherever organization or grouping, are Republicans. We all identified that the problem is the same today as it was seven hundred years ago and until the foreign interference has been removed from our country all the other problems cannot be addressed. As a republican, if you believe this, then it doesn’t matter who holds the mantra as long as the ideal stays the same.