Price’s pardon document is ‘lost’, Britain claims
Price’s pardon document is ‘lost’, Britain claims

A document which could free the North’s most famous female republican from jail has been lost by the British government, its Northern Ireland Office has said.

Marian Price, a former spokesperson for the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, has been in solitary confinement in Maghaberry prison for six months.

She was arrested and charged with holding a statement for a masked Real IRA man at an Easter commemoration in Derry in April but was granted bail by a judge.

However, British Direct Ruler Owen Paterson then withdrew her licence and returned Price to prison. Her lawyer has said Paterson had no legal right to do so.

Gravely ill after a lengthy hunger-strike and force-feeding in Brixton prison, Marian was released on licence in 1980. Weeks later, she was granted the royal prerogative of mercy.

Her lawyer, Peter Corrigan, told the Sunday World newspaper that the alleged disappearance of the royal pardon document was “very convenient” for the British government.

“The royal pardon my client received over-rode her licence,” he said. “It wiped the slate clean so she couldn’t be returned to jail on the basis of previous offences. Owen Paterson didn’t have the power to send her back to prison when he did.

“We’ve asked the NIO to produce the pardon which would free her... They’ve told us this important document is lost and probably has been shredded. It’s all very convenient.”

Supporters of the mother-of-two highlighted her case this week by protesting outside a major Gaelic football match at Belfast’s Casement Park.

Marian’s husband, Jerry McGlinchey, said: “Regardless of politics, surely everyone can recognise it’s wrong to hold a 57-year-old woman in solitary confinement in a male prison, with no contact with the outside world, for six months?

“My wife has no problem going before the courts and answering the charge she faces. She has no difficulty serving any sentence she receives. But she objects to being interned indefinitely with no rights and no release date.”

Former republican prisoner Martin Rafferty of the Maghaberry friends’ and family support group said: “The silence of the great and good is deafening. There have been campaigns on the plight of women in solitary confinement in Iranian jails.

“Apart from family visits, Marian Price has been held in isolation, starved of all human contact, for six months. That will have serious physical and psychological affects on any human being. Amnesty International and other groups must stop turning a blind eye and take up her case.”

With her sister Dolours and Gerry Kelly, now a senior Sinn Féin politician, Marian was part of an 11-strong IRA unit which launched attacks on key British targets in the London area. The sisters were captured attempting to fly home from Heathrow Airport.

They went on hunger-strike in Brixton prison as part of their campaign to be repatriated to serve their sentences in the north of Ireland. Price was force-fed 400 times over six months.

Eventually, they were transferred to Armagh jail. Marian was freed in 1980, suffering life-threatening health conditions from the hunger-strike and force-feeding. She became increasingly disillusioned with Sinn Féin, opposing its political strategy from the mid-1990s.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News