Interned Irish political dissident Marian Price has been moved from Hydebank Prison to a hospital in Belfast this [Friday] morning.
It follows mounting concern over her physical and mental health. For two years, she has been held in isolation at prisons in the north of Ireland on the order of the British government.
Ms Price is a former hunger striker who, alongside her sister, was force-fed by British prison warders for more than six months to prevent her death. Both of the Price sisters are understood to have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Earlier this year she was moved from the high-security Maghaberry Prison to Hydebank, also on medical advice.
Sinn Fein Assembly member Jennifer McCann welcomed the decision to move Marian to a hospital.
The West Belfast Assembly member, who is a member of the Justice Committee at the Assembly, said Marian “should of course be released as her continued imprisonment is an affront to natural justice.
“We welcome this move which will see Marian Price get the care she needs and Sinn Fein will continue to press for her immediate release.”
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement said it welcomed the “belated” transfer of their former spokesperson to hospital.
“This overdue move demonstrates the seriousness of her health and well being and puts lie to the reasons peddled for holding her in jail,” said Francis Mackey.
“We wish Marian a speedy recovery and we recognise the deterioration of Marian Price’s health is a direct result of the conditions in which she was held.
“In welcoming her move to hospital we in the 32 CSM hope now that the recognised care packages available will be fully utilised and the contributing factors which led to her ill health will be eliminated.”
The move comes as an international campaign has grown for her release and the release of other political internees in the North of Ireland.
This week has seen events in London, New York, Dublin, Belfast and Derry calling for the release of both Marian Price and Martin Corey.
Delegates at a London Symposium on Policing this week signed an open letter to British Direct Ruler Owen Paterson calling on him to order the immediate release of Marian Price and Martin Corey whose ‘indefinite detention without trial is contrary to fundamental human rights principals.’
Signatories include the family of Mark Duggan whose shooting death at police hands in London last summer provoked riots in a number of English cities.
Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre, who attended the symposium, described the support of the London delegates as “another sign of the growing disquiet and concern at the use of so-called ‘secret evidence’ which is impossible to challenge or disprove”. He said the ‘secret evidence’ was used to indefinitely detain individuals on the basis of undisclosed allegations from the Security Service MI5.
“When delegates were asked to sign this open letter there was an overwhelming response -- people understood the issue and understood the dangers posed by the use of ‘secret evidence’.
“Marian Price and Martin Corey should be released immediately.”
Scores of anti-internment campaigners gathered outside a Manhattan event marking the British royal jubilee on Thursday evening last week.
One of the organisers, Sandy Boyer, explained why the group decided to protest the jubilee event.
“Marian Price is in prison in northern Ireland at the queen’s discretion,” he said.
“It’s very critical that we raise awareness here. If we can get some noise made, some progress made in the United States, it can have a big effect over there.”
The protest close to Times Square in Manhattan called for the immediate release of the political dissident.
A father-of-two from the South Bronx, Irish American Danny Shaw, took part in the demonstration. The CUNY professor said the protest was about the struggle for human rights.
“I was over in Belfast for the 40th anniversary of internment,” 34-year-old Shaw said.
“We may be a small group today, but we are symbolic.”
Another event has been organised by the ‘Free Marian Price Campaign, US’ group for next Wednesday evening at O’Lunney’s Time Square Pub 145 West 45 Street, between 6th & 7th Avenue, with a range of speakers, including noted author Malachy McCourt.
Among those who will also attend the event are John Duddy, the well-known boxer from Derry.
The Derry-based Prisons Crisis Group welcomed the support of the former middleweight contender.
“Marian’s case is now attracting attention on an increasingly wide basis, both in Ireland and internationally,” said spokeswoman Betty Doherty.
“The fact that a woman can be detained without trial for more than a year and with no release date at the whim of a British politician strikes most people outside Ireland as absolutely shocking and incredible.
“The original charge has now been withdrawn - but Marian is still held in Hydebank Wood prison where, potentially, she could remain for the rest of her life. This is an outrage against justice.
“We must continue to build up the pressure and reach out to those not yet involved in the campaign. We have the momentum to move forward and force the British government to abandon internment once and for all.
“We call on other people of influence and renown to add their voices to John Duddy’s.”
IRISH ‘PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE’
Geraldine McNamara, Republican Sinn Fein Publicity Officer, pointed to the contradictions in the Dublin government celebrating Aung San Suu Kyi, the human rights defender and former prisoner of conscience who spent some 15 years under house arrest in Burma, while remaining silent on the plight of Ireland’s political dissidents.
Ms Suu Kyi received the freedom of the city of Dublin at a glittering civic event on Monday.
Ms McNamara called for the immediate release of Martin Corey and Marian Price and an end to the oppression of Irish Republicans.
“Martin Corey and Marian Price are interned here in Ireland because they will not accept a divided Ireland, and those who try and highlight this situation are continually harassed and cannot picket or march on the streets of the Occupied Six Counties without being charged with offences against the British regime,” Ms McNamara said.
“Aung San Suu Kyi has been an inspiration to oppressed people world wide and hopefully she will not now be used by imperialist countries who oppress those who like Aung San Suu Kyi continue to speak against tyranny in their native countries.”
RECEPTION FOR PRISONERS’ FAMILIES
Meanwhile, an outgoing council chairman has hosted a reception for families of republican prisoners on council property in one of his final acts in office.
Independent Moyle councillor Padraig McShane said the decision, which has angered unionists, was a humanitarian gesture.
It is believed to be the first such event to be held on council-owned property anywhere in the north. Mr McShane, who resigned from Sinn Fein in 2010, said he had been praised for the gesture.
“To imprison individuals because of their political beliefs and to beat, abuse or strip search them must never be an avenue of retribution against those who hold fast to different beliefs from others in society.
“These actions are contrary to the genuine peace many of us strive for. I have received only positive comments for the initiative.”