Fermanagh District Council has passed a motion calling for the immediate release of interned political activist Marian Price. It agreed to write to the current British Direct Ruler, Theresa Villiers, calling for her release.
Marian Price, a 59-year-old former IRA Volunteer, was interned by the British government almost two years ago. The then British Direct Ruler Owen Patterson revoked her life sentence licence after she was arrested over her involvement in a republican rally in Derry’s city cemetery at Easter 2011.
She is now under armed guard at Belfast City Hospital where she is being treated for depression, arthritis and lung problems.
Last month she was refused permission to attend the funeral for her sister, Dolours. The two sisters had been force-fed for over 200 days to prevent them dying on hunger strike following their arrest in England in the 1970s.
Independent Councillor Bernice Swift proposed the motion calling for Marian’s release at this week’s meeting of Fermanagh District Council.
“Marian Price is being illegally interned,” she said. “As a woman, there is a blatant violation of her human rights. This makes a mockery of our peace process,” said Councillor Swift.
“I object,” replied the Democratic Unionist Party’s Bert Johnston, “She is a bomber.”
Twelve councillors, including members of Sinn Fein and the SDLP voted for sending the letter to Villiers, while 10 members of the unionist parties voted against it.
Former DUP Minister Arlene Foster said she was “disgusted” at the outcome of Monday’s vote.
“The fact this comes just a few months after the decision by Dungannon Council to support the release of Gerry McGeough, makes vote even more disgraceful,” she said.
Her internment had the force of law, she said, and republicans had to accept that.
“The DUP is absolutely clear in our view that everyone must be treated equally under the law but it would seem that republicans and nationalists seem to believe that this should not apply to certain sections of the community.”
But she reserved her deepest anger for the moderate nationalist SDLP.
She said: “Whether it is members of their party carrying the coffins of INLA members, supporting play-parks being named after IRA gunmen or calling for the release of dissident republicans, it would seem that there is no shade of republican terrorism which cannot find support from within the ranks of the SDLP.”
However, John O’Kane of the SDLP defended his support for the motion. He said his party remains opposed to internment without trial.
“My party is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Marian Price but we do consider that, if there is any real evidence against Marian Price, then she should be brought to trial instead of being kept in ongoing detention.”
Mr O’Kane said it was a “rather flimsy excuse” used to revoke Price’s licence and added: “Our record over the years is supporting civil rights and non-violence.”
Meanwhile, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness attended a hearing by the Parole Commissioners and also visited Ms Price in hospital this week, according to Sinn Fein.
At a closed court in the Laganside complex in Belfast, Parole Commissioners listened to submissions from Marian Price’s lawyers who argued that she should be released.
A spokesman for the commissioners said they could not make any comment on the hearing. Mr McGuinness also refused comment.
A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: “The continued imprisonment of Marian Price and Martin Corey is an affront to justice and they should be released immediately. They are held without charge or trial.”