Judge demands political statement from internee

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One of ten republican activists interned by remand following a large-scale arrest operation in 2020 has been told by a judge he must make a statement supporting a ‘shared island’ in order to be considered for bail.

Three of those involved have been bailed, but in a highly political ruling by Deputy District Judge Sean O’Hare, Gary Hayden from Derry was refused bail for not repeating a credo beginning: “I don’t believe in violence. I believe in a new shared island.”

The idea of a ‘shared island’ has been promoted in recent years to Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin, who supports the idea as an alternative to traditional calls for Irish reunification. He created a ‘shared island unit’ to advance the idea within his department in 2020.

Lawyers for Mr Hayden protested at the demand that he make a statement. They insisted: “There is no legal or viable distinction to be drawn between them [the other three released on bail] and my client.”

They noted that Joe Barr, a former Saoradh national organiser, was released on bail after he said that armed struggle is “counter-productive” “and unnecessary”.

They said: “The Prosecution are drawing on Mr Barr’s disavowal of violence yet view such comments as self-serving and bearing little weight. They say he has expressly disavowed violence and stepped back from republicanism, but we don’t accept that.”

Judge O’Hare said the High Court appeared to have attached some importance to disavowal and put it to the defence, “If I was to ask your client to say the same words, would that be a problem? It’s a very straightforward question and I don’t want to waste my time or his”.

The defence replied, “My client’s position is that any bail condition placed upon him, including limiting his ability to meet other individuals, would be fully complied with.”

Judge O’Hare continued: “Can he say, ‘I don’t believe in violence. I believe in a new shared island. I am not opposed to peace. I do not advocate violence and I do not say violence is the way forward’. There’s no point dealing with anything else if something which two High Court judges have decided is vital. Is there a difficulty with your client saying those words? The answer is either yes or no.”

Turning to Hayden who appeared by video-link, Judge O’Hare asked, “Do you want to say those words?”

Hayden replied, “I’ve already instructed my solicitor and he’s explained the situation.”

Throwing out the application Judge O’Hare remarked, “There’s no point looking at other issues when that fundamental element hasn’t been addressed.”

The judgement came as republicans marked the anniversary of the introduction of internment in 1971, when hundreds of nationalists were rounded up and incarcerated in a chaotic and deadly ‘crackdown’ by British forces.

Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association held a protest last weekend to coincide with the introduction of internment and highlighting the continued use of internment in 2022, particularly against new internee Jason Ceulemans. The picket in north Belfast was supported by supporters of prisoners from across Ireland.

Republicans in Belfast also erected banners at PSNI barracks in Belfast as part of a national day of action to mark the anniversary, while anti-internment and anti-extradition protests also took place in Derry, Newry and Scotland.

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