The Anglo Irish conflict is not resolved. The British Parliament and Crown still maintains a sovereign claim over part of Ireland. Acts of insurgency against this claim continue. Irish POW’s remain incarcerated. No amount of emotional rhetoric or flawed references to democracy can mask these blatant truths.
The starting point for democracy in Ireland is an immediate British withdrawal. The terms for a just peace must begin with self determination for the Irish people. Every generation has asserted these rights. Acts of the British Parliament can have no place in the sovereign affairs of the Irish people.
The claims of British neutrality toward the Six Counties are a sham. Their vindictive punishment of republican prisoners of war is one testimony of this. It has always been British policy in Ireland to abuse republican prisoners as a means to undermine the broader republican struggle. And it has always been met with the same determined response. Like all colonial powers they fail to comprehend the immortal words of republican prisoner and hunger striker Terence Mac Swiney; “It is not those who can inflict the most but those who can endure the most who will conquer”.
In Maghaberry Gaol the Prison Authorities, with the blessing of their political masters in Stormont, engaged in a policy of using degrading strip searches to intimidate and cower republican POW’s. These abuses were carried out systematically. Solitary confinement was imposed on the whim of screws. Visits with family were also impeded as part of this policy.
But the POW’s would not be cowered or intimidated. Neither would their families. They embarked on a series of protests directly challenging the regime. Outside of the prison thousands took to the streets in solidarity with our comrades. Despite the best efforts of the establishment and the media their silence on the issue could not be maintained. The groundswell of anger and support forced them to the table.
With independent arbiters an agreement was reached which addressed the prisoner’s demands. The protest came to a conclusion. But like any agreement with such authorities it needs to be constantly monitored. This is not just the task of a few but the duty of all of us concerned with this issue. Be assured there are those who are diametrically opposed to this agreement, or any agreement, which affords POW’s their deserved status. They will actively seek ways to undermine and reintroduce the old system of abuse. We need to say to such faceless servants of the Crown; you will fail!
On behalf of all Irish POW’s we extend fraternal greetings and heartfelt thanks to our comrades in England, Scotland and Wales who have campaigned so selfishly on their behalf. Your efforts have been a great source of inspiration to them in their incarceration.