Not Terminal But ...

Daithi O’Donnabhain writes about an event he attended in London.

London’s Anti-Internment Group (AIG) Meeting 19/01/17

I was an attendee at Friday's meeting of the London Anti-Internment Group (AIG). It seemed to be a joint venture with Turkish activists who were critical of President Erdogan. I didn’t pick up any names of Turkish groups they represented but I was ten minutes late so these might have been given in an introduction I would of missed.

The speaker for the Irish experience was primarily Cait Trainor - I think ex of Republican Sinn Fein. And the topics she covered, political policing in the North and South, an unjust legal system, the surveillance state and the type of experiences a political activist can face in Ireland. The examples of Tony Taylor , the Craigavon Two and simple family man (ahem) Liam Campbell’s extradition to Lithuania were covered closely.

I am not going to cover the Turkish content in the talk in this piece, it was a filmed event, so perhaps those interested in that part can seek it out. The reason for this is I am mindful of bombarding people with too many disparate pieces of information, and this reservation leads me into my main problem with the organisers of the meeting.

After the main talks, an invitation was given for questions from the floor, which others (I think AIG members) took as an opportunity to give a short(ish) biography of themselves and their activism. Another took the opportunity to notify us of some American prison ”lay down” protest that also required our immediate attention at this precise juncture. One of the chairs added that he had a letter from jailed republican activist Christine O’Connor, which prompted another AIG member to announce she had a short letter from a jailed member of the Black Liberation Army she would like to read. It wasn’t short.

Finally, an Irish accent asked about MI5’s role in the North, and how it was crucial to understanding what is going in the North. I was instantly interested when he said he was the guy who had his slipper bugged by the security services (which I remembered reading about because of its novel location), and this prompted a welcome back and forth exchange with Cait on the stage. Unfortunately this was also cut short as the organisers could lose the deposit for the room if we didn’t end the event and leave. I was then handed a leaflet about a Grenfell Tower demo, which I think is ultimately fairly apt. The Irish struggle, the only reason I was there, was allotted a smaller fraction of the evening's attention.

It is hard to critique a meeting for being unfocussed when it is split with another movement (yes , I get the proposition that their struggles aren’t different because both are the result of imperialism), but the additional, unnecessary tangents were not helpful. In her presentation, Cait had already highlighted the apathy within Ireland itself for the fate of its sons and daughters in British jails. It begs the question, how effective asking them to show concern for those in Turkish jails will likely be? How will the organisers measure the efficacy of this approach?

Cait mentioned the benefit of these meetings going out online, meaning they have a wider audience than just those in attendance that evening, and how Republicans should have regular podcasts and a central point for media creation, distribution. I myself have wondered on here why Radio Free Eireann (for example) isn’t available as a podcast, to make it easier to access.

My final thought on the meeting confirmed what I already suspected: the Republican message is better delivered by our women at this stage, for framing the debate in a softer aesthetic.

Nothing I have written here should be taken as terminal. We should all welcome opportunities to do better for the prisoners.

Daithi O’Donnabhain is a frequent commenter to TPQ.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

1 comment to ''Not Terminal But ..."

  1. Thanks AM.
    I should of included that I don’t doubt their general commitment, one poor chap was clearly very ill with a cold/flu and had a terrible cough, I imagine a warm bed would of been very tempting in that state but he took time to film the event. In terms of handing more relevant things out,If they want me to buy stuff like scairt amach to hand out at meetings I will buy them for them if they let me know where to deliver them.


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