The Concerned Families and Friends of the Maghaberry prisoners held a public meeting on Saturday 29th May, 2.00pm, at Conway Mill Belfast.
A panel to include human rights activists and legal experts outlined the conditions the men in Maghaberry are being forced to endure and a question and answer session followed for development of debate.
Chairing the proceedings was Maura McCrory, a veteran of the anti-H-Block/Armagh campaign who took to the streets in defence of prisoners rights with The Relatives Action Committee, in 1976.
Former hunger striker Gerard Hodgins and Maureen Fitzsimons, sister of prisoner Harry Fitzsimons, both spoke at the meeting. The text of their speeches follow.
Thirty years ago we engaged in a battle that was to have far reaching ramifications for us all. It was the longest and most painful battle of the war when Brendan Hughes forged the Blanketmen into a formidable fighting machine which established once and for all the political legitimacy of the Republican cause and the Republican prisoner. We didn’t fully know it at the time but we changed history. The cost was horrendous and the pain of that battle still wounds many of us. The memories will never leave us, nor can the knowledge that today the inheritors of that sacrifice sit in power in Stormont.
Why are former comrades who experienced the inside of a prison cell the same as many of us allowing this obscenity which is Maghaberry to happen? How can a joint First Minister not have the power to end this shameful situation in his prison? How can one half of the Stormont power bloc be powerless to intervene in Maghaberry prison? The thugs enforcing this regime of shame in Maghaberry are the very same thugs who beat Blanketmen and gloated at the deaths of hunger strikers: the Prison Officers Association.
The only change in the equation is that instead of serving a British government directly the POA are today serving our own locally elected government of which Sinn Fein makes up one half.
Sinn Fein have sat in silence over the years allowing the festering cess-pit of Maghaberry to deteriorate, to date they have expressed an interest in what is happening in Maghaberry, but we need more than an expression of interest from former comrades who know instinctively the fate of Republican prisoners in the British prison system, we need concrete action, we need massive change within the prison regime, we need a party with more spine than the imperialist lickspittle who similarly sat in silence while ten brave men died.
We demand the reintroduction of the regime that was implemented after the hunger strikes, we demand the reintroduction of a safe and humane environment where all prisoners can lead lives of dignity and purpose; and where even screws are saved from the debasement of being torturers.
What I and the rest of us demand is not an impossible dream, we are not asking for new avenues to be explored or opened up, we are not asking for risks to be taken. The things we demand are doable; it has all been done before at no risk to the security of the prison system and it could all be done again: today.
Things have moved on in the wake of the ceasefires, life may be more vibrant than ever in our towns and cities; but life is also still a nightmare existence for that small group of people the rest of society chooses to ignore and pretend doesn’t exist: the prisoners. For them, there is no new dispensation. For them there are only Oscar Wilde’s immortal words: every prison that men build is built with bricks of shame; and bound with bars lest Christ should see how men their brothers maim, Maghaberry prison is an institution built with bricks of shame, Maghaberry prison is bound with bars lest Christ should see how the screws our friends and relatives maim. Maghaberry prison has been shrouded in a veil of official silence – but no more.
We, together, will tear down the bricks of shame, we will expose the sadists of the POA to full public scrutiny and exposure of their cowardly deeds; we have exposed them for the liars they are in trying to tell us Maghaberry is a 5*hotel where the ungrateful fenians beat themselves up just to complain about it afterwards.
We, as a group, came together in the wake of the Easter mini-rising in Maghaberry and pledged to hit the streets, to agitate and campaign until the prisoners in Maghaberry get a proper and humane regime. We are of all political colours and no political colours; we are equally and unanimously and maturely committed to assisting the men in Maghaberry challenge and defeat the inhuman and degrading conditions being imposed upon them through the active aggression of the POA and the silent acquiescence of their political masters in Stormont.
We can all do this together. Go from here today and replicate what we have done here in Belfast across the country: bury your political differences and unite around one common goal, theme and objective: our prisoners. Let every county in this partitioned state organise and demand human rights for the prisoners; it doesn’t take a large, cumbersome structure or massive amounts of money to do: commitment and a belief in the justness of the prisoners’ cause are all that’s needed.
Do this, and we have even greater scope for coordinated actions if we need to seriously consider paralysing the normality of a sick state in order to make it sit up and listen.
Our prisoners deserve that, we owe them that and we owe it to the memory and integrity of our comrades who died that lonely death in 1981. Let a thousand prisoner support groups flourish from here today and let the Stormont ostriches know: we are not going away you know!
Victory to the prisoners.
My brother Harry Fitzsimons, is a prisoner in Maghaberry. Ironically, my brother is actually in Maghaberry for following orders. He does not want to be in Maghaberry, he wants to be home with his children and partner, and wider family circle; and we want him home with us.
My brother is not a criminal; he is not an animal to be caged and beaten; neither is he self-inflicting any type of harm or hardship upon himself just so he can complain about it later.
My brother, Harry, is the latest victim in a long line of tortured souls to fall under the attention of the screws in the British prison system in Ireland; yesterday it was the H-Blocks, today it is Maghaberry. His crime in their eyes is not that he has been sent to prison but that he is a catholic, a republican: a fenian! Human rights are non-existent in Maghaberry if you are a prisoner, they are completely non-existent if you are a Republican prisoner.
The revelation that all is not well in Maghaberry came as a shock to our family. We experienced the depth of bitterness that characterised the H-Block conflict, we lived through it; the daily reports of prisoners being beaten and the military repression inflicted upon our community as we stood in defiance in support of our prisoners, in defiance of Margaret Thatcher. We don’t want to go through all that again, but already there is a sense of déjà-vu.
We thought that we had seen the prison issue settled once and for all: ten men died lonely deaths of starvation in British prison cells to assert the right and the legitimacy of the Republican cause: it is a horrifying sacrifice we can never forget. But it is all reawakening as the Maghaberry screws diminish the gains and the penal reforms hard won by republican prisoners in the past.
Why are they allowed to get away with this? Why are one group of narrow-minded, unreconstructed sectarian bigots being allowed to drag us back into the past? Where are the voices of those in political power with the power to end this obscenity?
When we leave here today all I ask is that each of you remembers that our prisoners are being forced back into a H-Block-type regime, that our prisoners in Maghaberry are being brutalised. And remember them in your prayers.
Let your elected representatives know how you feel, how you feel that the nightmare of the darkest chapter in British penal policy in Ireland is being reawakened and reinvigorated in Maghaberry.
I know this, because my brother Harry is living that nightmare. I have had to endure watching him disappeared into the lonely isolation of Maghaberry, knowing that he had been beaten, knowing that the screws had chained him to a bed and cut the clothes off him, knowing that he was hurt and me unable to see him, to comfort him. We, his family were not allowed to see him, his solicitor was not even allowed to see him.
This is what the screws are doing. They are also barring immediate family from visiting prisoners. They are a law unto themselves and must be challenged and we are the ones who will mount that challenge on behalf of our prisoners.
fucking ripping it ,havent felt this angry since Bloody Sunday, and the hunger strikes, victory to the prisoners, shame on psfReplyDelete
Was really pleased to have attended the above meeting and to have been able to show my support to those political prisoners in Maghaberry and their families outside.ReplyDelete
The strength of arguement in favour of serious changes to the corrupt regime in Maghaberry is growing day by day. Its thanks to you Mackers and others within the new world of media who have highlighted the disgraceful actions perpetrated against defenceless prisoners!
Today's meeting in Belfast has also helped show the great and the good that our campaign will not go away until our imprisoned comrades achieve their rights and dignity.
the prisoners were happy to meet with a SINN FEIN delegation at maghaberry, are you saying that you know better than the prisoners marty, did any others sent there members to the prison to help the prisoners, did any other group even try.ReplyDelete
michaelhenry I do not attempt to speak for the Maghaberry republican prisoners, nor am I a spokesperson for any republican group,I am an unrepentant republican and I make no apoligy for that, and although you claim to be a republican I for one would not want to be associated with your brand of turncoat politicos,I,m sure the republican prisoners would welcome support from any quarter,but what makes me angry is that your comrades in psf are now assisting in administering british rule in this northeastern section of the island of Ireland, and along with the dup appointed the joke of a so called justice, minister moley mole Ford.he now carries a great degree of responsibility for the situation in Maghaberry and so to does those who appointed him your cronies psf/dup,I know also that although psf may have, as lackeys been allowed into the prison, many others whose intentions would be more honourable have been refused entry, this is not my statement, but rather from the sister of a prisoner who you should be calling comrade if that is you are a member of the prm, or are you just a mouthpiece.yes a man who was caught in an action acting under orders from the leadership, and subsequently sold out down the river by the same principaled leaders, told to hand himself over and now after obeying all orders he is now being brutalised by people whose paymasters are exactly the same as your cronies in Stormont ,thats what makes me angry but I feel talking to you is like asking Adams what rank he held in the ra, in other words a waste of timeReplyDelete
so you agree with me that no other group other than SINN FEIN members asked to see the prisoners at maghaberry marty, do not forget that both SINN FEIN and the i.r.s,p meet with the prisoners at long kesh during the 1981 hunger strike, there were a few them days who thought themselves hardline and better than the prisoners, im glad that they moved to the dark side, to the dissidents.ReplyDelete
at the falling down water again michaelhenry I see or has the wackey baccie melted yer brain,I await your response to all previous questions, or as it seems you only have a selective memory and yip that would make you a perfect provisional sinn fein memberReplyDelete
i am proud that you think of me has a member of SINN FEIN marty, any doubts about the movement should have been forgoten after the number of big jobs that took place in england, we will have some wait before the dissidents explode a tonne bomb in england, they are to busy complaining about SINN FEIN, or maybe you think that mi5 or mi6 set of the tonne bombs in england, lol.ReplyDelete
I am absolutely astounded at your reference to a political party seeking justice for the now imprisoned republicans , are you to have us believe or worse still believe yourself that Sinn Fein are actually helping this prisoners .
The word I associate with that is bullshit complete and utter bullshit, they made a token jest by going to the prison, if you had taken the wool out of your ears over the past 16 years and listened to the great Sinn Fein leadership shout about how they will never allow the people to be downtrodden again and how when they get power that they will defend the rights of everyone. Unfortunately as we have seen throughout Irish history “give them power and they will piss on ye “. To make reference to Sinn Fein stoutly defending the prisoners on the Blanket and the Hunger Strike, oh how little you really know about the Provo/Sinn Fein partnership.
Sinn Fein could stop this horror immediately, they are in power, they are the party whom pushed the police and justice bill through, they are that party whom told us we shall never return to the bad old days, and they are the party whose agenda was prisoner’s rights and got elected to Westminster.
Maybe the whole party suffer the same disease as their Glorious Leader no recall at all.
Its also difficult to believe that Harry Fitzsimmons is actually a convicted member of the provos and was put in jail carrying out orders from the same Provo/Sinn Fein group and yet rather than lose face with the DUP they prefer to let him rot in jail for their own personal gain, shame on them they never will represent the Irish people, in the words of second in command British first minister (or tea boy) “traitors “
michaelhenry, the IRSP have indeed visited protesting prisoners and have requested from NIO 2 weeks ago for an IRSP delegation visit to all the protesting prisoners-we are still waiting for a response. Our ex-prisoners group, Teach na Failte, also accepted Adams's request to meet reps from protesting prisoners 2 weeks ago also. We were told Adams is too busy over the foreseeable future and that we could either wait until he is less busy or meet other delegates which we opted for.ReplyDelete
Many are suspicious as to PSF's motivations but regardless of what they may be I personally welcome their belated intervention and hope that this leads to a resolution of the Maghaberry situation. PSF did get in contact with us via our ex-prisoners groups before their delegation went in to the prison asking us if it was acceptable by both us and INLA prisoners to meet our prisoners too. Both found this acceptable and despite cynicism welcome this move.
michaelhenry I havent said anywhere that I thought you were a member of provisional sinn fein, I stated and as your response shows that like those other ex republicans in provisional sinn fein you have a selective memory and again still have answered the questions put to you, I think if you check I stated that you had all the attributes to be a party member,ie, will believe anything the leadership tells you,and blind obedience, mind you the nazis had the same type of membershipReplyDelete
interested, know your history, every other so called republican group that ever got political power took the oath to the crown, SINN FEIN got rid of the oath in IRELAND whilst you were runing them down, the real never killed any cops in there 12 year history and so you do not see them as traitors, strange military concept that you have, SINN FEIN were the only party or group to meet the prisoners at maghaberry, are you saying that you know better than the prisoners who met SINN FEIN, i never noticed any of the big mouths groups asking to meet with the prisoners, maybe they think that they are to hardline to meet with them.ReplyDelete
good to hear willie, the i.r.s.p have always visited the prisoners, have always backed them, i was just groaning about those hardline groups that have never visited the prisoners, i see that the i.n.l.a are in the same decommisson boat has the provos, any of your people get any bad manners from the dissidents yet, are we the same type has the nazis now marty, the nazis lost old hand, that will never happen to SINN FEIN, not now anyhow, do you miss the british army foot patrols marty, they have gone away you know.ReplyDelete
michaelhenry, I wouldn't say we're in the same boat as the provisionals and decommissioning happened under different circumstances and context. No 'bad manners' either from the 'dissidents' outside of a bit of verbal on the net from the government of Ireland.ReplyDelete
I just thought I'd point out your inaccuracy regarding visiting prisoners and trying to get a delegation in. Unfortunately this hasn't been granted yet probably because we're not in the provisional boat. It's a boat I don't fancy getting into as I've no doubt I'd be forced to walk the gang-plank with cannon balls strapped to my ankles by Black Beard and his pirates.
lol michael maybe the nazis was the wrong comparison, should have said the Italians, the ancestral homeland of your beloved Scap, he killed plenty,and you love body counts dont you michaelhenry, dont know what the hell your on about re foot patrols,have you missed your medication? we have a wee bet on here,the kids think your a screw, but I think your a screw looseReplyDelete
I'm certain you all understand this, but I will say it anyway, it would help people beyond Ireland's shore (and within the country I would guess) if a single Organization was set up to campaign for the rights of 'all republican prisoners.'ReplyDelete
As things stand it makes it very difficult to get this message out beyond the core groups of supporters.
good to see some action in relation to the prisoners. They need all the publicity they can get otherwise they're just fair game for the screws indefinately.
Cheers for sticking that one tonne bomb in England Michaelhenry,didnt know it was 'you wot dunnit'..Nice one MATE! lol
Can't see the reason SF just didn't F-Off and leave the SDLP to it. That's what I cant get my head around. 'Horses for courses' if your usefulness is no longer useful ...step aside. Or is it an EGO thing..or a wee gang of defeated but in denial EGO's???
I notice michaelhenry doesn't answer questions also..just regurgitates Gerry's diatribe. Sure SF officially say whatever they wish or what suits the moment..it's all a 'tactic' and they can lie about it or deny it.. can't imagine patriots down the centuries wanting much to do with that mob..MOB bein the word!! nothing to be trusted there..they likely reported back to Peter the Punt and dennied they were anywhere near Maghaberry..or that they were demanding the prisoners just give in..it's futile lol ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN is their party manifesto it will fall apart sometime.
Being career politico's now this long time I think a deal was possible because the more people like Charlie Haughey and 'new/conservative Labour' Bliar met with Adams and Mc Guinness they knew they were dealing with slimeballs like themselves and could rub shoulders easily.
so true. Many are working towards that end. But you will always have the elements who view the prisoners as pawns or who think they occupy the lofty perch of pure republicanism and will become contaminated if they touch something outside the quarantined region. They should stop and take a look at the Trot Left and then they will have a close up of how comical failure can come to look.
Michael henry I beg to differ with your last message there, "PRISONERS HAPPY TO MEET SINN FEIN DELEGATION GROUP - AND IF ANY OTHER GROUP SENT MEMBERS TO MEET PRISONERS" firstly Sinn Fein was granted permission from their colleague David Ford ( Justice Minister) to gain entry to the prison, to visit our family members incarcerated in that hell hole. The Prisoners were unaware that Sinn Fein were even coming into the Prison until 13.30pm that same day, 10 prisoners were allowed to meet this delegation group even though Harry Fitzsimmons was one who asked to meet them he was refused( whether this was pre-arranged by Sinn Fein and the screws???? I dont know ...) But anyway the prisoners seen this as an opportunity to raise awareness of the degradation, inhumane and ill-treatment they are receiving in Maghaberry. Sinn Fein is using the Prisoners for some reason unknown to us? And as for any other group willing to help the prisoners there is various groups who have been helping, listening and contacting families with regards the conditions in magahberry- however they will never be allowed easy access to the prison like Sinn Fein, as these groups have no power sharing in the North of Ireland. Sinn Fein could stop this happening in Maghaberry but they like many others have remained silent and dont want to get involved to save face, until NOW!!!!! WHY!!!ReplyDelete
willie the i.n.l.a are on the same boat as the provos, just stay the corse, we know the road, its the hard road old hand, marty admits he is wrong, he is supporting the italians next, i will again ask marty when was the last time he seen an armed british foot patrol, we the republicans are cheering adams and martin every time there on tv, join with us, join with those who got rid of the oath in IRELAND.ReplyDelete
SINN FEIN and the i.r.s.p had access to the hunger strikers in 1981 at long kesh once the brits knew that they were beat cry for, help, this was when both the provos and the i.n.l.a were killing brits and peelers, again i will say that the prisoners know better than you and met with SINN FEIN, these prisoners were wondering why none of the hardline groups wanted to meet them, will you give the prisoners some credit cry for, help, they know the crack, they are the ones doing the wack, have to agree with mick hall, i remember being at the protests and marches in 1981, when every republican was for the prisoners, but r.s.f and the continuity will never join a single campaign, i smell a feud comming in that clan.ReplyDelete
Mick as usual you are correct ,it would be really advantageous to the prisoner,s cause if all strands of republicianism could weld together, hopefully this will happen,sooner rather than later would be ideal.we only ever seem to unite when the price paid for that unity is far to high, I of course refer to the hunger strikes,there are many outstanding issues that republicans face today, the prison issue not least among them,A cohesion of all shades of republicanism under the one banner would certainly be the way foward imo.michaelhenry I,ll answer your question, although you dont seem capable of answering mine or others, the last time I saw an armed british foot patrol was on Friday night this place was crawling with armed blokes and women wearing the crown on their badge, and I believe if you refer to the soldier wing of the brit establishment, then I suggest you take a wee drive through some of the border counties, michaelhenry they really havent gone away you knowReplyDelete
I remember Maura Mc Crory in the felons club in '83 when I was 19 yrs old, at a Relatives For Justice meeting against supergrass trials. SF basically hi-jacked the meeting which had been trying to remain non party afiliated to broaden the base... Maura was pretty impressive then, good to know she's still plugging away.ReplyDelete
Fr Faul walked out of the meeting in disgust at the SF antics..after all this time and after reading a few books on Adams and Co. it seems the sour taste left in everyones mouth that day was basically their/SF forte...my parents never went back near another H Block event after the experience. CONTROL OR DESTROY.
SF will get sucker punched just when they think they have control of the north in the bag and the SDLP and Unionist Party make a pact. All them guns for nothing LMAO.
Know my history, running them down, please explain.
I am not affiliated to any party politic I am not a member of an illegal organisation , so what your criticism of my post is I have no idea , maybe just the truth is what is causing you discomfort. I foolishly supported The Sinn Fein leadership and their road to peace until it suddenly dawned on me that not only would we have peace but peace at any price, from then on I felt the need to condemn them for their hypocrisy and their out and out support to be in the British government to rule a part of Ireland.
Remember Mickey that it was the Provo’s first mission to bring down stormont, maybe the great plan is now to demolish from the inside.
This michaelhenry character has really got up my nose! Could michaelhenry please explain to me me why "micro deputy first minister" McGuinness and Gerry Adams and Tom Hartley,among others, met what they call the "Israeli" ambassador to the "UK". (Adams and co. probably call it that!). This scumbag was a major in the so called "IDF" and has this last few nights and days defended the murder of activists on board the flotilla of ships trying to bring aid to Gaza.
SINN FEIN will meet almost anyone james, as the prisoners at maghaberry could tell you, unfortunately the world is not made up with just nice people in it, or kind goverments, you could not like the brits if you reared them, but has one of the causes of conflict here they were talked to, the israeli ambassador was a major in idf, god knows how many people that he set up, but again if there was a reason why he was talked to then SINN FEIN will walk the walk with him, the facts that i do know is that the IRISH ship the mv rachel corrie is going to try and get through the israeli blockade tomorrow, july 4, a person on board caimhe butterly went into stormont two weeks ago along with martin maguinness and gerry adams, i hope all goes well for this ship and the aid workers,but the israelis hate aid workers the way that the nazis hated there prisoners, caimhe butterly and the prisoners at maghaberry met with SINN FEIN after they met the israeli ambassador, they did not see any problems but you do, i am not party to SINN FEIN leadership decisions, nor do i follow blindly, but i do follow, most of the time.ReplyDelete
Michaelhenry you seemed to have followed blindly into the wrong month..unless im mistaken and have missed my 2 weeks in Spain..we are still in June????ReplyDelete
We all know the sinners would meet anyone michaelhenry, but, when it came to Irish Language activists and people like that, peter robinson and co. absented themselves from the room with all sorts of lame excuses and downright lies. Why didn't mcguinness and co. tell the "Israeli" ambassador to piss off for being a child murdering bastard and an apologist for the scumbags that destroyed what was left of Gaza or, just not be in the same room as him? You still haven't answered me, what use or mileage could the sinners get from meeting a man like this? (let alone shaking his hand and accepting a book from him). Good one Larry (LOL). Finally, could I ask your age (or mental age michaelhenry) and has your computer got a spell checking function?ReplyDelete
sorry larry, my mistake, hope you enjoy the sights and the bar stools in spain, SINN FEIN are not the dup james, the only point to walk out of a room is when you have no arguments left, and not just in a hissy huff, i wrote that SINN FEIN would meet almost anyone james, there is still one clan who opposes equality that SINN FEIN do not meet, i am 39, hope the mental age is the same, spell checker, its only english that i am making mistakes with.ReplyDelete