Nor Meekly Serve My Time

Tonight The Pensive Quill carries a short piece by former blanketman, Alec McCrory

Nor Meekly Serve My Time
Alec McCrory

All is not well at HMP Maghaberry. For the 30 or so Republican prisoners on Roe House the situation threatens to spiral out of control. Caught between a system that is slow to change, or worse, incapable of changing, and the untimely souring of relations between the prisoners and their support networks, it is difficult to see a way forward.

Is it really the case that thirty prisoners sharing a small confined space can not find a way to resolve their differences for the collective good? Perhaps a starting point for this would be to ask a simple question: What does it mean to be a Republican in jail? This is not a rhetorical question, nor is it a swipe at any particular individual or group as there has been enough of that already. A brief glance at our history will reveal the answer.

Irish Republicans have always viewed prison as simply another battlefield. Kieran Nugent had a difficult choice to make as he stood before his jailors frightened and naked: wear the uniform, accept the criminal garb, or resist. He choose to resist. He choose to resist because that was the proper course of action for a republican to adopt in such circumstances, and 300 men followed his example (the 300 Spartans as O'Rawe refers to them).

Opting out is not an option. Keeping the head down for the sake of a quiet life is not something republicans do in captivity. On the contrary, they fight for the conditions befitting political prisoners. To struggle for a better quality of life is what sets republicans apart from ODCs who meekly accept the authority of the system. Dignity, respect, recognition; all come with a price tag attached. There is no easy way.

Thrity years ago ten brave young men died on hunger strike for our right to be recognised as political prisoners. They, more than any of us, knew the terrible cost of resisting British criminalisation, but they also knew there were few alternatives. It is only through struggle that the right to be treated as political prisoners is won. For one thing is certain: the system will never grant that recognition out of decency or good will.

To pay homage to our dead martyrs it is incumbent on Republican prsioners to defend all that they died for: Political rights for political prisoners.


  1. Alec,

    good that you continue to highlight these issues, sad that you have to. Screws will always brutalise prisoners; it always needs exposed

  2. Alec, thanks for these posts. I belief all the prisoners are now united in their opposition to the degrading strip search. now we need everyone on the outside united to stand behind them.

  3. There has been some very positive developments coming out of the jail. RSF and RNU both released statements saying the prisoners they represent will be refusing the full body search as from today.

    The prisoners are once again leading the way.

  4. It's been there for a few weeks I think, but this is the first time I can't stop noticing Brendan Hughes on the right... as though he's paying particular attention to this piece.

  5. Alec,

    but where will it lead to? Republican prisoners have often led the way in battling for improved prison conditions. Denis Faul once described Bobby Sands as the greatest prison reformer in British penal history. But the 'way' is corralled into the prisons and sealed off from the 'way' in the outside world.

  6. few points
    the perception of Maghaberry is:
    1 to a cell
    tv with remote control in the cell.
    'recreation' and interaction of prisoners.
    regular exercise and visits.

    The general perception may be [not mine] that the small number of 30 prisoners if not squabling among themselves want to create a prison issue to generate support as in the blanket days in long kesh.

    It doesnt appeal to the wider public, and i feel 'depressingly' that this strategy is alienating the prisoners and their families from the wider community rather than acting as a ralling call.

    surely a more constructive political line of 'attack' might garner more sympathy? Surely 30 guys aren't striving to create a dirty protest in 2011???

  7. wee bit off topic but...

    mi5 gerry + mi6 marty SF say Queens visit premature. IRA surrendered and disbanded, weapons destroyed and Stormont reurected, theres no need to replace a dissident death rattle with a Royal kiss of life sobbed marty+gerry in unison...just when we had it in the bag for ye!!

  8. heard today that prisoners united now in non-confrmity,fair play,united we stand divided we fall,best of luck to the spartans of magHaberry

  9. Mackers, "the way" is the way to securing better conditions for those republicans unfortunate enough to be in prison.

  10. Apparently those who help broker the agreement between the screws and the prisoners have also reneged on their assurance that they would monitor the situation.
    People I have spoken to recently, are genuinely concerned about the prisoners and their plight.
    I know there is a considerable amount of apathy amongst Republicans, however I would say most genuine people are concerned.
    The problem is, they have no idea how to channel their concerns.

  11. Fionnuala Perry said...
    Apparently those who help broker the agreement between the screws and the prisoners have also reneged on their assurance that they would monitor the situation.

    Fionnuala, you would need to go back to your unreliable Maghaberry sources as the above is inaccurate. The facilitators who helped broker the Agreement last August has not reneged on their assurances/commitments and are indeed still involved in attempting to get a resolution to the ongoing crisis in Maghaberry. They prefer to work outside of any public glare which might not suit you or your sources but they have worked a lot harder on these issues than you, I or your sources.