Pumping Up The Volume

When decorum is repression, the only dignity free men have is to speak out - Abbie Hoffman

The ongoing detention of the republican activist Marian Price two months after her arrest raises serious concerns about how life sentence licenses are being used as a weapon of political policing. Price was detained some days after being filmed holding a statement that was read out by a masked man at a republican Easter commemoration in Derry. The masked figure made threats to the PSNI and others in the course of his statement to the crowd. Price was subsequently charged with providing support for an illegal organisation.

Price’s reasons for performing some sort of auxiliary role during this Easter event will presumably be given in full when her case comes to trial. However, that is secondary to the fact that on the charge of providing support to an illegal body she was granted bail and should therefore be at home with her family and not locked up in Maghaberry. The charge against her was not considered all that serious otherwise bail would not have been granted so easily and so early.

That her license was immediately revoked means she is now serving time for activity carried out while a member of the Provisional IRA in 1973. She is not serving time for anything else, not for holding statements read out by others, not for anything. Her detention dovetails with the British practice of manufacturing categories of republicans: approved and non-approved. Those in the ‘approved’ category, like Gerry Kelly, are allowed into the US despite serving alongside Marian Price in the same IRA team that bombed London. A person’s republican past, as was made clear in the trial of Gerry McGeough, is not now a clean slate but a suspended summons to be issued when the British state’s nose is put out of joint.

The sole female prisoner in an otherwise exclusively male Maghaberry, it would seem the decision to hold her there rather than at Hydebank Wood is an attempt by the British government to lend amplification to the security threat supposedly posed by this woman. The British Secretary of State Owen Patterson began pumping up the volume when he said upon revoking her license that Price posed a threat which had ‘significantly increased.’ Not one shred of evidence has been forthcoming on this matter.

There is no case that can be made against Marian Price that would justify the imposition of a life sentence. Like the internees of the 1970s she is being held hostage to the good behaviour of physical force republicans currently campaigning against British rule. There has been no trial, no examination of the evidence in open court or an opportunity for Price to legally defend herself. Quite arbitrarily the British Secretary of State has signed away her freedom on the basis of some secret information provided by a British police officer. Given the emaciated reliability of that over the past four decades it is a sore point for many on the receiving end of British whispers.

Other former republican prisoners who served life sentences and who were subsequently released on license are now back in prison having had their licenses revoked. It is significant that neither Martin Corey nor Brendan Lillis are being held on any grounds other than PSNI whispers. They are currently, like Price, in prison for Provisional IRA activity dating back to the 1970s; a warning to others that they too can be recalled at any time. What guarantee do we have that a former lifer who simply refuses to become an informer for the PSNI or MI5 will not have their license revoked?

The detention of Marian Price is indefensible. Old policing methods are being used in what is supposed to be a new dispensation. The very forces the British government hope to overcome by revoking licenses are merely having their suspicions reinforced that the British cry foul while playing dirty. Much the same as they always did. Rather than persuade their republican opponents that dirty means should be out of bounds, the British actions merely incite them to carry such means onto the field of play.

Nor are such republicans likely to be enticed by dirty tactics towards any strategy that remotely resembles Sinn Fein’s, which is what the British want them to embrace. They will, with no shortage of justification, feel that for all its huffing and puffing Sinn Fein has not blown down any houses of repression but rather is warmly ensconced inside them rubbing its hands at the fire having burned its former comrades in the flames.


  1. A damning assessment. Gave me plenty to think about.

  2. Q...If both Marian Price & Gerry McGeough are 'guilty' of breaking terms laid out in the GFA..Then why isn't the same rule of law applied to Marty Mc G.? Wasn't he not so long ago at a memorial for IRA vols..where children were dressed up as 'terrorists' and holding replica guns...? He could-should be charged with supporting 'terrorists'...

  3. Some excellent points in this article Mackers.This latest strategy by the Brit occupiers should be of a concern to republicans.I can say without fear of being proved wrong that SF need not worry as they are now a party more akin to American repulicans rather than the Irish variety.Their collective silence over this new form of internment is deafening.

    Ps Mackers,I dont think I am the Eddie O person you thought I was.
    I know you will remember me if I remind you that I inspired you to write a poem called, The feet.lol+

  4. Interestint the media 'profiles' of Price and Kelly. The media were the biggest players in putting SF leaders on a pedestal.

    Greta article that, just says it like it is.

  5. Eddie,

    The Feet was about you being spied on was it not? I forgot all about it until you mentioned the title. Long time ago! One of the many that made it into the Cynic’s Book Of Alternative Poetry and Prose.

    What is happening to Marian should cause concern further afield than republicanism. We can expect silence from the usual suspects.


    approved and unapproved!

  6. Ms Price should be released immediately, even if, only on grounds of bail. However, this case highlights much wider issues.

    This blogg in some ways holds direct relationship to other recent bloggs highlighting the proliferation of various Republican groups; with the only distinguishing feature between them for most observers seems to be no more than their leaderships.

    In the absence of an Amnesty I would imagine it would be unwise for any brand of Republicanism(including SF variety), Loyalism, or Security Forces to assume that they have a clean slate as result of the GFA. While it would not be hard to figure why dissidents might specifically be targeted for return to jail or face fresh charges relating to a pre-GFA incident, it cannot be assumed that they would be the only target, or infact that they will be exclusively Republican. I understand that a number of Republican prisoners returned to jail support the GFA? If that is true then that would rubbish arguments of dissidents being 'victimised'. Realistically it would probably still be as unlikely to see former members of the security forces put in prison for past actions (not least because many of those actions may have been sanctioned from higher up)?

    While I make no judgment in regard the controversy regarding the Boston Tapes I can understand why anyone who believes that they have been named might have real concerns to know exactly what has been said about them --especially as they could be subject to legal action resulting in imprisonment. As has been pointed out, academia does not enjoy the same protection as journalism no matter how well intentioned.

    For anyone named on the BT's they have no way of knowing if the Contributor/s were inadvertently prepared, shaped or polished in their delivery of their recollections, or if any attempts were made to eliminate inconsistencies, avoid details or conceal information.

    If Contributors consulted with friends or former collegaues before recording their history on tape then they may have been vulnerable to suggestion or cues independent of the Interviewer's and without their knowledge?

    It is also possible that while Contributors to the BT's may have intended to be truthful and accurate the errosion's of time or developed prejudices may inadvertently have crept into their narrative's?

    There will always be a legacy of the past, for some it might be ever haunting nightmares but for others it could be stalking inquisidors.

    While the subject of what constitutes 'assisting terrorism' is a matter for the court to decide Ms Price's treatement is excessively oppressive and legally questionable and she should be released immediately -even if pending any future court hearing.

    Effectively Ms Price's life sentence has been revived on what at best is a minor offence (do these minor offences only exist in cases where the perpetrator is encumbered with a previous life sentence? Then a breach of equality laws would arise for arbitrary arrest) That Ms Price committed an offence at all is for a court to decide and not an Executive Court. While the 'law' means whatever those in political power want it to mean in places like Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, or many similar states, NI is said to be a democratic society?

  7. Unbelievable! The stance SF took over Mary McArdle (and rightly so), and the stance they're taking over Marian Price (i.e. none)is disgusting! What will it take to get these mealy mouthed Uncle Toms (a name they used to hang on Gerry Fitt) to even comment on this? Sorry, I'm away here to throw up in a bucket!

  8. Tiarna,

    'I understand that a number of Republican prisoners returned to jail
    support the GFA?'

    A far as I am aware that was true in the case of the abandoned volunteers. from the Tohill operation. I can't think of any others.

  9. Larry,

    and that media profile is not being used to highlight the plight of people like Marian Price. You would imagine that rather than giving time to chasing after money from the Sunday World over something mundane said about him 15 years ago Kelly would be openly pushing for the release of Marian.

  10. Anthony if the boot was on the other foot so to speak i.e. if Marian was a uvf/uda member you can bet your ass that there would be plenty within the dup including ministers would be demanding her immediate release,

  11. Marty,

    the problem for the Shinners is that each time they take up an issue like this they are being confronted with a problem they told every body they had solved.

  12. Anthony agree with that mo cara,but its a problem they cant sweep under any agreement carpet,or to quote the bearded one it wont go away you know!