On Bail in Jail
A discussion yesterday on BBC’s The Politics Show, illustrated just how voluble the public discourse around the ongoing detention of Marian Price has become. To the extent that there is a discourse rather than the issue being suffocated under a blanket of silence, is the outcome of persistent campaigning by people with no power pushing the issue right under the noses of the powerful. Included amongst them are many former prisoners who are determined that British injustice will be confronted whenever it shows its ugly face.
Four people from the DUP, Alliance, Sinn Fein and the SDLP took part in the studio discussion about the matter. The most assertive, even aggressive, advocate on behalf of Marian Price’s was the SDLP’s Alban Maginness. He turned Peter Weir of the DUP inside out, not mincing his words and hammering the idea of political detention, which he rightly called internment. Mairtin O Muilleoir of Sinn Fein also challenged the British decision to hold Price without trial. While not as passionate as Maginness, he too effectively rubbished the DUP case and was critical of British state policy on the matter.
With the Alliance Party you always get the impression that if the respective governments in Ireland and Britain intended to introduce driving on the other side of the road in line with wider European society, Alliance would want to do it gradually, a thousand cars a day. They would convince themselves it would be the right way to proceed oblivious to the pandemonium it would cause. But on this issue the party’s chief whip Stewart Dickson, try as he might wish to sit in the middle of the road, could not conceal his unease about the Price detention.
Weir alone was pleased, but then they his ilk always is. Claiming he would not be ‘crying too many tears’ at Price's incarceration, he was prevented going ecstatic only by the deftness of Maginness taking the wind out of his sails he each time he opened his trap. None of the DUP arguments square up. The notion that the judges only granted bail on the two charges against Price because they knew she was in jail anyway made no sense. The opposite is more likely to be true. Why bother granting bail to a person who can’t avail of it because they are already in prison? Marian Price was given bail because the judges involved considered her to pose no threat on the basis of the evidence before them. Simple as.
When due process kicked in last year and Marian Price got bail, the British dived in with the foul tackle for which she, not they, got the red card. Despite being 'on bail' since she has in fact been in jail, due process ignored, at the mere stroke of an unaccountable British politician’s pen. Journalistic bane of Tory policy in Ireland, Eamonn McCann has since commented that ‘the continuing imprisonment of Marian Price in Maghaberry is a scandal and would be seen more widely in this light were it not for her politics.’
Paterson in overruling the decision of the bail court in Bishop Street Derry made a clear political intervention into the realm of the judicial, belying any notion of a separation of powers. Due process was duly subverted and a politician not a judge, committed Marian Price to prison without trial, a policy Paterson’s Tory antecedents under Heath and Maudling introduced in the North with disastrous consequences.
Most people are out on bail but in this case courtesy of British malpractice Marian Price is in on bail.