Martin Corey has spent more than three years in Northern Ireland’s Maghaberry Prison. Although he hasn’t been charged with any crime, there is little prospect that he will be released any time in the foreseeable future. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, a British Cabinet Minister, has revoked his license – parole in American terms - which means that he can be imprisoned indefinitely without a trial, sentence or release date.
Martin Corey received a life sentence in December 1973, when he was 19 years old for killing two members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Northern Ireland police force, in an IRA operation. He served 19 years and was released in June 1992.
Martin Corey returned home to Lurgan, County Armagh. He started a business, formed an ongoing relationship, and became a highly respected member of the local community.
The police appeared at Martin Corey’s door and took him away to prison in the early hours of April 16, 2010, almost 18 years after his release.
His younger brother Joe described what happened:
They came to the door at around 6 a.m. There was about 12 of them standing there when I answered the door. They asked for Martin and told me the Secretary of State had revoked his licence. They gave no reason for this. There was no struggle. He just got up and walked out with them. The brought him to Maghaberry, where he has been ever since.
He was informed that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland had revoked his license because he was a “security risk.” Later it was claimed that “he was involved with dissident republicans.”
The Northern Ireland Parole Commission, which is appointed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, held secret hearings where neither Corey nor his lawyers could see the evidence. They returned him to prison, saying he was "a risk to the public."
A Belfast judge ordered him released on unconditional bail on July 9th because he was being held on the basis of secret evidence. His family rushed to the prison to bring him home.
But while Martin Corey was sitting in the prison reception area and they were waiting outside, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland overruled the judge and ordered him re-arrested.
His lawyers have announced that they will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. But this is a time-consuming process that can consume a year or more.
'Martin Corey was released by the courts.'In 2011, Martin Corey told The Lurgan Mail that:
I have been in prison for nearly a year and a half, and I still haven’t been given a reason. They have put forward a number of allegations against me, and I’m not able to defend myself against any of them. They say I have been seen speaking to known republicans, and that I visited a number of houses. What does that matter? It doesn’t mean I’ve done anything wrong. They have absolutely nothing on me, and that’s why they haven’t charged me.His partner, Lynda Magee, said:
He does not know what he has done and has been told nothing about why he is being held He has already served his time and he was willing to do it. But now he is being held for no reason.
Martin Corey is a member of Republican Sinn Fein, a legal political party throughout Ireland. They are opposed to the Good Friday Agreement because they believe it perpetuates British rule in Northern Ireland. Republican Sinn Fein is almost universally believed to be affiliated with the Continuity IRA in the same way that Sinn Fein was traditionally affiliated with the IRA. This can be used by British authorities to justify imprisoning Martin Corey because he is a “dissident republican” and a threat to the peace process.
But people on both sides of the Atlantic who have little or no sympathy with Martin Corey’s politics are demanding that he be released.
Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, met the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in the Dáil (Irish parliament) and urged him to free Martin Corey. Adams stated that 'Martin Corey was released by the courts… [He] should be released and I put it very strongly … that this should be done.
At its last convention, the AOH passed a resolution:
that the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America condemns Owen Patterson [the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland] for the continued imprisonment of Martin Corey and urge that be released immediately on unconditional bail.Like Martin Corey, Marian Price was imprisoned without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence until she was released in May after her heath was all but broken. They are the most recent targets of the ongoing policy of interning political prisoners.
Martin Corey is only one more victim of the permanent human rights emergency in Northern Ireland. Just in the last few months:
- Stephen Murney has been charged with "possession of materials of use to terrorists" for taking photographs of the Northern Ireland police in action.
- The police tried to intimidate a key witness in order to prevent Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooten from appealing their conviction.
- In May, John Downey was suddenly charged with a 1982 bombing when he went to London from his home in Donegal.
As essential as campaigns for individual prisoners are, it’s no longer enough to campaign for one or another of the political prisoners. Both in Ireland and the United States we need to try to broaden our campaign to include as many prisoners as possible and challenge the whole attack on basic human rights. Otherwise, there will be more political prisoners in the very near future.
As Northern Ireland civil rights leader Bernadette Devlin McAliskey put it:
The Good Friday Agreement promised and end to this abuse of human rights and democracy. It is long past time it delivered on this promise. It is also time the international power players who created this deformity of democracy held it to account.