Internment Rally in Belfast

Martin Galvin with an unedited version of his letter to the Irish News which featured there on 16 August 2013.
The injustices which drew so many nationalists to the streets on Internment Day in Belfast must not be overlooked because of loyalist reaction. Internment Day had long been a day to march against British injustice. The symbolism was self-evident.

Internment went beyond imprisonment without charge or trial which began on August 9, 1971. British forces had shot down those who got in the way at Ballymurphy, hooded and tortured selected internees, and then given their final answer to Internment protests on “Bloody Sunday.” Compton and Widgery rubber-stamped it all.

Internment revealed Britain’s willingness to mete out and cover-up injustice whenever it served British interests. After Internment became untenable, it was replaced by Diplock Courts, forced confessions and a thinly veiled conveyor belt to the H-Blocks or Armagh.

As the first step in Britain’s new system, Republicans were arrested, denied bail on flimsy pretexts and taken off the streets for lengthy periods before trial. Often the charges were dismissed or case collapsed. Republicans during the 1970s coined the phrase ‘Internment by Remand’ to describe this tactic. Today the British have updated Internment by Remand. Some waited as long as three or four years to be acquitted.

For years, Internment Day marches were a launching pad for successive campaigns supporting Republican prisoners against each new British injustice. In recent times the Internment Day rallies were wound down then ended, perhaps in hopes that new structures including a compromised justice ministry and constabulary boards could be worked to end British repression from within.

There is no question that the number of Republicans wrongfully imprisoned today is dramatically less than in the past. However the plight of any Republican prisoners, who are victims of injustice and of their families, is not eased because there are fewer of them.

During past Internment Marches, Republican speakers repeatedly charged that British rule was irreformable and that nationalist politicians who joined the British system would end up as partners in its injustices. Perhaps those who taught me and so many others that truth were reminded of it on Internment Day. 

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