Radio Free Eireann Interviews Margaretta D'Arcy

John McDonagh (JM) and Sandy Boyer (SB) interview via telephone from Galway, peace activist, writer and playwright Margaretta D'Arcy (MD) about her recent incarceration at Mountjoy Prison for refusing to sign a bond stemming from trespassing charges leveled against her for protesting US military stopovers at Shannon Airport.

Radio Free Éireann

WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio

New York City

29 March 2014

(Begins time stamp 12:50)

SB: And now we go over to Galway to speak to Margaretta D'Arcy. Margaretta's an actor, playwright, peace activist and last Saturday she was finally released from Mountjoy Gaol in Dublin where she had been imprisoned because she had the nerve to sit down on the (runway) at Shannon Airport to block US warplanes from coming in.

She is seventy years old, suffers from cancer but the Irish government still felt that it was so heinous, so terrible to block US warplanes at Shannon that they had to put her prison. Margaretta, thank you very much for being with us.

MD: Okay. Listen, just a slight correction: I'm going to be eighty in June.

SB: Eighty, well...very important correction.

MD: I'm ten years older than what you said I was.

SB: Margaretta, why did you think it was so important to take this action at Shannon in spite of the fact that it meant you might go to prison?

MD: Remember for fifteen years we have been trying to get the Irish government to examine the planes coming in from the US, the military planes, to find out if they are carrying military hardware as well as the rendition flights that went through. So we have done everything possible. There's an organisation called Shannonwatch. They have been monitoring every single plane that's come in and out of Shannon. They have been monitoring the rendition flights. And the government has turned a blind eye to us consistently.

I mean, we've done everything. We've been in there. We've had our die-ins and our lie-ins and peace camps and all kinds of things. So in the end it's that we realised the only thing that really could make them understand - the runway - because that is where the actual crimes take place. The planes come in and the planes go out. So that by being on the runway we're also alerting the global aviation that Shannon Airport is not a proper, safe airport. And that's how we did it.

SB: And Margaretta, you could have posted a bond saying that you would not go back to Shannon and you would not have gone to gaol had you done that. Why weren't you willing to do that?

MD: Because if I posted a once again it's what the Irish government would have been trying to imply: that I am not taking notice of what's happening at Shannon. Because they would have said, Oh! She signed the bond. She doesn't have to take any notice of what's happening at Shannon. Everything is okay. As we know that if you go to gaol, especially in Ireland, you know, Mountjoy - all political prisoners. It's actually telling the people that you're serious.

SB: And Margaretta, two weeks ago we had Niall Farrell on who's been supporting you and he was saying that he was sending out press releases constantly but you got no publicity whatsoever until Sabina Coyle, who happens to be married to the Irish President, came and visited you and then the media was all over it.

MD: Absolutely! That was quite remarkable actually. And I really must thank Sabina very much because she's quite a clever woman, you know. For the fact that she comes on a personal visit. But the fact is she is visiting a political prisoner inside Limerick Gaol at that time because Limerick is a very high security gaol the fact that she was. The so she knew what she was doing.

SB: And it worked.

MD: And it worked. And not only that but on the eve of Saint Patrick Day when I was in the Dóchas Centre in Mountjoy in Dublin she had a wonderful bowl of shamrocks sent down for us and that really made us feel that we were part of the Saint Patrick Day celebrations.

But remember, Michael D, before he was president he was speaking passionately against the use of Shannon by the military. And then of course once he becomes President he can't really .... well he feels he can't speak out about this. So that you might say because he and Sabina kind of work together ... so that we might say ... so Sabina is sent down as the messenger.

SB: Margaretta, this wasn't your first time in prison. You were previously in prison in Armagh Women's Gaol in The North. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

MD: Yes, exactly! I'll tell you what the same thing happened really because we were there with a group of opponents there for International Women's Day and we were protesting about the conditions for the women in Armagh Gaol. And then eleven of us got arrested and they did not give us satisfactory court cases. And then they tried us in our absence when we weren't even there. And that what they said was oh ... they'd fine us. So in fact the same thing happened.

I was not willing to pay money to be silent about what was happening in Armagh so I preferred to go into Armagh and be with the women. And once again that was a very significant thing because no one from the twenty-six counties had been in gaol inside the North of Ireland. It also meant that women then began to have solidarity and began to demonstrate about the conditions of the women in Armagh Gaol. Because at that time the emphasis very much was on the men. And the Republican Movement did not really want to mention about the fact that there were women in Armagh Gaol. So that kind of broke the silence.

SB: And you wrote a terrific book about that called Tell Them Everything which is unfortunately out of print now.

MD: Absolutely, yes. And then of course I had been in gaol in Holloway in England because of my stance on the cruise missiles at Greenham Common.

SB: Now, Margaretta you have court date coming up for another action at Shannon?

MD: Yes. It's the same thing. Ironically, we were told what the state did not want. They did not want to highlight what was happening at Shannon on the runway so they were not going to charge us the first time. So we decided okay then let's put the gauntlet down ... we'd go on the runway the second time and they would be forced to charge us.

SB: Margaretta, thank you very much for coming on and I'm sure we'll hear from you again when your case comes up once again.

MD: I hope so. It's very kind of you to hear my few words. And my regards to everyone and all my friends in New York. Bye!

(Ends: time stamp 20:10)


  1. Well done on carrying this piece Anthony.

    I had occasion to catch a flight out of Shannon last year and the lounges in the airport were packed with hundreds of US troops dressed in desert fatigues! A most disconcerting sight in a so called neutral state. 'Shannon Watch' deserve support and publicity for their stalwart efforts in monitoring and highlighting this issue.

    Margaretta D'Arcy as Marty said, is indeed a remarkable person. She is a consistent and lifetime supporter of human rights issues. During the campaign to highlight humanitarian concerns about the detention of Dolours Price I attended a meeting in Galway and Margaretta was present despite her illness.

  2. Statement from Margaretta D'Arcy on her Release from Mountjoy Prison.

  3. And she wasn't prepared to participate in a knee-jerk response in support of the political police either!

    "Well-known writer Margaretta D'Arcy refused to stand for a minute's silence in honour of murdered policeman Ronan Kerr at a meeting of the State-sponsored artists body Aosdana.

    During the minute's silence, all 120 members present at the annual general meeting of the government-funded organisation, held this year in the College of Surgeons in Dublin, stood in a joint tribute to the PSNI man -- all except the Galway playwright, who is now in her 70s.

    Ms D'Arcy has also been known as a political activist and has held strong republican views. She protested over the treatment of republican women prisoners in the North during the Troubles and was jailed twice in the North herself, during which time she joined the republican women's no-wash protest in Armagh."

    Ref. Galway Advertiser