Whose Side Are You On?

Writing the day after the 34th anniversary of Bobby Sands having commenced his hunger strike in the H Blocks Dee Fennell reflects on republicans imprisoned today. Dee Fennell is a republican and community Activist from Ardoyne, and Chairperson of the Anti Internment League.

Since yesterday was the 34th anniversary of Bobby Sands embarking on Hunger Strike, I have been reflecting on the sacrifice that he and others made. Not just those who gave their lives on hunger strike, but others like Seán Bateson who also died in jail at a very young age. Others like Paddy Kelly died as a direct result of prison administration neglect, deliberately exacerbating their illness.

But also the sacrifices that all Prisoners endure. The final months with a parent, the new births, the family occasions. The victories of their GAA club, or other sports clubs. The loss of youth. The opportunity to start a family, or their contact with their children being restricted to letters and visits.

I lifted Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh's book Language, Resistance and Revival and came across the following quote from Mandela:

The challenge for every prisoner, particularly every political prisoner, is how to survive prison intact, how to emerge from a prison undiminished, how to conserve and even replenish one's beliefs.

Jail struggle is not a legacy issue. Jail struggle goes on today. If you want examples of people emerging from jail undiminished then think of Alex McCrory. Of Neil Hegarty. Of Scotchy Kearney. Of Ta Mc Williams. All of whom are currently in jail, having served previous terms of imprisonment. 

Mandela's quote, from 1994, finishes by saying:

prison is designed to break one's spirit and destroy one's resolve. To do this the authorities attempt to exploit every weakness, demolish every initiative, negate all signs of individuality.
 When others who have emerged from jail describe men like those I have mentioned as "criminals", ask yourself - have they emerged undiminished? Were their beliefs replenished or reconditioned? Ask yourself are they siding with political prisoners, or are they siding with the "authorities."

Then ask yourself, whose side are you on?


  1. Dee

    You raise an interesting question, but I would ask this, is it not possible to support political prisoners but yourself take a different political path?

    One of the successes of the H-block campaigns was they managed to draw in people of differing political persuasions. As did the Free Nelson Mandela campaigns.

  2. Yes your right one can support republican prisoner's but have a different political stance to that of the p.o.ws . However i don't believe it gives reformed republicans the right to label those who didn't support them as criminals.Mandela's book also said an agreement between former foes usually last around 20 years before it starts to unravel that gives pro treaty republicans three years to achieve republican objectives.

  3. why all this talk of mandela. the biggest coconut in history. he was well and truly a CRAP leader and his country is twice as fucked as when the orangemens friends ran it. as regards irish pows. where is the w. get a grip of urselves. the odd proxy bomb dusnt do it for me, sorry. have u guys not learned anything from the last 40 years. anyone involved with mil reps needs their heads examined. there will be NO popular support for mil rep prisoners because peoples hearts arnt with them. plain and simple. also, i wont go near them because they are RIDDLED. god love u if u are not aware of the racket u are involved with.

  4. Sean

    I agree, a political prisoner is a political prisoner full stop. Although I feel its not only OK but imperative for republicans who disagree with them to argue against the current armed campaigns.

    However unless the democratic process in the six counties becomes more than at best a halfway house, in which the main parties share out the electoral spoils amongst themselves, the reason groups like Continuity, etc exist today is little different than in the past.

    Nor I fear will they be any more successful in achieving their main aims.

    You make an interesting point about the 20 years, although Sinn Féin have made electoral gains and may well keep up that momentum when the southern electorate next go to the polls.

    What I find a little disheartening about some so called dissidents. (of course they are not dissidents at all as they have kept to the more traditional republican path) When they engaged in the PIRA war, they were prepared to accept setbacks, curveballs, moves away from the traditional path, and betrayals. Not like but accept as part of the long war.

    However when it comes from those Republicans who have turned to what I will loosely describe as the political path with Sinn Féin. They express shock horror, traitors everyone.

    As far as I'm aware no one set a time frame for the provos war, although by the time of the ceasefires it had clearly run its course. So why set a time frame for Sinn Féin?

    It becomes pretty obvious when a political party loses momentum and there is no sign of it with SF. If anything the opposite is true and unless something unforeseen happens this will continue, and maybe increase when the Adams leadership is finally carried off kicking and shouting "it weren’t me guv."

    Comradely regards


  5. Grouch

    Once again agree with your assessment. Mandela? He was the greatest example of the system extracting the leader from the movement, sorting him and his family out financially and having a laugh at the fools who backed him 'to the death'. Unlike Adams, McGuinness and this ISIS carry on I don't think Mandela was engaged in false fleg politics from an early stage. Likely just took a deal for a few years in luxury over dying in jail for fuck all.

    Republicanism today is exactly as you describe it. All I can say is there is probably a very good reason those in the 'vanguard' of what passes for militant republicanism are still at liberty given the extent of infiltration. Anyone over the age of 2 years of age putting trust in them needs serious help or simply has fuck all to live for.

  6. its the teenager / twenty somethings i feel sorry for larry. they have not been exposed to the right information. its the aul ones my age i have a problem with. as for their extortion wing, they will get what they deserve from karma. as do we all. bone idle bullyboys with delusions.

  7. if independentish republicans hearts arnt with them, they are well and truly isolated. and the sad thing is, there are the usual suspects on the outside who are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of a potential prison crisis to promote themselves, we had this 35 years ago with the buzzard wing of the provos. this is all first time tragedy second time farce scenario. and sorry if that offends anyone, but at the same time get over urself.

  8. Better (gullible) men on inside, lime light seekers and false flegers on outside Grouch. What amazes me is the number of 40 and 50 year olds jumping into jail cells like lemmings off a cliff....and never a 'stiff'. Wonder why? Have the middle aged jailbirds decided with Tories and labour both signalling intent to rob the pension pot, the only option left is the Maghabery retirement plan!

  9. A chara organized rage
    I wasn't putting a time frame on any particular party or group with the 20 years analysis.The point I was trying to make is republicans of this generation will see that sinn fein have not achieved republican objectives.i accept your point that their on an upward trajectory politically but I don't believe this strategy will end the occupation. I'm an anti agreement republican but grouch is absolutely right their is no armed resistance republicans need to debate the future of the struggle as we have men and women in gaol for nothing ,and elements of republicans hoping theirs a crisis so they can further there own narrow agenda.

  10. I wouldn't say all are gullible probably just pissed off with the normalisation process taking place at present. You are right about the lime light seeking republicans on the outside eirigi ect loud on rhetoric low on substance with the new buzz word being water warriors for fuck sake I can only imagine the Britts are shitting themselves.

  11. The SF twin headed monster has 'led the way' and now people see that getting fools to plant bombs, shoot people and do jail time or die in the process while you sit on yer arse and talk crap is actually a pretty good long term totally safe career choice. As long as your 'enemy' know your true intentions and the 'fools' promoting you don't.

  12. "republicans need to debate the future of the struggle'
    Get a grip. While you sit in smokey rooms with your "comrades" stroking your chins contemplating the meaning of the Proclamation, people are working shifts on 12 grand a year in a call centre with no pension, that's today's "struggle". We live in the most socially conservative peice of land in the western world, there ain't gonna be an uprising. A 32 county socialist republic is not going to happen. Get over it.

  13. well Peter what you class as today's struggle is also part of the wider republican struggle .I would like to play a part in shaping the future of our country and that doesn't mean sitting in "smokey rooms it means not exploiting workers like you explained and trying to get our country to benefit the majority not the minority like it does now.The only other option in my view is to forever give out about these things while doing Fuck all to change it.