Political prisoners are a consequence and symptom of the political instability and conflict which has characterised the existence of the 6 county statelet. Since 1969 over 10,000 Irish republicans have been imprisoned. The majority of republican prisoners have been incarceratired
The peace process has opened up a vista of hope. This needs to be transformed into reality. That means the speedy dismantling of the old agenda of conflict and putting in its place a new agenda of change to secure a just and lastiged. Compounding the injustice the Regiments commander was decorated for his services.
While the British authorities have, so far, kept the lid on their full involvement in hundreds of killings carried out by loyalist paramilitaries illttacks.
Shortly before Nelson's trial the most serious charges against him -two counts of murder - were dropped in an extraordinary deal which involved the British Attorney-General, Patrick Mayhew, acting to prevent the full disclosure of Britain's links with loyalist paramilitaries. The prosecution and defence entered into a cosy accommodation. Only onewitness was called (an anonymous army intelligence office, who described Nelson as a 'hero') and there was little cross examination. It is clear from this officers testimony that the British Army and the RUC were aware of the flow of their own intelligence reports to the UDA/UFF, and their use in targeting people for killing, at least as early as May 1987. British Defenrategy of using loyalist paramilitaries as proxies which resulted in 229 deaths and 300 attempted killings.
Imprisonment - a tool of conflict
Imprisonment is but one of the tools of conflict in the arsenal of weapons of war atly neglected or scuppered and Public Interest ImmunityCertificates issued to conceal facts and avoid the prosecution of British personnel. For the British government the issue of justice is subordinate in all of this. Military and political con personnel involved in torture or inhuman and degrading treatment.
- Only a handful of prosecutions were brought over killings by British personnel and even fewer convictions secured.
- Private lan Thain of the Parmurder of Karen Reilly.
- John Stalker was removed from the shoot-to-kill inquiry.
- Brian Nelson had charges of murder dropped and is today a free man.
- The findings of the Sampson/Stalker and Stevens inquiries have been withheld from publication.
This is also why;
- Approximately 60% of the current republican prisoner population have already served twice the time served by British soldiers Thain and ClegDonnelly are still in prison after 22 years.
- Three republican lifers have been set 'whole life' tariffs, that is, natural life.
The British government continues to pursue extradition requests of Irish republicans from the USA and the south of Ireland.
These few examples and the disparities they illustrate are but the tip of the iceberg of multiple disparities of approach to and treatment of what is in essence a political matter. Investigations, prosecutions, convictions, sentences and time actually served are largely dependent on what side in the conflict an individual has chosen.
Prisoner Releases are Crucial
In building trust and reconciliation, appropriate and process. The two are inextricably linked.
Immediate movement on the issue of prisoner releases would serve as a first sign that the British Government are bringing to the present process an acknowledgement of their responsibility for past conflict.
Imprisonment, the forcible denial of liberty, is unquestionably a form of institutional violence in a situation of political conflict. If other forms of violence have ceased then this form of violence must also cease.
Inaction on prison issues and particularly on the release of prisoners has, alongside other matters, eroded confidence in the peace process itself when what is required is concrete confidence building measures to enhance the climate in which agreeme released.
Pending the release of all political prisoners the following measures should be introduced immediately:
- Five Irish political prisoners held in England who have served 22 years in prison should be relears held in England should be granted compassionate and normal parole facilities.
- The categorisation of some prisoners transferred to prisons in the 6-Counties as 'restricted transfer' should be ended. All transfers should be secret reports which are the basis for the Review Board decisions, and the right to appeal decisions not to recommend release.
- The 'Work Out' procedure for life sentence political prisoners should be ended.
- The practice of strip-searching of male and female prisoners should cease.
- Restrictive conditions in the women's prison at Maghaberry should be ended. Female prisoners should be granted the same facilities as available to isin McAliskey should be released.
- Extradition requests should be withdrawn by the British government
- Time served awaiting extradition should automatically be deducted from the sentence of any prisoner who has been ehips through the arrangement of child-only visits in suitable surroundings.
- Facilities for the enjoyment of conjugal relationships should be provided.
- Appropriate training and education facilities should be made available to prisoners awaiting release.
POLITICAL PRISONERS - INFORMATION
Since 1969 over 10,000 Irish republicans have been imprisoned.
The majority of republican prisoners have been incarcerated in prisons in the Six Counties.
1 in 60 northern nationalists have spent time in prison over the last 25 years.
- H-Blocks Long Kesh 250
- Maghaberry 8
- England 26
- Portlaoise 34
- U.S.A. 4
22 Years in Prison
Five Irish political prisoners, Hugh Doherty, Harry Duggan, Eddie Butler, Joe O'Connell and Vincent Donnelly have all served 22 years in prison.
19 of the 20 sentenced Irish political prisoners held in England are seeking transfer to Portlaoise prison, the remaining 1 seeks transfer to a prison in the Six Counties. Prisoners on remand in England are not eligible to apply for transfer. The Irish Government ratified the Council of Europe, Treaty on the transfer of sentenced prisoners between states 22 years ago.
5 Irish political prisoners, all on remand, are held in Belmarsh SSU. The use of SSUs has been condemned by a range of Human rights bodies and medical experts. Since their inception SSUs have been used primarily to hold Irish political prisoners.
40 Year Sentences
4 prisoners are serving 40-year fixed-term sentences in Portlaoise Prison the have all served longer than the average life sentence in the 26-Counties Prisoners serving 40-year sentences are denied any remission of sentence.