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Ex-prisoners are entitled to EU support

5 August, 2004

Sinn Féin West Belfast MLA Michael Ferguson has told the DUP MEP Jim Allister that ex-prisoners are entitled to EU support.

Mr Ferguson said:

"Jim Allister needs to recognise that the entire nationalist and republican community were subjected at a campaign of illegal and often wrongful arrest and conviction on the basis of bogus forensic evidence, forced confessions and Diplock courts. Thousands of people from the nationalist community have spent, collectively, 150,000 years imprisoned often for nothing more than being nationalists and opposing the sectarian nature of unionist misrule and the British presence here.

"Ex-prisoners groups represent people who were victims of the conflict, and in particular their families and children who have suffered at the hands of the British state and its criminal justice system. People who would have led very different lives if the nature of this statelet hadn't demanded that communities rise up to both protect themselves and fight against British rule in Ireland and the abuse of power and discrimination of unionists.

"Conflict resolution requires that we all recognise the suffering that has affected people across all sections of our society. There is no hierarchy of pain or suffering. There is no hierarchy of victims. It is vital that support is given all people who have suffered as a result of the conflict.

"Ex-prisoners are entitled to EU support. Many ex-prisoner groups provide vital services and contribute much to their communities." ENDS

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