I return to the Blanket to put my tupennys
Opression and Depression, Sean Fleming 1 July
I am way behind time, but time is not way behind
me, nothing much has changed as regards the aftercare
of prisoners who have served long, or not so long,
happens to prisoners who have often spent fifteen,
twenty years in gaol? Often on the Blanket, in their
own body waste, dirty, unstimulated, dependent on
their own resources (which were massive), at the
whim of a screw or a Governor. Living inside their
own heads and sharing the bits they could with their
is used to freedom. To walk the streets, to work
a job, to love a wife, to hug their kids and put
them to bed at night...to be free to do these simple
is "abnormal" for the human spirit.
we swam free in the water, we followed the food,
we moved onto the land; we got up on two legs, and
the world, the big world was ours (never mind the
were free to roam its hot and cold spaces. We settled,
became communities and set up our own rules to protect
ourselves from others. Short of death and maiming
there was one alternative method to punish the "miscreant".
Lock them up.
would hate to be thought of as an amateur paleontologist,
but I am going somewhere, bear with me.
rights or wrongs of prison are not my concern today,
I mean at this very moment. My concern is for the
man or woman who spent many years in prison and
came out to a new world, a different world, a world
they had to learn to live in all over again.
is true that in the past Republican prisoners did
their time and that was that. No help was sought
or thought necessary after jail time was served,
although in those days it tended to be of shorter
duration than we went through from the 70's.
who did not do their time well were spoken about
in hushed tones as if they were in some way "weak",
not "up to it", "not the right calibre".
be told being in prison is an "abnormal"
way to spend a big part of your life. Why should
normal people placed in this "abnormal"
situation not be in some way changed? Damaged?
We are Republicans and we are strong in our beliefs
and our Principles. But, the awful flaw is, that
we are human. That means we can suffer or we can
show no mercy, to others or to ourselves.
is the human that has been neglected for too long.
Professor Robert Winston has done a wonderful series
of programmes about human behaviour. He escorts
us through our ancient roots to the present day.
We realise that the human mind is a finely tuned
instrument, able to deal with all situations, from
"fight to flight" instincts, why should
we ignore the situation where flight is not possible
and "fight" is usually not the immediate
option for the prisoner.
have but one obvious and immediate weapon left to
them, political prisoners I refer to, their own
meant to write a whole different piece about prisoners
after they leave jail but I was interrupted by the
programme about the Hunger-Strikes, December and
watched, as I do, with sadness, anger, empathy and
a feeling of deep betrayal by the Republican Leadership
of that time. Gerry Adams spoke truly when he said
the Leadership could not order the men off the Strike,
it is a prisoners choice. Yet, was there need for
a statement to be sent to the hunger-strikers, when
Bik McFarlane and Richard O'Rawe had already decided
that the British terms would be sufficient to stop
the deaths, was there need for a statement from
"the Big Lad" that they were "surprised"
that the prisoners thought the deal was adequate?
Gerry, not upcasting, (but am) was it seven or fourteen
days you did?
biggest mistake the Hunger-Strikers made was to
let ye, Sinn Fein, take over their power of negotiation.
I, in my assumed capacity as O.C on our operation
took it upon myself, in consultation with the other
volunteers to control our Strike. To speak to whom
might be of use to us and to refuse those we knew
were not friends. Call it arrogance, but I'm typing
on this machine today, denouncing Morrisson and
Gibney for their crocodile tears, and sympathising
with Lawrence McKeown, he lived and his friends
died. There will always be a question in his mind.
know that feeling only too well. We were "force-fed"
for a long time, it meant we did not die. Once the
British Medical Council refused to "force-feed"
prisoners, then the British Parliament rushed a
bill through Parliament making it an impossibility
to keep prisoners alive by shoving a tube down their
throats! So, was I responsible for the deaths of
those who "benefited" by this new law?
can go on and on. At the time I called Faul for
all the bastards I could, now, with that old friend,
hindsight, maybe he saw clearer than we idealists.
wanted to write a whole piece about prisoner, ex-prisoners
needs, particularly psychological, but I got waylayed,
mugged, by the H/S programme. I still weep and recall
the time I was in Musgrave Park Military wing, late
April, and each day they said Bobby Sands will be
here soon. But he never came, I went and he died
on the 5th of May. I had hoped to give him a last
damn you apologists.