when do you have to agree with people to defend them from injustice?
A Missed Opportunity for Segregation
Liam O Ruairc (IRSP)
Republican Sinn Fein organised a meeting late in April at the Conway Mill in Belfast to outline the current situation faced by Republican prisoners in Maghaberry prison, where they are living in constant danger as they are outnumbered by Loyalists intending to kill them. The meeting was well attended by people coming from different political organisations (RSF, 32CSM, IRSP, ORM, Sinn Fein) genuinely concerned about the plight of prisoners, and it was agreed following the intervention of a representative of the IRSP that a new organisation independent of any political group would be set up to campaign on the sole issue of segregation for Republican prisoners. A follow-up of that meeting was organised on 26 May 2002, but came to nothing following the refusal of the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association to participate in a broad front for segregation.
The spokeswoman for the IRPWA outlined three reasons why they would not support the establishment of a new independent organisation that would campaign for the segregation of Republican prisoners. The first reason was that the constitution of the IRPWA stated that it was an independent organisation not aligned to any particular groups; so if people want to do something about the prisoners, they should join the IRPWA. The second reason was that the prisoners they represent told them that they did not support the idea of a new organisation being set up, given that there is already an independent organisation looking after their interests. The third reason was that they had doubts about the "independent" nature of this new body, as they claimed two of their representatives had been refused access by people associated with Republican Sinn Fein to a meeting about the segregation campaign.
that the majority of Republican prisoners in the North had declared
that they did not support the establishment of a new independent body
that would campaign on the issue of segregation, there wasn't much
point of pursuing the idea, and the whole project collapsed. This
is particularly sad as the project had a lot of potential. The ones
who are loosing here are the prisoners. The IRPWA may constitutionally
be an "independent"body, but the public perception is that
it is aligned with the 32CSM. A new independent organisation would
have been successful in attracting a support base much broader than
that associated individually with the 32CSM, Republican Sinn Fein
or the IRSM. The prisoners may have good reasons for being satisfied
with the IRPWA, but a united front campaign for segregation would
have brought them greater support than they currently have. The fact
that two representatives of the IRPWA were banned from attending a
meeting is disturbing, however, one should bear in mind that Republican
Sinn Fein and the IRPWA have no problems working together in a united
front in England through the IPSC. There is thus no reason why the
two organisations couldn't work together in Ireland. The IRSP will
continue to argue that the only way forward to struggle on the prison
issue is through a broad front.
INDEX: Current Articles
9 June 2002
Other Articles From This Issue:
6 June 2002
Paul A. Fitzsimmons
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