The Blanket

 

A journal of protest & dissent

 

Since when do you have to agree with people to defend them from injustice?
- Lillian Hellman

 

 

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.

Given 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.

 Marian Price (IRPWA) responds, Working Together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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INDEX: Current Articles

 

9 June 2002

 

Other Articles From This Issue:

 

A Missed Opportunity for Segregation

Liam O'Ruairc

 

Working Together

Marian Price (IRPWA)

 

After the General Elections, What Future for Sinn Féin?

Bob Shepherd

 

6 June 2002

 

The Short Strand

Anthony McIntyre

 

An díomhaointeas ag cothú drochiompair

Liz Curtis

 

Wishing for reunion but walking yet apart

Paul A. Fitzsimmons

 

Un-Festive

Dorothy Robinson

 

 

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The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002

Republican Voices

 

 

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