The Blanket

Dancing On The Graves
Of Ten Men Dead
No man survives when freedom fails,
the best men rot in filthy jails,
and those who cry appease, appease
are hanged by those they tried to please
- Hiram Mann

Anthony McIntyre • 18/10/2002

Getting up early on a Sunday morning is nothing new. Nor is there anything particularly daunting about it. In jail I could never lie on late, and as most of my time from the age of 16 to 35 was under lock and key in one prison or another for IRA activity, early rising became something of a lifetime habit. But having spent the previous evening - which stretched into the early hours - at a birthday bash for a member of the Socialist Worker's Party, getting out of the pit, not remotely refreshed by only a few hours kip, was something I did not particularly relish. Had it not been for republican prisoners in Maghaberry I would have slept on.

I had previously promised Liam O Ruairc, the editor of The Blanket's magazine but who also works in the Republican Prisoners Action Group, that I would take part in a demonstration at the prison. Leaving it behind me on a cold December morning ten years ago, wishing it was the last I would ever see of the place - or others like it - I knew I would return; not as a guest but as a visitor. And on many occasions I have made the tiresome journey back there either in buses or cars along with relatives, have undergone the tedious security checks, and shared the same dingy waiting rooms with other visitors in return for half an hour’s time in the company of a friend while the administration gazed down on us from its panoptical chair. It was always the same, whether I visited Flash McVeigh in Crumlin Road, Mick Hegarty in Portlaoise, Scotchy Kearney in Long Kesh or Carol Cullen in Maghaberry. Leaving them, I knew what they were going back into - I was just glad to be going home.

Returning a decade later to Maghaberry to protest on behalf of those republicans held within its walls I mused forlornly that here was another ‘gain’ the peace process had brought us - the ‘right’ of jailed republicans not to be political prisoners. Ten republican volunteers dead, the time spent by others on protest aggregating into thousands of years - to achieve political status and all of it now gone. And didn’t Mr Blair, the top British securocrat, rub it into us yesterday, spelling it out in terms which were anything but ambivalent that all resistance is criminal? And still not a criminal from the RUC has served a day in any of those institutions for torture. Their political status takes the form of immunity from prosecution. How the state never loses purpose when legitimising its own.

Maghaberry was a prison in which I served only three months, the bulk of it 'working out' as part of the hoop of officialdom that we had to jump through in order to complete our sentences. I suppose in part it was the administration's way of getting its own back on us for all the disruptive activity we had engaged in while under their keep. And as they contented themselves with doing just that I and my comrades were busily ensuring that each day we were on the 'work out' we would break the law in some way or another, even if it amounted to nothing other than continuing with our well established H-Block practice of smoking a joint.

Outside the prison gates last Sunday, a group - estimated by the Irish News to have comprised 70 people - had gathered with flags and a car from which rebel music blared. Marian Price and Roger Dillon from the Republican Prisoners Action Group spoke, as did myself and John Kelly the Sinn Fein MLA. Neither he nor I are at present part of the group. Between the four of us there was little that we disagreed on.

I expressed the opinion that while I, as a former IRA volunteer and one time political prisoner, was honoured to be there, I also felt a sense of disappointment. This was borne out of our failure to have satisfactorily resolved the prison issue for all time and that forced integration remained the policy of the British state. Other prisoners were now compelled to pick up the baton that somewhere along the way had been dropped. I also stressed that I was not prepared to differentiate between republican prisoners. What organisations or parties they belonged to was irrelevant to me. I was there as much for Denis Donaldson as I was for Ciaran McLaughlin, both men whom I happen to know.

Standing there as the drizzle started to assail us, as it had so many others over the decades, it was hard to avoid concluding that republicanism has been bled dry by the peace process. The British state has surgically inserted a strategic scalpel into its midst and scraped away any vestige of radicalism. And with equal dexterity it has reshaped republicanism so that it now appears indistinguishable from the constitutional nationalism republicans so long reviled. It has fashioned our leaders in its own image and has reduced them to pleading to be allowed to administer British rule rather than it being administered directly from London.

Those of us appalled both at the manner in which our anti-partitionist struggle collapsed and the glee with which our leaders jumped into the bosom of the establishment may not be able to do a lot about it. But we can ensure that republican prisoners are not, like republicanism, consigned to the scrap heap and dismissed by the British as mere criminals. Volunteers died to smash the logic expressed by Tony Blair yesterday. Those of us who were in prison alongside them would truly deserve the tag ‘criminal’ if we remained mute while he dances on their graves.


 

 

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It is better to be defeated on principle than to win on lies.
- Arthur Calwell
 
Index: Current Articles

20 October 2002

 

Other Articles From This Issue:

 

Dancing on the Graves of Ten Men Dead
Anthony McIntyre

 

The Wily Ways of a Boy From Ballymurphy

Barry White

 

SF's Ruse Coloured Glasses
Brian Mór

 

Historic Shirts of the World
Brian Mór

 

Prisons
Liam O Ruairc

 

From Belfast To Genoa - Now Florence
Davy Carlin

 

An Open Letter to the Democratic National Committee
Jeanie Bauer

 

The Letters Page has been updated.

 

17 October 2002

 

Statement from Republican Prisoners, Maghaberry

 

Running on Empty
Anthony McIntyre

 

The Political Treachery at the Heart of the IRA

Toby Harnden

 

Adams' Ashes
Brian Mór

 

The Boys of the New Brigade
Brian Mór

 

The Original 1930's Classic Blue Shirt
Brian Mór

 

Cherishing the Children of the Nation Equally
Liam O Ruairc

 

Republicanism and the Crisis Within the Peace Process
Davy Carlin

 

 

 

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The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
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