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8 May 1997 Edition

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What will Labour do about McAliskey?

By Eoin O'Broin

Eight months pregnant Roisin McAliskey has been remanded in custody for another month following the adjournment of her bail application in Bow Street Magistrates court on Tuesday 6 May.

25 year old McAliskey was too ill to attend the proceedings. The court hearing was adjourned until after the child is born.

Gareth Peirce, McAliskey's solicitor, is preparing a bail application in light of medical opinion that her client is too ill to be in prison. Both McAliskey's midwife and doctor believe her condition demands that she should be in hospital receiving constant monitoring.

Roisín's mother, Bernadette McAliskey, speaking last week, expressed hope that ``the change of government in Britain will at least affect the humanitarian aspect''. She hoped the new administration will be prepared to review the case in the light of the collapse of alleged identification evidence, and at least consider the circumstances in which her daughter is held from a human rights perspective. She is considering referring the case back to the new Home Secretary Jack Straw.

In America, President Clinton has come under more pressure to act on the case following the publication of a letter by a war veteran threatening to return his war medals in protest at the White House's inactivity on the issue. Michael Pitts, of Washington DC, has pledged to return his Bronze Star Medal with Valour saying, ``I no longer desire to wear the decorations of my country if we have ceased to defend basic human rights and liberties by choosing not to at least speak out for freedom everywhere''.

In London, Fuascailt, the Irish political prisoners campaign group, held a picket outside Downing Street on Sunday 4 May to demand that British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the new Labour government, immediately release Roisin McAliskey. At 1pm the protesters handed a letter into Downing Street for the attention of Tony Blair, reminding him of the conditions under which McAliskey is being held, the length and severity of her pregnancy, and the fact that she has yet to be charged with any offence.

The letter also demanded the repatriation of all Irish political prisoners serving sentences in England to jails in Ireland.

Fuascailt spokesperson Peter Middleton said, ``We hope that a new Labour government who no longer rely on the Ulster Unionists to stay in power can bring new impetus and restore basic human rights into the issue of Irish political prisoners held in jails in England''.
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