18 February 2010 Edition
Belfast hosts Basque solidarity dinner
More than 100 people packed into Belfast’s Cultúrlann on Saturday 13 February for a fundraising dinner in solidarity with the Basque political prisoners.
The dinner was organised by the Belfast Basque Solidarity Committee as part of the International Week of Solidarity with the Basque Country. It followed a white-line picket and a mural unveiling at the former Andersonstown barracks site earlier in the day.
Addressing the dinner, Sinn Féin Councillor Caoimhín Mac Giolla Mhín discussed the repressive conditions facing the Basque pro-independence movement today, including the persecution by the Spanish authorities of all acts of solidarity with the political prisoners. Today there are more than 700 Basque political prisoners deliberately dispersed in more than 80 prisons across the Spanish and French states, on average about 600km from their homes.
Mac Giolla Mhín condemned the offensive by the Spanish authorities last October, when they arrested several prominent pro-independence political leaders including Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi and the former general secretary of the left-wing LAB trade union, Rafa Diez. “As MEP Bairbre de Brún said at the time of the arrests, Sinn Féin has long argued the need to revive the Basque peace process,” Mac Giolla Mhín said.
“The banning of Batasuna, alongside the continued jailing of political representatives, will in no way aid this task. It will further impede any search for progress, which requires that every effort be made to improve and encourage dialogue between all of the parties in the Basque Country and the Spanish Government. Punitive measures and criminalisation from the Spanish authorities will not advance these goals.”
Michael Culbert, director of the Irish republican ex-prisoners organisation Coiste na n-Íarchimí, also addressed the dinner, pledging ongoing solidarity from republicans for the political prisoners in the Basque Country and in Palestine.
Speaking on behalf of the Belfast Basque Solidarity Committee, Daithí Kennedy said the dinner was also celebrating the launch of a new website, friendsofthebasquecountry.org, which will report news and analysis from the Basque Country in English and other languages in order to challenge the media blackout and censorship of the pro-independence left’s position.