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9 October 1997 Edition

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Saoirse demand increases

WHILE THE REPERCUSSIONS OF Martin McGuinness's Coalisland speech centred on his declaration that Sinn Féin would be entering the Stormont talks determined to ``smash the union'', the reason for the march and rally at which the speech was made went largely unheeded.

The several thousand republicans who travelled to the County Tyrone town on Sunday 5 October went there to support the demands of Saoirse, the prisoners support organisation, for the release of all political prisoners.

Support for the POWs in English prisons, in Long Kesh, in Maghaberry, in the United States and in Portlaoise was evident in the warm welcome extended by Sunday's crowd to the relatives of the POWs who addressed the rally. These included Frances McHugh whose brother Brian McHugh is at present in Belmarsh jail in South London on 23 hour lock up.

And the applause which greeted Deirdre McAliskey as she called for the immediate release of her sister Roisin and baby Loinir spoke volumes for the concern republicans have over this latest attempt by the British to punish one family for their beliefs.

Earlier the parade had left three departure points at Gorgonis, Brackaville and Annagher and, accompanied by flute bands from across the North, marched to Coalisland RUC barracks where Saoirse activists tied green ribbons and placards on the wire surround of a sangar that dominates the town square.

Speaking to An Phoblacht after Sunday's rally Saoirse's chairperson Martin Meehan expressed his ``delight at such a turnout'', and urged nationalists ``throughout Ireland to support any future protest organised by Saoirse. In the coming months it is crucial people show their support for the POWs,'' he said.
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