7 April 2005 Edition

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Coiste organises anti-criminalisation rally

Former republican prisoners and their families are being asked to come out in force to support an anti-criminalisation rally in the Europa Hotel in Belfast.

The rally, organised by Coiste na nIarchimĂ­, is set for the Belfast hotel at 7.30pm next Monday 11 April, and organisers say they want to send out a message from ex-POWs that the latest attempt by the British Government, aided and abetted by the Dublin Government, will not work.

According to Dominic Adams of Coiste the rally "will hear from a host of speakers, some who were involved in campaigns over the years to defend the rights of POWs, and some former prisoners. We also want to outliine the positive and constructive input of republican ex-prisoners and activists in the attempts to build an equal society and a just and lasting peace in Ireland.

"We want as many ex-POWs and their families to attend the rally as possible because these current attempts to criminalise us affects not only ourselves as former POWs but is designed to affect our families, communities, and the thousands of people who took to the streets to support us when we were imprisoned."

Adams pointed out that ever since the first civil rights marchers took to the streets in the late 1960s, first the Unionists in Stormont and then the British, after direct rule was imposed, have made attempt after attempt to criminalise the republican struggle.

"As prisoners went into jail they became the main target of the criminalisation strategy and this obviously lead to the protests in Armagh and the H Blocks and eventually the hunger strikes.

"The many people who supported the prisoners then are the people we want to see at the rally next Monday because the present attempts to criminalise republicanism is directed at the ordinary republican voter as much as it is directed at the Sinn FĂ©in leadership. So I am calling for a huge turnout and for people across the North to turn up at the Europa and show the British that their strategy to criminalise the Irish struggle for justice and equality will not work".

Speakers at he rally will include Fergus O'Hare, a member of the National anti-H Block Armagh Committee, and former prisoners Laurence McKeown, Rosie McCorley and Kathy Stanton. Raymond McCartney will chair the event.

An Phoblacht
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