27 February 1997 Edition
Repatriation deliberately slowed
During the ceasefire a promise was made by the Irish government to obtain the transfer of all republican prisoners from English jails within a given period. At that time they had a number of people dealing with the applications for repatriation which are part of this process. Throughout this time progress was made at a steady pace. Since the ending of the ceasefire the effort has been reduced to just one person working part time dealing with applications.
Again and again the prisoners have said that this process is one of humanity and that they did not want to be used as human pawns in the wider peace progress. The Irish government assured them that this was not the case and that every effort was being made on behalf of the families for the speedy transfer of their loved ones. Now, however, we have the farcical situation where the Irish and British governments are blaming each other for the long delay in processing the applications of republican prisoners. This is needlessly holding up the transfer of prisoners and it now appears that it will be well into the New Year before any more republicans are transferred nearer their families in Ireland.
While the governments continue to bicker, the families of the republican prisoners are the ones who have to endure further hardship. This slow progress can only be described as appalling.
Given that only six republican prisoners were repatriated from England during 1996 - one of whom, Pat Kelly, was an ill man, another, Brendan Dowd, should have been released along with his co-defendants and the last man to be transferred in December, Joe McKenny, had only a couple of weeks left to serve (and has since been released) - the prospects for any substantial movement on transfers in 1997 are very bleak indeed.
Having processed a number of transfer applications, each of which took a year to process, neither government (who now have the experience of operating the Transfer Act) has the excuse for any further delay in processing the applications. These could be done at a quicker pace if the political will existed, which at present does not.
We call for the speedy transfer to all republican prisoners held in English jails and ask for all our supporters and other concerned people to call on the governments to re-double their efforts to ensure that the families no longer needlessly suffer and endure the expense of travelling to a foreign country to visit their loved ones.
Portlaoise Repatriation Committee,
Pairic Mac Fhloinn,
In response to recent reports on the so-called ``chill factor'' at Queen's, An Cumann Poblachtach/Queen's Republican Society would like to state its case. We believe that it is a blatant lie to label the Student Union environment as hostile to Protestant students. The article in the Sunday Times and other articles in the English press have vastly exaggerated the situation in the Student Union; in fact we feel these allegations have been formulated to suit a Unionist agenda of `demonising' Republicans at Queen's. Queen's Unionist Association is one of the largest political groups within the Student Union, and its members and supporters use the Union's facilities on a regular basis.
In October last we held a successful and dignified picket to protest at the presence of Paddy Ashdown and, in November, An Cumann Poblachtach organised its own fitting tribute to the late Pat McGeown by holding an extensive exhibition and debate around the theme of the 1980/1 Hunger Strikes. Presently An Cumann Poblachtach is involved in the on-going campaign to alert people to the inhuman treatment of Queen's University graduate Roisín McAliskey through posters, leaflets and pickets. It is an inherent right that we be allowed to organise and participate in events here at Queen's.
Unlike other associations in the university the Republican society at Queen's is not affiliated to any political party in Ireland. Our membership is open to all students at the university, irrespective of creed and race. Also, we oppose strongly attempts to have our society de-recognised as this contradicts our democratic right to organise. We feel that any attempt to have An Cumann Poblachtach banned from the Union is also an attack on our freedom of speech.
Such reports as have been found in the English press are unhelpful in the search for peace and justice. Instead, they have led to an increase in hostile feeling towards young Republicans at Queen's. This is particularly evident in a threat in the Loyalist magazine ``Combat'' against the Republican Society. Such reporting is irresponsible, does nothing to help relations in the Union and may lead only to an increase in the ``chill factor''. We believe that it is the responsibility of all at Queen's University to create an atmosphere of equality with freedom from fear and intolerance.
An Cumann Poblachtach,
Bloody Sunday questions
Interviewed on RTE Radio's ``This Week'' on 16 February about Sir Patrick Mayhew's insulting response to his approach to him over Bloody Sunday, John Hume said that the troops on Bloody Sunday must still have been under the orders of the Stormont government.
The implication of this is that John Hume believes that the British authorities are too civilised to have countenanced the Bloody Sunday massacre, even though they did countenance (and still do) the barbarism of the Widgery Tribunal whitewash. Is John Hume just being naive again here, or is he just so pro-Brit that he's started to believe his own, and their, propaganda? Tell it to the families of the victims of the Amritsar massacre in India, amongst others, John!
In the same interview John Hume said that the relatives of those murdered on Bloody Sunday and the relatives of Private Restorick, the soldier killed on duty at Bessbrook, suffer the same. But they do not, for the cases are not comparable. Private Restorick was armed, the Bloody Sunday victims were unarmed. The relatives of Private Restorick are assured of someone (anyone) being (wrongfully) convicted for his killing. No soldier, or anyone else, has ever been tried over Bloody Sunday.
The urge to blame the Unionists and Stormont for everything whilst at the same time being conciliatory toward the British government and British people is understandable, though it risks being sectarian. But when it rewrites and revises history to justify its political approach it is a travesty.
The pathetic spectacle in the Westminster Parliament on Monday of last week, of both the government and the opposition literally ``Trimbling'' with anticipation that their concessions to the Unionists might pay off, served only to hide new Labour's true Brit agenda.
Out of the public eye, both the Chair, Dennis Canavan, and Vice-Chair, Jeremy Corbyn, of New Labour's backbench Northern Ireland committee, were strategically removed from their positions.
Given that Tony Blair MP is simply an anagram of I'm Tory Plan B, is this sort of antic to be taken as a preview of ``Plan B'' for the North of Ireland in action?
Stryd Yr Allt,