15 May 1997 Edition
Roisín thanks her supporters
Firstly, myself and Sean, and my family, would like to thank everyone for their active support, and I'd like to say what an overwhelming difference it makes to know that people do care, especially when surrounded by people who don't.
It's in a situation like this that you realise that it is the thought that really counts - when you're isolated from everyone, and everything that you do and say is watched and monitored, your thoughts are the only thing that remains your own - which actually makes it hard to share them with anyone, so I hope you'll excuse me if this is a bit dull and muted.
Although everyone knows what a prison is, I don't think anyone can image ``how'' it is until they experience it. There are no colours - everything is white or beige and there are no shapes. It's all straight lines and right angles. All smooth to touch. There are no smells and it's probably a relief that the food doesn't taste.
But the oddest thing is the noise. There's no natural noise; it's all metallic. Even voices don't sound natural. They lack the life of emotion or something. And it's then that you really notice that what is really missing in prison is the beginning and the end of life - there's no children and no old people. So the emotions and reactions that old and young evoke aren't here. There's no real laughter, or innocence, or wisdom, or need to care and comfort others.
But that's where thoughts make all the difference and remind you that life isn't like this. And there's more to people than prison allows you to see and feel. It's the closed and controlled environment that leads to closed and biased minds.
Out of nearly 30 women with children in the prison, only two would sit in a room with me. But when I'm treated like such a danger that I'm put in a high security male prison, why wouldn't they be fearful and object to having to associate with what is presented as a threat to the little they have for themselves?
There is a prison rule that prisoners cannot share, lend or give anything to other prisoners. So that while you are removed from your family and friends, you are prevented from building new relationships.
But if you're an Irish prisoner in England they segregate you - they build a prison within a prison. With the men, they house them in an SSU - Special Secure Unit. And as they haven't got an SSU for females I get a human equivalent. With two ``shadow'' officers accompanying me at all times. Human bookends, giving me my own prison within a prison.
The only problem with this is that there is no prison for thoughts. You can't keep people from thinking and you can't take a thought away from someone. So to know that I'm in your thoughts makes such a difference to my thoughts and my heart that I hope you can imagine even a small part of the great lift it gives me knowing that I'm only alone in the physical sense.
I'm due a month from today and I'm very aware that it's only through people making their thoughts known that I'm being allowed to keep my baby. So while thanking you for all the active support, I really want to thank everyone everywhere for their thoughts.
Vote Sinn Féin in East Belfast
Nationalists in East Belfast have never had genuine representation on Belfast City Council. Now is a perfect opportunity to redress the balance by giving yourselves, the forgotten nationalist electorate of East Belfast, a chance to have a say in the way in which you are governed.
Working on results from the last council election, Sinn Féin are the only party in this area capable of taking a council seat in the Pottinger Ward. Sinn Féin continually poll the highest number of votes in this district at every election.
We believe that if we get a strong turnout and a solid vote for Sinn Féin on 21 May your votes could elect the first nationalist/republican councillor from East Belfast in the history of Belfast City Council.
Sinn Féin members work on a daily basis in this district. Our members work with and in most cases are represented on every community group in the Short Strand. We are the only party with offices in the district, helping with housing, DHSS and other social issues on a daily basis. We are unlike the other Olympic-style parties who weigh in once every four years, promise everything but deliver nothing.
Don't waste this opportunity to change the political system which has continually failed to give meaningful representation to the nationalist people of Ballymacarret/Short Strand. Make sure you are represented and no longer misrepresented on Belfast City Council. On 21 May Vote Sinn Féin 1.
Sinn Féin candidate,
Imperialists mopping up
It seems to me that what is taking place in Albania and Zaire is part of a general mopping up operation already proceeding in slightly different ways in ``Bosnia'' and the former Yugoslavia, not to speak of Iraq and Cuba. Imperialism wants to ensure all resistance to its absolute rule is dissolved. In the case of Zaire the toppling of the corrupt Mobutu may ensure a more efficient rule for Western interests in that country. But in all cases what is involved is more secure access to resources.
For example, in Albania, there are considerable amounts of oil in two areas: Dumre and Patos Marinze. In the latter there were two billion barrels of heavy oil, of which 5% has been recovered. Dumre is reckoned to have 300 million barrels. One foreign investor said recently: ``In Albania we got in early, and we have even helped the government to draft its petroleum code''. And of course having a military foothold in Albania by NATO troops has implications for the whole of the Balkans, and Greece in particular.
Little need be said about Zaire with its mineral riches, or about Iraq's oil reserves which have always been eyed with interest by the Western powers, and which can now be manipulated as the needs of the oil markets require. (The puppet state of Kuwait was not created and nurtured by Britain for nothing. And Britain and France knew what they were about when they drew up the Skyes-Picot agreement in 1916 dividing the Arab world between them.)
Similarly Yugoslavia, which was stable up to the fall of the Soviet Union, was not going to be allowed to harbour any resistance to the march of Western capitalism to the East. Cuba, of course, has always been a thorn in the side of the US because it defies its giant neighbour and provides a good example of a government caring for its people, as Yugoslavia and Iraq would have done if they had been left without outside interference under the pretext of so-called ``humanitarianism'' and ``peace-keeping'' by some of the greatest sharks in history. The sanctions against Serbia and Iraq and Cuba, have resulted in the deaths of countless men, women and particularly children.
Of course the greatest prize of all has been Russia and the ``piece of the action'' in the vast oil, gas and mineral reserves in these areas. Other ``successes'' of the mopping-up process have been the destruction of the revolutions in Angola, Mozambique, El Salvador and Nicaragua, and the weakening of the revolutionary thrust in South Africa, making sure that that country conforms to the dictates of international big business. The whole of Africa, its people and its resources are at the mercy of big companies and the ordinary people reduced to absolute poverty and degredation by the so-called Structural Adjustment Plans of the IMF and World Bank.
A recent report by UNICEF states that economic reforms in eastern European have led to a dramatic deterioration in the reality of life for millions of children. They have given eastern Europe its first taste of previously unknown social ills such as drug abuse and child prostitution. Infectious diseases which had almost been eradicated in the old USSR are on the rise again. Just the kind of world we want for ourselves and those who come after us.
With a scenario like this is it too much to suggest the creation of an international movement of resistance, coordinated through the developed world and spreading its net into the weaker and under-developed countries. There may not be much time left before the completion of the takeover at present in progress.
IRA in Britain
The recent IRA actions in Britain - targeting airports, motorways and railway networks - undoubtedly irritated the new Labour government during its election campaign.
Regrettably, however, the fundamental reasons why the IRA feel compelled to take such actions has, I think, still not been properly understood by much of the British population. This is reflected in conversation and in general comments on national radio during IRA campaigns whereby the IRA are still regarded as only mindless terrorists and `men of violence'.
Prime Minister Tony Blair in his election campaign put education at the top of his agenda. This education will not include explaining why the IRA feel it necessary to persist in military actions against the British.
Unless the IRA begin to educate the British electorate as to their cause more fully then sadly, they will continue to be misunderstood, demonised and marginalised. What is urgently needed is an explanation for IRA actions that can be clearly grasped and understood by `unpoliticised' people. IRA statements in An Phoblacht, whilst helpful, aren't enough. More is needed.
This, I am convinced, would provide more constructive debate and discussion amongst the British population, and be a helpful catalyst for creating a climate of support for British withdrawal from Northern Ireland.