4 September 1997 Edition
Saoirse to march to Belfast City Hall
By Michael McCracken.
Saoirse, the prisoners support group, is set to hold a massive Belfast city march and rally at the City Hall on Sunday 14 September, on the eve of the Stormont talks, as it intensifies its campaign to force Britain to repatriate and release republican POWs.
Saoirse chairperson Martin Meehan pointed out that Saoirse wants to raise public consciousness on all aspects of prisoners' lives, ``this campaign embraces the repatriation of POWs in English jails, the conditions POWS live under at home and abroad. There is also the issue of those prisoners in Portlaoise who are serving forty-year sentences, and the men in England who have served over twenty-years; none of whom have been given any hope of release. We will concentrate on a whole series of issues regarding the plight of prisoners, including release.''
Meehan also pointed out the forgotten people in the issue, the prisoners relatives. ``People tend to focus on prisoners, forgetting the plight of the families, especially those constantly travelling to Britain. Their horrific experiences, including physical and verbal abuse, strip-searches, wasted journeys, must be highlighted.
``We are asking prisoners to mobilise their relatives in strength, to make sure at least ten supporters each are mobilised. That will help us enormously to mobilise hundreds more at every demonstration.''
Gerry Adams has called for the ``immediate transfer of republican prisoners from Britain to jails closer to their families,'' stressing that the prisoners' treatment and ultimate release are integral to a resolution of the conflict.
Saoirse relaunch in Fermanagh
By Mick Naughton.
Fittingly choosing Gaol Square in Enniskillen for the release of 200 balloons, Fermanagh Saoirse was relaunched on Wednesday 27 August with Sean Lynch from Lisnaskea, who was on parole from Long Kesh, as guest speaker.
``Now,'' he said, ``is the time for pressure to be put on the British government for a movement on prisoner release. Immediate movement is needed as a confidence-building measure to anchor this current peace process.''
A main issue for the areas POWs, added a Saoirse spokeswoman, was the issue of repatriation, which needed to be addressed to ease the burden on prisoners families, especially those who had already served 20-plus years in British jails, those sentenced to 40 years in the South and lifers. She highlighted the situation of Clones-born Sean Kinsella. He had served 21 years in English jails despite the trial judge recommending that he serve no more than 12 years. On his release, when he returned home, he was arrested in Cavan after a short period of freedom and is now in Portlaoise prison with no release date fixed.