23 October 1997 Edition
The vindictive arrest of Seán Kinsella
An Phoblacht readers are being asked to contact the Department of Justice to raise the case of Seán Kinsella
How An Phoblacht readers can help
You can assist the campaign to have Seán Kinsella freed by writing, phoning or faxing the Minister for Justice, John O'Donoghue at:
Department of Justice
72 St Stephen's Green
Phone 602 8202 (code from outside 26 Counties: 00 353 1)
Fax 676 7797
A candle-lit procession through the streets of Clones, Co. Monaghan, tonight (Thursday) is the latest in a series of local actions to highlight the plight of Portlaoise prisoner, Seán Kinsella. Following almost 22 years of incarceration, Kinsella's family and supporters argue that he should be released immediately.
There was widespread surprise and considerable anger on 4 March last when Kinsella was re-arrested while cycling to his sister's home in Redhills, County Cavan, where he had been helping to take care of his aged and ill mother. Contrary to media reports suggesting that he had been living the life of a fugitive, the Clones man had in fact been living openly during the 12 months since his return to Ireland in March 1996 after 21-years imprisonment in England.
At the time of his re-arrest, Kinsella was in the process of establishing a social support service for former prisoners in the border counties which would help them re-integrate into society.
It was widely felt that because of the length of his imprisonment in British jails, the authorities in the 26 Counties would set aside the life sentence he had been serving in Portlaoise prior to his escape along with 18 other prisoners in 1974. A sustained and virulent campaign by an Irish Times journalist, however, is thought by local people to have prompted the then Fine Gael/Labour/Democratic Left coalition government to order his re-arrest.
Support for Kinsella has come from all shades of political opinion in his native community and a local support group has been formed to mobilise pressure on the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat government to set him free.
Describing her brother's continued incarceration as `a great injustice', Pearl Mulvaney has called on the government `to demonstrate their compassion' by releasing Seán `without delay'.
Direct appeals to the Minister of Justice and Law Reform has been unsuccessful so far, but the family and support group hope that a massive letter-writing campaign on the issue will demonstrate the extent of public concern on the issue.
Irish Political Prisoners - update
There are approximately 385 Irish political prisoners in jails in England and Ireland.
Over 60 are serving life.
Approximately 80 are serving 20 years or more.
Irish Prisoners in England
There are 26 Irish political prisoners held in gaol in England.
Five prisoners - Vincent Donnelly, Eddie Butler, Joe O'Connell, Hugh Doherty, Harry Duggan - have served over 21 years. Vincent Donnelly will enter his 23rd year of imprisonment next May. The others will enter their 23rd year on 12 December of this year.
Six remand prisoners are currently in SSUs. The use of SSUs has been condemned by human rights bodies and medical experts. These prisoners are regularly strip-searched.
Irish political prisoners in England are denied compassionate parole.
All are seeking transfer to Ireland. The British Home Office continues to stall on repatriation/transfer despite legislation being in place to facilitate this.
Relatives of Irish prisoners who make the expensive and arduous journey to England for visits continue to be harassed under the PTA and still occasionally find that the prisoner has been `ghosted', moved overnight to another prison without warning to either the prisoner or family.
Elderly and infirm relatives are unable to travel to England.
Republican Women Prisoners
The NIO operates a policy of discrimination against women prisoners.
Facilities available to women fall far short of those available to male prisoners in either Maghaberry or Long Kesh.
Restrictive conditions in the women's prison, which male prisoners are no longer subjected to, include lock-ups, limited association and exercise periods, confined exercise space and restrictive access to telephones.
Women POWs leaving or returning to the jail continue to be strip-searched.
Since 1982 over 4000 strip-searches have been carried out on a female POW population which has never exceeded 32 women.
Strip-searching has been condemned by many human rights bodies including Amnesty International and the National Council for Civil Liberties.
Over 60 Republican prisoners are serving life
Lifers in the Six Counties serve, on average, 17-20 years.
Three Republican prisoners sentenced in England to life imprisonment have been set `whole life' tariffs. While the courts have rescinded two of these, one man is still subject to a `whole life' tariff. Whole life tariffs should be scrapped.
British army private Ian Thain, sentenced to life, was released after two years. British paratrooper Lee Clegg, sentence to life, was released after two and a half years, reinstated in his regiment and promoted.
60% of the current Republican prisoner population have already served twice the time Lee Clegg spent in prison.
The average length of sentence being served by republican prisoners is a little over 18 years.
Lifers are considered for release by an anonymous Review Board.
They are denied legal representation at such review hearings.
They are denied access to secret reports, compiled by unnamed prison staff, which are the basis for Review Board decisions to recommend release or not.
They are offered no explanation for a decision not to recommend release.
They cannot challenge any such decision.
Four prisoners in Portlaoise Prison are serving 40 year sentences. Three have served 13 years and one has served 17 years.
Sean Kinsella was rearrested in March of this year after having served 21 years in an English jail and he is now in Portlaoise, from where he escaped in 1974.
Marathon for prisoners
Ex-POW Michael Burke will be running in the Dublin City Marathon in support of the Repatriation of Republican Prisoners from English jails.
The marathon will take place on Monday 27 October (Bank Holiday) and sponsorship cards are still available from the POW Department, 44 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. Every effort from supporters to get sponsorship for this will be very much appreciated by the POW Department.
Anyone who would like to make a personal donation can do so by sending money to POW Department, 44 Parnell Square, Dublin 1.
The POW Department has asked supporters to turn up at the end of the marathon to give Mickey a cheer for all his efforts.