15 October 1998 Edition

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Mála Poist

What about the people on the run?

A chairde,

It is great to see the beginning of prisoner releases and hopefully this process will speed up in the weeks ahead.

However, one group of people appear to be forgotten about. These people served the republican cause selflessly over the years and yet there seems to be nobody advocating their cause.

I am referring to the men and women who had to go ``on the run''. Many of these men and women have been in this position for longer than a life sentence, they have been deprived of contact with their families, they have not been able to see their homes for many years and have even been prevented from attending the funerals of immediate family members.

Surely it is overdue for this matter to be openly addressed. A general amnesty for any action committed before the date of the Belfast Agreement would appear to me to be the most straightforward approach to take.

At this time it appears that every group affected by the conflict have pressure groups representing their cause. It is time for the republican leadership to speak out on behalf of the men and women who are ``on the run'' for their commitment to the struggle for freedom.

Highland Paddy

Book about Armagh Jail

A chairde,

Since the closure of Armagh Prison in March 1986 many ex-prisoners have approached me about writing a book about our time spent there. I think it is a good idea, but only if all ex-prisoners contribute.

We all have something to say about our time in Armagh Prison, no matter how short or long that time was.

At present myself and a few ex-prisoners are arranging a venue for a meeting so that we can all share our ideas. If you would like to send me your story or attend the initial meeting I can be contacted at Conway Mill, Conway Street Belfast BT13 2DE.

On behalf of all the Armagh ex-prisoners I would like to congratulate Fr Raymond Murray on his book ``Hard Time - Armagh Gaol 1971-1986''. We have much to thank him for.

I would also like to thank the girls who organised the ``return visit to Armagh''. It was great meeting so many friends and comrades again.

Go raibh maith agat

Eileen Hickey


A chairde,

The decommissioning issue has now festered to the point at which it threatens the survival of the peace process. Having been abused in the past as a means of holding up progress and inflicting the humiliation of surrender on republicans, it is now harder to take seriously the nascent unionist case for decommissioning on genuinely democratic grounds.

Whatever the truth however about the conflicting interpretations of the Good Friday Agreement, it is a political reality that Trimble needs to have something to show for what is seen as the concession of installing Sinn Fein in the positions in the executive to which they are entitled.

Whilst there is no question of arms or explosives being handed over at this early stage in the resolution of the conflict, perhaps the IRA could undertake to look closely at the possibility of a move towards actual decommissioning once the executive and the north-south bodies have been duly set up at the end of October.

Only the good offices of a trusted American president stand a realistic chance of eliciting such a significant gesture from wary and undefeated military men. Perhaps he might prevail upon General de Chastelain to request of the British, that any destruction of weaponry be carried out by American personnel in situ.

Nick Martin-Clark

A chairde,

There is an unreality about the debate in the media about decommissioning. Surely it is obvious to everyone that the IRA cannot hand over weapons because the Unionists could then simply say, thank you very much, and walk away from their commitments under the Good Friday Agreement.

It is time to get real.

Terry O'Neill

Support for Kosovan people

A chairde,

We wish to express our concern and outrage about the crisis being faced by the 90% ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo. Serb aggression in attempting to defeat the KLA has resulted in the displacement of 50,000 ethnic Albanians, the torching of villages and massacres of Albanians by Serbs.

We support every diplomatic and peaceful attempt to resolve the conflict. We urge the Irish government and people of goodwill in both Britain and Ireland to use their influence to reach a negotiated, long-term settlement, which respects and guarantees the rights of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Furthermore, we support the deployment of international observers in Kosovo.

We are alarmed by news reports which suggest that a threatened attack by NATO is strengthening Serbian nationalism and that the leader of the opposition and the opposition movement are uniting behind Milosevic, in the face of external interference and aggression. We are also mindful of the consequences of air strikes for the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. We urge the Irish government, therefore, to use its influence with the British and American governments to ensure that whatever action is taken or whatever settlement is reached ensures the long-term, day-to-day protection of the rights of the Albanian people in Kosovo, and respects the Serbian position that Kosovan land is sacred to them.

Joe Sheehy
Clara Ni Ghiolla
Des Wilson
M Drews
June Aherne
Peter Mac
Martin Rosato
Breandan O'Fiaich
Brid Nelis
Gerry O'Boyle
Anne Monaghan
Noelle Ryan
Sarah McSherry
The People's Theology
Springhill Community House
6-7 Springhill Close
Belfast BT12 7SE

Increase schools budget

A chairde,

On Thursday 8 October I brought a group of 35 North Inner-city boys to a show at ``The Ark'' in Temple Bar. It was an enjoyable day and we all returned safely. Some of the money spent was from our ``Breaking the Cycle'' budget. However, on returning to the school I discovered my car was stolen. I was told later that it was used in a drugs related robbery in Lucan. None of the individuals were local.

I write to tell you this story because in the same week our Minister for Education and Science informed the media that some inner-city schools had too many resources. Over the summer period he removed a teaching position in our school. He reduced the staffing despite the fact that our numbers are higher than this time last year. When the talks were going on in June I was attending the funerals of past pupils. We had two drugs related deaths in a ten day period. All the community and voluntary groups pleaded with the Minister to save the job. He and senior offcials ignored the pleas. It's time the Minister for Education and Science Mr Martin came to live in the real world. Instead of cutting services he should be expanding them to ensure that all our children get justice.

Finian McGrath (Principal)
Scoil Plas Mhuire BNS
Dorset St.
Dublin 1

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1