25 November 1999 Edition

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Prisoner welfare group relaunched

Veteran republican Joe Cahill has called for a renewed focus on the welfare needs of republican prisoners in the coming months.

Speaking at the official relaunch of the Republican Prisoners Welfare Committee in the Felons Club in West Belfast last weekend, Cahill called for a coordinated approach by existing republican prisoner welfare and support organisations to ensure that financial assistance is available to meet the continuing needs of prisoners and their families.

Over 50 activists from throughout Ireland and representing various prisoner support organisations attended the meeting on Sunday last.

Commending the efforts of existing welfare organisations for the past 30 years, Cahill called for renewed efforts on behalf of the prisoners and their families. Cahill said ``The prisoners and their families have been well served over the past 30 years and more by a number of different organisations and many dedicated individuals. An Cumann Cabhrach, the Green Cross and Republican Prisoners Welfare deserve particular mention. I am aware that the work of these and other prisoners dependent fund groups in Ireland, Scotland, USA and elsewhere is continuing.''

Welcoming the relaunch of the Irish Political Prisoners Welfare Committee, Cahill urged those in attendance to assist in its ongoing work. ``This committee has set itself the task of reaching into every corner of the country. It is essential that it has your assistance. The needs of the prisoners are as great as ever. The work of this committee must be an addition to what exists and not a replacement.''

Cautioning against any complacency arising from the recent releases of POWs, Ann O'Sullivan, spokesperson for the POW Department, commented ``There are still nearly 100 POWs in Ireland and abroad. This figure will not change significantly in the forseeable future. We cannot afford to be complacent on this issue.''

Messages read from the OCs in Portlaoise and the H-Blocks thanked all those who had worked down the years on behalf of prisoners and their families and urged increased efforts. Echoing Ann O'Sullivan's concerns, Jim McVeigh, OC of the POWs in the H-Blocks, said: ``The current release rate is about two per month. The idea that all the prisoners will soon be released is not true and in any case would be no excuse for any easing up on this work.''

Gerry Hanratty, OC Portlaoise POWs, pointed out that ``December is traditionally Prisoners Month and we should ensure that the particular focus this year is prisoners welfare''.

Donations should be forwarded to Irish Political Prisoners Welfare Committee, c/o Ann O'Sullivan, 44 Parnell Square, Dublin 1 or c/o Sean Moore, 5-7 Conway St, Belfast. Cheques should be made payable to Irish Political Prisoners Welfare Committee.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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