Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

1 February 2001 Edition

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BAck issue: Hunger strike imminent

On the Brink

THE SITUATION inside the H Blocks has drastically reverted to square one with the stubborn refusal of the British administration to follow a `step by step settlement, which they themselves had proposed in December.

The rising tide of militancy in reaction to this, by the blanketmen, frustrated by lack of progress, has resulted in the smashing of cell furniture on Tuesday night, and has now brought the men to the brink of another hunger strike.

Over the last two weeks, there has been a steady stream of grave reports from the H-Blocks, of prison warders verbally abusing prisoners, of a number of beatings and of other provocations, culminating in widespread assault upon, and mistreatment of prisoners on Tuesday night.

But it was last weekend that the insincerity of the British government was finally publically confirmed, when 20 republican prisoners who had been part of a coordinated move into clean furnished cells took the de-escalation a stage further and began washing and shaving and had their hair cut.

By arrangement, their relatives had delivered their clothes to the prison last Friday, 23 January. But when the men asked for these clothes on Friday afternoon they were refused them and told by the prison governor: ``Not until there is strict conformity and you agree to wear prison issue clothes and do prison work will you get your clothes.''

This demand for the prisoners to crawl was rejected out of hand by them and shows that the Britis have learnt nothing about the tremendous strength of republican resistance from the four-and-and-a-half-year long struggle of the blanketmen.

But this does not necessarily mean that the Brits are stupid. It shows that they are deliberately creating the conditions for another escalation of the prison protest, the defeat of which they believe will have adverse repercussions on the overall national liberation struggle.

By remaining intransigent and inflexible, the British have taken a calculated political decision to ride out any criticism from those political and religious Irish leaders who are presently hiding their faces and to ride out the international criticism which the product of their intransigence - a second hunger strike - will inevitably bring.

Most Irish people view the British treatment of the prisoners and their attempts to criminalise them as being the traditional Brit response, which is as wrong today as it was in 1916 or with O'Donovan Rossa and Tom Clarke in the last century. People clearly understand that the republican prisoners are in jail under British lock and key because of their political motivation and the struggle for Irish freedom: thus they are political prisoners and not criminals.

Republicans throughout Ireland should today be bracing themselves, and moving into gear, as the refusal of the British Government to settle this issue forces the blanketmen into the inevitable.

An Phoblacht, 31 January 1981

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1