PROSE AND CONS.
By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.
Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.
First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O’Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.
I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.
Swimming up the river in a lazy kind of mood
feeling very hungry I was looking for some food
from the corner of my eye
I saw a fly
I caught him in a flash
and dived in again
with a thunderous splash
slowly swimming along chewing with ease
all of a sudden I had to sneeze
deep in my chest I felt I had the flu
my mouth opened and out went my chew
although he was half dead he tried to get away
I caught him with ease, it was just my day
along the river waved my tail with ease
feeling very happy and free
in front of my eyes was a fish of many colours
swimming alone there wasn’t any others
I snapped it with my mouth
in and out my gills the hooks were hanging out
with a few jerks I was up on the bank
standing over me an Irishman and a Yank
saying to his partner “He is a beaut!”
I’m lying down like James Galway’s flute
he lifted me up and weighted me fine
saying to his friend I was eight-nine
weaker and weaker the lights were going out
I should have known better not to open my mouth.
Paul Dillon. (Next : ‘Fear’, by John Doran.)
IS PEACE SAFE WITH ANDREWS….?
Where politics once stagnated, events in Northern Ireland now chase each other helter-skelter. As ‘Magill’ went to press, a new joint government document turned recent perceptions head over heels. Fionnuala O’Connor charts the doubts behind the instant reactions. From ‘Magill’ magazine, February 1998.
The charge now – made more openly by Sinn Féin and less so by some in the SDLP – is that Bertie Ahern allowed British prime minister Tony Blair to re-tool a draft ‘heads of agreement’ document presented to the parties on January 12 in both their names, under pressure from Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and the threat of increased loyalist violence. The concern was that this sets out an agenda for negotiation that has been stripped of the framework’s essence and was nakedly partitionist.
“What bothers me is the notion that there’s no centre of gravity anymore” , says an ageing observer, “maybe this is the crunch that always has to come. Maybe it was inevitable when unionists were faced with the necessity to deal and republicans had to face the limits of what’s on offer. But I think I see signs of the British losing the plot. Worse than that, the Irish seem to have forgotten it.” Another observer was more blunt : “The Brits are never going to stick with it unless Dublin stays on their back. It’s always been the way. Why would Tony Blair be different? Bertie Ahern has lost the script. And if Martin Mansergh’s still dialoguing with the Provos, nobody’s listening to what he hears.”
The most serious implication some draw, almost under their breath because they dislike admitting they think so, is that the government has helped confirm loyalists in the belief that the talks and the entire ‘peace process’ can be swept away if they continue to kill at the present rate…. (MORE LATER.)
CONDITIONS IN ENGLISH JAILS….
Like their comrades in the H-Blocks and Armagh, the Irish POW’s in England have resisted criminalisation against all the odds, with the same conviction articulated by Joe O’Connell, speaking from the dock at the Old Bailey during the 1977 ‘Balcombe Street’ trial – “We admit to no crimes. The real crimes and guilt are those British imperialism has committed against our people.” From ‘Iris’ magazine, July/August 1982.
The rules governing category ‘A’ prisoners are used punitively against them and it is this system that has enabled the British Home Office to treat them in an altogether more repressive way than other groups of prisoners, while formally maintaining the fiction that there are no political prisoners. The rules are designed to impose maximum isolation on the Irish prisoners.
Solitary confinement is a major weapon : British courts cannot sentence anyone to long periods in solitary but through the use of 28-day renewable spells in the ‘punishment blocks’ the prisons have constantly done just that to Irish POW’s, for petty infringements of prison rules, protests and reactions to beatings they receive from prison warders.
In addition, ‘Rule 43’ allows a prisoner to be isolated indefinitely to ‘maintain good order and discipline’ in the prison. By using these two rules, the regime has managed to hold Irish POW’s in continuous solitary confinement for as long as two-and-a-half years (Brendan Dowd) and several for two years (Eddie Butler, Liam McLarnon and Hughie Doherty) and almost all for regular 28-day spells.
When six POW’s in Albany prison staged a peaceful ‘sit-in’ in their cells in 1976 as a protest against Brendan Dowd’s two-and-a-half years in solitary, they were subjected to a full-scale attack by prison warders, leading to broken limbs and other serious injuries, and were punished by further periods in solitary. Physical assault is routine ; nearly 75% of POW’s have been seriously attacked and beaten, many to the extent of being hospitalised… (MORE LATER.)
RESPECT EACH (AND) EVERY BLOOD OK ?
…and it is ok to do that – it’s the way it should be and the way it has to be but no, it’s not ok to purposely aim to break that acronym, as a marketing ploy, unless you consider that apologising after such a blatant and obvious ‘no respect’ incident is ‘OK’, and I, for one, don’t think it is. But some marketing and/or management ignoramus at ‘Reebok’ saw nothing wrong in launching an ‘Ireland’ T-shirt, pictured, left, with a geographically (and politically) incorrect ‘map of Ireland’ on it and attempting to sell same by stating that sport fans should ‘..show (their) UFC territorial allegiance with this UFC Ireland map tee…’.
The ‘Reebok’ company has since apologised for their “design error” mistake and withdrawn the product from their shops, but it’s hard to believe it was a genuine mistake rather than a mere marketing ploy. And whether it was a mistake or a ploy, it caught the attention of, among others, the Conor McGregor camp, who voiced their objection and challenged Reebok to correct it or else…
..and, again, the Reebok team screwed up – this time, by not pointing out to the McGregor camp that they and their man can’t have it both ways ie wearing a poppy (as McGregor is, pictured, left) and declaring yourself to be, politically, a 32-county supporter at the same time! McGregor himself must have noticed the hypocrisy involved but dug a deeper hole by going on the offensive about it – “I know where my allegiance lies and what I do for my country. I don’t need a stupid little flower with a 100 different meanings to tell me if I do or do not represent my country. Check the facts of its original meaning. ALL soldiers. ALL wars. Fuck you and the queen..” (from here). So this character believes that it’s a “fact” to state that the Poppy symbol has “a 100 different meanings” and is used in connection with raising funds for “ALL soldiers (in) ALL wars..” and, no doubt – such is his apparent arrogance – he will keep telling himself that as ‘proof that he’s right’!
ON THIS DATE (4TH NOVEMBER) 14 YEARS AGO : BRITISH PARAMILITARIES CHANGE NAME AND UNIFORM.
On the 10th October, 1969, ‘The Hunt Report’ recommended that the RUC (which had been formed on the 5th April 1922) should be changed into an unarmed force, that the ‘B Specials’ (the ‘Ulster Special Constabulary’) should be disbanded and a new reserve force be established, to be known as the ‘Ulster Defence Regiment’. The RUC name was given to the then-existing RIC force on the 1st June 1922 in an attempted sleight-of-hand manoeuvre to present an existing pro-British paramilitary force as a ‘new entity’ and that ‘new entity’ – the RUC – was, in turn, amalgamated into the ‘new’ PSNI on the 4th November 2001 – 14 years ago on this date. This was another tweaking of the name and uniform of a paramilitary outfit, as the ‘police force’ in that part of Ireland are still administered by Westminster and are as anti-republican as they were when they bore the ‘RIC’ name, and maintain the same structure and objective as when they were known by that latter name.
The more gullible among us (although they are well salaried to be so or, at least, to behave in such a gullible manner) profess themselves convinced that a new day has dawned, ignoring the fact that the shadow in the room is caused by an elephant that they themselves have encouraged.
ON THIS DATE (4TH NOVEMBER) 41 YEARS AGO : JUDITH THERESA WARD WAS ‘CONVICTED ON ALL COUNTS’ IN AN ‘UNPROFESSIONAL TRIAL’.
Judith Ward (pictured, left), an ‘IRA activist’, was arraigned on the 3rd October 1974 at Wakefield Crown Court, West Yorkshire, England, on an indictment containing 15 counts : Count 1: causing an explosion likely to endanger life or property on the 10th September 1973, at Euston Station, Count 2: a similar count relating to the explosion on the motorcoach on the M62 on the 4th February 1974, Counts 3-14: twelve counts of murder relating to each of the persons killed in the explosion on the motorcoach and Count 15: causing an explosion as before on February 12, 1974, at the National Defence College at Latimer. She pleaded “not guilty” to all counts but, on the 4th November 1974 – 41 years ago on this date – she was convicted on all counts, by a majority of 10 to two on Count 1 and unanimously on all the others. She was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on Count 1, 20 years’ imprisonment concurrently on Count 2, life imprisonment for the murder Counts
3-14 and to 10 years on Count 15, to be served consecutively to the 20 years on Count 2, making a determinate sentence of 30 years.
It took eighteen years of campaigning to have her conviction quashed, which it was on the 11th May 1992 and it transpired that she had changed her ‘confession’ several times and that the police and the prosecution selected various parts of each ‘confession’ to assemble a version which they felt comfortable with! One of the main pieces of forensic evidence against her was the alleged presence of traces of nitroglycerine on her hands, in her caravan and in her bag. Thin layer chromatography and the Griess test were used to establish the presence of nitroglycerine but later evidence showed that positive results using these methods could be obtained with materials innocently picked up from, for instance, shoe polish, and that several of the forensic scientists involved had either withheld evidence or exaggerated its importance. Her book, ‘Ambushed – My Story’ makes for interesting reading and allows the reader to draw comparisons with the injustices suffered by the Maguire Seven, the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four ; a total of 18 innocent people, including Judith Ward (13 men, 3 women and two children) who, between them, spent a total of 216 years in prison. Anne Maguire, a mother of 5 children, was menstruating heavily and denied all toiletries for a week, and was beaten senseless and Carol Richardson, who didn’t even know she was pregnant, miscarried in Brixton Prison days after her arrest. Pat O’Neill, who had minutes before entered the Maguires house to arrange for a baby-sitter when the police arrived, was told by a cop to swear that he saw a big cardboard box on Maguires table or else he would be done, but he refused to lie – he served eleven years. On his release, he found his marriage was broken beyond repair and that his six children had left the family home.
How many more Irish children will have to ‘leave the family home’ before the British eventually give a date for their political and military withdrawal from Ireland, because the situation as it now (and still) exists here is that their very presence continues to be objected to by Irish republicans and continues to give rise to unrest. And, if our history is to be used as a yardstick, that will always be the case.
‘ROLLING STONES’ (/’STROLLIN’ BONES!’) WRONG – TIME IS NOT ON OUR SIDE….
…we won’t be posting our usual contribution, and probably won’t be in a position to post anything at all, next Wednesday, 11th November 2015. This coming weekend (Saturday/Sunday 7th/8th) is spoke for already with a 650-ticket raffle to be run for the Dublin Executive of Sinn Féin Poblachtach in a venue on the Dublin/Kildare border (work on which begins on the Tuesday before the actual raffle) and the ‘autopsy’ into same which will take place on Monday evening 9th in RSF Head Office on Parnell Street and then it’s straight back to the preparations for the up-coming Ard Fheis, which is being held this month in a Dublin venue. Anyway, that’s the position – between the three of us we’re booked up solid with our ‘pay-the-bills/day-job’ work and the work on the Ard Fheis and then it’s straight on to the Cabhair Christmas Swim and loads of other stuff which one committee or another will no doubt be looking to have done! But it’s all for a good Cause and we don’t mind helping out. Check back here for us on Wednesday 18th November 2015.
Thanks for reading, Sharon.