Monday, 22 August 2011

Voices of the POWs must be heard

The release of Brendan Lillis was welcome news and is a testament to the tireless and unrelenting campaign for his release led his partner Roisin Lynch. However it should also be noted that Stormont ‘Justice’ Minister David Ford ominously dangled the ‘Sword of Damocles’ over Brendan Lillis with a warning that if his health improved the original charges could be brought again. There seems to be no end to the pettiness and vindictiveness of the British and their surrogates here in Ireland. 

However we have no time to rest on laurels but focus must now return to the POWs currently on ‘Dirty Protest’ in Maghaberry prison. All this year we have been marking the 30th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikes. The fact that thirty years later young Irishmen are being forced to engage in a similar protest against an attempt by the British State to criminalise them and by extension their cause tells us we have not travelled very far. The very presence of political prisoners in the Six-County State is a declaration for all who wish to see that it is an abnormal state.

The big obstacle faced by all campaigners for the Republican prisoners is the paper wall of silence, which Westminster, Stormont and Leinster House have erected around Maghaberry, and the wider issue of political prisoners. Since the right of political status in the Six Counties was signed away under the terms of the 1998 Stormont Agreement the official line is that there are no political prisoners in Ireland. In the years since 1998 their willing messengers within the media peddled this line to such an extent that among the mass of people it has become an accepted fact. Thus the big lie is repeated over and over until it is believed. The first hill to climb consequently is to establish in the public consciousness the very fact that today in the Ireland of 2011 there are political prisoners in both the Six and 26-County States and why they are there.

Breaking this artificial wall of silence around Maghaberry will allow the voices of the POWs to be heard and disturb the cosy consensus of the elites.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Release Brendan Lillis now!

The refusal of David Ford to release Brendan Lillis exposes the shallowness of Ford and his ilk when they talk about human rights and civil liberties. When Ford opens his mouth again with more sanctimonious sermonising his words should be dismissed for the weasel words that they are. Brendan Lillis is suffering from a very serious disease called ankylosing spondylitis, which leads to a curvature in the spine and causes the body to produce excess bone mass.  To leave the politics of the issue aside for a moment on purely humanitarian grounds Brendan Lillies should be released immediately.

One can only judge a state or a society by how it treats its most vulnerable. In the 26 Counties we have witnessed the litany of reports of ill treatment of the both the young and the old. In the Six Counties the case of Brendan Lillis is just another example of how for all its boasting about its championing of the rule of law and human rights when it comes to dealing with the Irish people Britain just can’t break the habits of the coloniser when dealing with the colonised. Imprisoning Brendan Lillis even from the point of view of Stormont and Westminster (something I find very difficult to do) serves no purpose whatsoever. It is purely vindictive and a case of extracting the last pound of flesh from a man who in the distant past had the temerity to assert his country’s right to national independence.

On a political level the treatment of Brendan Lillis speaks louder than any words we could write or speak about the true nature of the Six-County State and its relationship with the nationalist people. The Provisonal spin-doctors have written countless words about the “new dispensation” and a “new police force”. All of this is merely dross to hide the fact that it is all a sham. What we have is the same old British wolf dressed up in the lamb’s clothing afforded it by the 1998 Stormont Agreement. The bottom line here is that the Six-County State is fundamentally sectarian and undemocratic. All of its institutions will reflect this including its police force no matter what name it is given. This is true of any state.

But to return to the issue at hand. The bravery and unstinting commitment shown by Brendan Lillis’s partner Roisin Lynch is a testament to the strength of an ordinary person when thrust into extraordinary circumstances. The case of Brendan Lillis is the human side of all of this. His continued imprisonment is above politics and is a question of one of the most basic rights – the right to life and dignity as a human being. Release Brendan Lillis now!