The 3rd International Day in Support of Irish Republican Prisoners of War was held on October 26 and 27. This is an extended version of the report carried in the November issue of SAOIRSE.
Protests and solidarity events were held in ten countries on three continents. The international POW-Day is an independent initiative to raise awareness of Irish Republican Prisoners. The initiative is in its third year. The committee that organised the 2013-POW-Day consists of members of the Republican Sinn Féin International Bureau, the James Connolly Association (Australia), Cumann na Saoirse Náisiúnta (USA) and Liberation Irlande (France).
While the committee and the involved organisations support all republican prisoners, the POW-Day 2013 focused on demanding the release of republican internee Martin Corey, demanding justice for the Cragaivon 2 and the release of political activist Stephen Murney.
In Australia the James Connolly Association held pickets in Melbourne and Sydney.
The ANSWER Coalition and Students for Justice in Palestine organised an International Day for Palestine and Irish Political Prisoners with music, food and the screening of documentaries in Albuquerque, New Mexiko. Between October 26 and October 28, Cumann na Saoirse Náisiúnta organised a lecture tour, dinners and screenings of In the Name of the Father with Gerry Conlon.
On Saturday, October 26, Gerry Conlon appeared live on Radio Free Éireann. This was followed by a book signing and a movie viewing at the Rocky Sullivan’s. The October 27 event in New York with Gerry Conlon was co-hosted by the Westchester County Ancient Order of Hibernians and Cumann na Saoirse Náisiúnta. A third event was held on October 28 in New Jersey.
Gerry Conlon had travelled to the USA to receive the Sister Sarah Clarke Human Rights Award at the National Irish Freedom Committee’s annual Flannery Awards Dinner to be held at Rory Dolan’s on Saturday, 2nd November.
The event on October 27 was organized and promoted by Pat Williams of the Release Martin Corey US-campaign and Dominick Bruno of the NIFC and was aired live on Radio Free Eireann (WBAI 99.5fm). John McDonagh and Sandy Bowyer long-time friends of Gerry Conlon welcomed Gerry back to the RFE show and were joined on air by Jane Enright of Cumann Na Saoirse Náisiúnta.
Ray Collins, also a Belfast native provided appropriate music for the occasion to the packed house which included representatives from various Irish orgs such as the Brehon Law Society, the National Irish Freedom Committee, the AOH and various human rights organisations, a great day for a great cause was had by all! It was also fantastic to see new younger people attending some who have only recently immigrated to these shores and said they were heartened to see such solidarity work occurring stateside.
Fliers and pamphlets about the cases of Martin Corey, the Craigavon 2 and Stephen Murney were distributed to all and attendees also signed cards to the prisoners letting them know they have support in America and that they are thought of. Copies of SAOIRSE were also made available.
While in the US Gerry is also promoting his book ‘Proved Innocent’, the story of the Guildford Four who were unjustly imprisoned for 15 years by a corrupt by British government for a bombing that had knew nothing about.
In Europe protests and solidarity events were held in a wide range of countries. In Rome, Italy, Republican Sinn Féin held a picket on Piazza di Spagna. In Paris, France, activists of Liberation Irlande rose awareness at a solidarity event of the Corse association SULIDARITA. A leaflet distributed by the comrades of Liberation Irlande in France can be read on the website of the organization: www.liberationirlande.wordpress.com.
In Utrecht, the Netherlands, activists of Republican Sinn Féin held a small picket. The Dutch republican activists also highlighted the plight of the republican prisoners in Maghaberry, Portlaoise and Hydebank with stickers, posters and leaflets in the Greater Utrecht Area.
Republican Sinn Féin supporters in Utrecht in the Netherlands and Hamburg in Germany collaborated on a joint effort to highlight the plight of the prisoners in public and contacting the English and Irish Embassies and Consulates with letters of protests. One of this letters of protests was handed over by a republican activist to the English Consulate in Hamburg.
Pickets were also held in the German cities of Marburg by activists of Republican Sinn Féin, Hamburg by activists of the 1978-Society Hamburg and in Darmstadt by the Irish Republican Solidarity Group of Darmstadt.
In the Austrian capitol of Vienna a protest and a successful public meeting were held on the issue of solidarity with political prisoners and especially on comrade George Ibrahim Abdullah, the Palestinian/Lebanese militant. The participants of the meeting sent following message to the participants of the 3rd International POW-Day: “We would like to send you our revolutionary greetings for a successful 3rd International POW-Day. We consider the imprisonment of Irish Republicans to be a political act against democratic rights. The war of Irish people for freedom and independence is just and right and your initiative for an ‘International Committee to support the Irish Prisoners of War’ an important step towards building international solidarity. Only by participating in such initiatives we can organise and support the fight for political-democratic rights and give an answer to imperialism, state’s terror and attack against the people. We consider this fight to be part of the anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist struggle.”
In London two separate protests were held by Republican Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group outside the 26-County Embassy.
Republican Sinn Féin paid a visit to British secretary in the Six Counties Theresa Villiers’ office in Barnet North London. Republican activists protested against the continued policy of internment of Irish Republicans in Ireland.
This protest was successful in highlighting the cases of internment especially in the case of Martin Corey an Irishman who has been held for over three years without any reason given, and without being charged with any crime. Cumann secretary Pat McManus was approached by the police during the protest. A speech given by Jim McDonald was well received and is available to see on the Republican Sinn Féin Midlands YouTube account: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6logVvBJEx4#t=6
The Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group London held a separate protest outside the Irish Embassy in London. They held placards to demand the implementation of the August 2010-Agreement, Free Michael McKevitt and Martin Corey. Flyers and leaflets were handed to the public, and a letter to the Ambassador was handed into the embassy saying: “Please convey our concerns to the Irish Ministry of Justice in Dublin regarding the treatment of Irish political prisoners in both the 26 Counties and the Six Counties of Ireland. We are particularly concerned at the way prisoners Christine Connor and Sharon Rafferty are being treated (and in one case medically neglected) by the prison medical authorities at Hydebank Women’s Prison Belfast. (…)
“The prisoner Martin Corey was released in 1992. He was re-arrested in April 2010 and detained without charge or trial. Treatment like this is reminiscent of the old Stalinist regimes of Eastern Europe which we all know about – and which was roundly condemned at the time by ‘civilised’ nations – including Britain and Ireland. Martin Corey remains a prisoner more three years later.
We bring these cases to your attention because we are appealed at the fact the Irish government has at no time uttered a word of protest, or asked for an inquiry into the treatment of these prisoners – all of whom are IRISH CITIZENS. (…) No other country on earth would tolerate or allow its citizens to be treated (ill-treated) by another government without protest. Ireland seems to be an exception and shouldn’t be.” The letter was signed by the Secretary of the IRPSG London.
In Manchester a picket was organised by the Gaughan Stagg Cumann. Leaflets highlighting the plight of Republican POWs were circulated amongst the public, many members shown interest and were shocked to discover the ongoing injustices in Ireland. The Cumann brought the protest to Albert Square Manchester, and then later on in the day were outside Manchester Crown Court.
The Volunteer Charles Carrigan Cumann held a picket on Buchanan Street in Glasgow City Centre. In the week leading to the International POW-Day a number of unidentified Irish Republican Supporters had been arrested and detained with the police using draconian terrorism legislation. Republican activists used this situation of arrests to highlight repression, harassment and the situation of the republican POWs on the International POW-Day. Leaflets drafted for the day were handed out at the Police Station where Irish activists were held and in the Glasgow City Centre.
Members of Republican Sinn Féin held a protest in Dumbarton.
In Ireland the Release Martin Corey Committee held a successful White Line Picket on the Falls Road in Belfast. Further protests were organised by Republican Sinn Féin at the Bridge of Peace in Drogheda, on the Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin and the Bullring in Wexford.
Following the successful 3rd International POW-Day, the chairperson of the International Independent Committee to Support the Irish Republican Prisoners of War, Dieter Blumenfeld said: “This year’s POW-Day once again showed the huge support for all Irish Republican Prisoners. Pickets and solidarity events were held in nine countries on three continents. This initiative is in its third years and this very fact should send a clear message to the British colonial regime in Ireland that Irish republicans are not alone and the prisoners are not forgotten. We hope that our support will give the prisoners in Maghaberry, Magilligan, Hydebank and Porlaoise strength in their daily fight against the brutal prison regime.”
The members of the International Independent Committee to Support the Irish Republican Prisoners of War will organise the fourth International POW-Day in October 2014. Everyone interested in participating in the work of the international committee can contact the committee directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information and regular reports are available from the website of independent International Committee to Support the Irish Prisoners of War on: http://supportthepows.irish-solidarity.net/