There are many nefarious consequences which have resulted from British interference in Ireland and the imprisonment of Irish men and women is one of them. Throughout the centuries those who struggled against English imperialism have often found themselves inside a prison gate for their efforts. In the main they have been principled and conscientious people who sacrificed their freedom for others.
Many from the nationalist community, whilst disagreeing with the violence of the various Republican campaigns, have offered support for prisoners. Reasons for this have ranged from sympathy for Republican aims despite disapproving of the methods, to knowing the prisoner personally. Ultimately it has meant a large degree of support for Republican prisoners from within the nationalist community.
For those who call themselves Republicans there can be no ambivalence in their support for Republican prisoners. It is their duty to show solidarity with the men and women in prison today as a result of the British occupation in whatever way they can. The alternative is to support the apparatus of the British state in the prisons i.e. strip searches, brutality, solidarity, denial of visits and the many other forms of repression deployed by the screws behind the wire.
I would call on all Republicans, particularly ex-POWs, to get behind any effort to highlight and alleviate the plight of Republican prisoners today despite any allegiance they may have to any party or organisation. This issue supersedes any ideological or any other differences that may be there. To the wider Irish nation I appeal for their support in what is in essence a humanitarian issue for political prisoners. The prison issue can all too often spill on to the outside with tragic results as we have seen too many times. Remember it is people sitting in comfortable armchairs in Whitehall that makes these decisions and it is them who should hear the call for the rights of political prisoners.
M Gallagher, Ex-republican POW.