Irish Republican Political Prisoners In The 21st Century

Here is a short report by Press TV, the 24-hour English language news and documentary network managed by the public broadcaster in Iran, examining the plight of Irish republican prisoners in the UK-administered north-east of Ireland. In particular, the piece looks at the state policy of internment-by-remand, the United Kingdom’s habit of imprisoning political suspects without charge or trial while awaiting their formal day in court. In many cases, the detainees are released before they can challenge the charges against them, despite spending several months in prison. In other examples, people have been incarcerated for years at a time, with little explanation as to why, beyond the instructions of a senior government minister or civil servants. In the infamous case of Martin Corey, an elderly member of a fringe political party, this detention lasted from 2010 to 2014.

The documentary features representatives of the Irish republican grouping, Saoradh, the prisoner-of-war welfare organisation, Cogús, and the indefatigable activist, and former Republican Sinn Féin spokesperson, Cáit Trainor. While the opinions offered by these groups and individuals are naturally partisan, and Press TV is a far from neutral media player, the accusations and complaints are real enough. In the form of Her Majesty’s Prison Maghaberry, the British state has established a Guantanamo-like detention centre on the edge of Europe, and one with just as sinister a reputation. As Nick Hardwick, a UK Chief Inspector of Prisons, noted in 2015, Maghaberry is “one of the worst prisons I’ve ever seen and the most dangerous prison I’ve been to“.

Finally, documentaries and reports like this are exactly the type of content that Irish republicans should be producing through their own media organisations. Instead of sending out young men and women in pursuit of desperate – and frankly pointless – actions, the energies and commitment of new activists should be channelled into more worthwhile areas. Journalism, video and audio production, web design, social media campaigns and the presentation of alternative opinions in a professional manner should be the priority of revolutionary republicans. The world has moved on from white-line pickets and graveside orations. A 21st century struggle requires 21st century methods. Not those from the 19th or 20th centuries.

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13 comments

  1. Allowing the struggle to be hijacked by the likes of Iran insults the sacrifice he made and only stokes the paranoia of British strategists that could backfire on us tragically.

    1. On the contrary. The campaigners of these groups have wisely turned to other media networks in order to shine a light on their campaigns. After all pleading with the BBC and its allies in other western themed networks has got them nowhere and sure why would it? The media will always take their lead from their controllers and paymasters so there’ll be no exposé of the rights of prisoners coming anytime soon from BBC,RTÉ etc etc. P.s if you think this will backfire re US support then so be it. If the US were really on the side of the Irish we would never have had a prisoner; we’d have had irish unity a long time ago. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting things to change is the height of insanity. Time for new thinking outside the box.

    2. The British have done a pretty good job of squelching international attention regarding its actions in the North. If local media won’t tell the story, why wouldn’t those trying to effect change speak with outside media? Obviously the status quo hasn’t worked.

      1. Those criticisms are valid but we have to be careful in how we distribute our story. Why not use YouTube as a distribution model or even some independent website that can prove our impartiality instead of looking like hypocrites. Granted the Americans haven’t always been our friends but yeah the EU is our best bet of making United Ireland a massive possibility.

        1. Unfortunately, YouTube and/or an independent website will simply be seen as self-serving propaganda, akin to a video press release. If the British media were doing its job Republican advocates wouldn’t have to rely on questionable outlets to get their story out, but it’s been a long, long time since mainstream British, or American, media outlets have been willing to take on the government unless they personally find that government or its policies abhorrent.

    3. I have to say, I am dubious about the whole “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” strategy. Press TV has a very dubious reputation and guilt by association is a real risk in appearing on it. I understand the reasons for taking the opportunity when offered it but republicans should be pursuing other media platforms too. Above all, they need their own voices, via YouTube or whatever, to fight the information war with the UK.

      Honestly, given the relative cheapness of professional-grade video and audio equipment and the free availability of online platforms, I cannot understand why there is not an Irish Republican “Young Turks” or “Philip DeFranco” show out there, appealing to a young, tech-savvy market of possibly sympathetic viewers and listeners.

      If Saoradh cannot produce a weekly half-hour vidcast for distribution on social media then they should just give up.

      Likewise Cáit Trainor could easily produce a weekly YouTube show, which would do far more to spread her message – which I don’t fully agree with – than any amount of speeches on street corners. Cat Boyd was starting to do a good job of that on YouTube before she jumped ship to Corbyn.

      1. Agreed and should also include discussions on how to combat British propaganda techniques on the left and right.

      2. And could you elaborate as to why PressTV has a ‘very dubious record’? The last time I heard the fine upstanding impartial(would never tell a lie) British govt got Ofcom to contrive a way of banning them from the airwaves. Therein lies the problem I.e we irish give off about British lies when they report on ireland but readily heed reports from the same liars when it comes to foreign lands not within our remit.
        As far as I could see Presstv was endeavouring to counter the pro west narrative and tactic of demonising countries that have the cheek to reject western hegemon and yet that makes them dubious?
        If Tony Taylor were a Russian political prisoner and anti Putin, you and I know the west, Brits and yanks would be all over the story like two flies around a cow’s backside. They’d see it as a way to ‘show the world’ how wrong and evil Putin and co were, purely to put political pressure on Russia by embarassing them in front of the international community.
        If I was languishing in jail frustrated that no one was addressing my injustice then it would be music to my ears to hear my case highlighted by a Russian, Chinese or whatever foreign minister; pointing out the evil and callousness of my jailers…..and their hypocrisy. And we all know the Brits like to keep their evil hidden from international scrutiny as they masquerade as peacekeepers around the world.
        Personally if I was behind republican prisoners campaign I’d be writing/contacting every foreign embassy that would listen especially the ones the Brits like to condemn. They don’t like it up’em!

        1. The EU would be likely to lend a sympathetic ear post-brexit but yeah the frustration is palpable but we still have other free societies so therefore using the Russians or Chinese would backfire disastrously when you see their treatment of Chechens, Tibetans, Ukrainians, Uyghurs etc. There are elements in Moscow that are sympathetic to British Ultranationalists and we can’t alienate countries that really matter so we have to pick wisely.

  2. Btw,in case you haven’t noticed the UK govt alongside its allies in Europe and U.S is endeavouring to shut down, control and/or dictate who should be allowed to speak on social media platforms just like they’ve done with regular media platforms. And if you think that is simply because of “fakenews” then you really have been watching and listening(and believing) to the BBC too much.

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