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.