On Saturday [November 11] Republicans gathered at 30ft bomb proof walls which surround a stark reminder of Britain’s ongoing occupation, a huge imperialist fortification, a well-known symbol of Britain’s War Machine, the British Courthouse in the border town of Newry.
Besides the blast walls, a military-style sangar is situated. This observation post is also reinforced to withstand bomb attacks. Although this proved highly ineffective as In 2010 Irish freedom fighters blitzed the installation in a mine attack. Substantial damage was caused to the sangar following the successful operation.
Irish socialist republicans joined with Saoradh at this courthouse on Saturday. For many of us, it wasn’t the first time we had been there. It was the same building I was interned from in 2012. Thankfully this time we were there on our own terms, without the handcuffs.
On this occasion, we were there to oppose the extradition of Irish Republicans from the Free State to Maghaberry prison.
The RUC/PSNI circled the event in armoured cars and positioned themselves in the vantage point of a nearby car park to observe the participants for the duration of the protest.
Dozens of us stood defiantly at the courthouse and we were joined by comrades from Dublin, who have been very much to the fore of this vital campaign.
Comrades from RNU also joined our protest in an act of Republican unity and they were warmly welcomed by the organisers.
Passing motorists sounded their horns in simple acts of solidarity as we stood beneath this bastion of British rule. Participants held banners and placards demanding an end to extradition.
Some people passing looked at us curiously, with puzzled looks on their faces, probably wondering why we were there highlighting issues of the past, not realising they are actually issues of the present.
I can hardly blame them. Once upon a time those currently in perceived positions of power organised and opposed the practice of extradition. Today they sit in silence in their failed ivory tower. Opposition to such things is frowned up in this “new dispensation”. It’s left to the few and faithful to take a stand and organise resistance. An act that, as many of us know, can come at a cost.
There are currently three Irish Republicans, DD McLaughlin, Séan Farrell and Cíaran Maguire, facing extradition proceedings. If this goes ahead they will be forced from the Free State to Maghaberry prison.
The conditions they will be forced to live in will be horrendous. Isolation, controlled movement and the dreaded forced strip searches are part of daily life in Maghaberry.
Just the other week a Free State judge raised concerns about forced strip searching and made reference to the technology that exists that would end the degrading practice.
Cíaran and Séan’s families, including children, will be forced to travel halfway across the country for a short visit with their lives one. Their entire family will be turned upside down.
The case of Damien McLaughlin will be heard later this month.
Maghaberry is a place DD knows only to well having spent two separate periods of incarceration there. During his first period of imprisonment, he was on dirty protest with dozens of his comrades.
On his second he was interned by remand on charges related to the IRA execution of hated prison officer David Black. The screws in Maghaberry had a particular hatred of DD due to this and singled him for “special treatment”. Post, visits and parcels were often interfered with, damaged and destroyed. Not once did this ever deter DD and he remained fearless in their faces.
As Saturday’s protest came to an end we all made our way back to the comfort of our homes. Kids running about playing and laughing, tv on, the usual things we normally take for granted.
For anyone of us, our normal everyday lives can be thrown into chaos by the state forces if they decide to target one of us. Anyone of us can be interned at the drop of a hat.
I know for a fact if it was the other way about, DD would be standing there for any of us facing the situation that he, Sean and Ciaran are facing.
So while we have three comrades facing extradition to an MI5 controlled torture camp, let us do what we can on the outside to raise awareness and oppose this move. It’s the least we can do.
Don’t hand them over !!!