Saturday 21st July saw scores of people take to Monaghan Street in Newry to take part in the Fifth annual Anti-internment protest.
The event went without incident following last year’s protest which saw the RUC move in and threaten those in attendence. This resulted in an embarrassing PR disaster for the Crown Forces who this year opted to mount a surveillance operation involving several armoured landrovers with mounted cameras.
After the event had ended the RUC harassment operation swung into action. Amongst those stopped and searched included a local press photographer who was covering the event as part of his employment.
Proceedings were chaired by Padraig ‘O Fearghail and speakers on the day included Padraig Drummond [Anti-Internment Group], Martin Duffy [Cabhair] Sean Doyle [Abolish the Special Courts] and Stephen Murney [Saoradh/IRPWA].
Below we carry the full text of the speech by Saoradh National Secretary Stephen Murney : On behalf of Saoradh and the IRPWA I want to welcome you all here today to the fifth annual Anti-Internment rally to be held here in Newry.
In the past 5 years this event has become one of most anticipated Anti-Internment demonstrations in the country. Every year it brings numerous republicans from various groups and backgrounds together, united for the one cause, to oppose British internment.
The Anti-Internment Group of Ireland are to be commended for making this possible year in and year out.
Since we first stood on this road 5 years ago nothing has changed in regards to Britain’s policy of Interning Irish Republicans. If anything it has got worse and more obvious with republicans such as Neil Hegarty having his licence revoked barely a day after completing his sentance. Thankfully Neil is now home with his family and community where he belongs.
Sadly the same can’t be said for Tony Taylor. Tony’s wife Lorraine, and their children, have suffered immensely as a result of the Internment of Tony. Lorraine herself has travelled across the country and has spoke at countless events and rallies to highlight and raise awareness around this grave injustice. The Taylor family must be commended for their strength and resolve in the face of such hardship, hardship that most of us here can’t imagine.
When it comes to conditions in Maghaberry little has changed. The core issues remain unresolved including forced strip searching, isolation and controlled movement. An agreement reached 8 years ago that could end conflict within Maghaberry prison is left gathering dust after the prison administration failed to adhere to it.
Just this week republican prisoner Ta McWilliams was subjected to a brutal strip search as he returned to Maghaberry from hospital regarding serious health issues. Despite having heart monitoring equipment still attached to his body Ta was forcefully stripped by the Maghaberry riot squad.
Republican Prisoner Christine Connor is currently being held in hydebank. During her time there she has been threatened and placed in deliberate danger by criminal elements. This is unacceptable and needs challenged by all right thinking people.
In the Free State The Special Political Court relies heavily on the so-called belief evidence. Basically the word of a guard is enough to have a republican activist interned in prison.
This is blatant political persecution and internment being directed at Irish Republicans in the 26 County state and no doubt this will get worse following the appointment of Crown Force and MI5 asset Drew Harris as the new Garda Commissioner.
Irish Republican Prisoners are well organised and disciplined. They work under their own structures and struggle everyday against repression and brutality. The prison struggle on the inside is an extension of the freedom struggle on the outside.
Those of us who have been most vocal in opposing these unjust policies and our families, have paid a heavy personal price in the form of constant Crown Force ‘stop and searches’, house raids, and, ultimately, the loss of liberty. We are bearing the brunt of it every day of the week. Internment was wrong and unjust in previous years and it remains as equally wrong and unjust today.
Each and every one of us here today have a responsibility to ensure that these issues don’t go unchallenged. It is our duty as republicans to stand up, speak out for and defend the oppressed.
Comrades no doubt we will be here again next year. In the meantime we must recommit and rededicate ourselves to highlighting the cause of our prisoners of conscience.
As we leave here today we send support and solidarity to all captive comrades. In the year ahead let us pledge to continue to support our men and women behind the wire.
Smash Internment – Free the People