Roisin McAliskey - Straw concedes

After much protest - and outrage - the extradition order on Roisin McAliskey has been lifted. The daughter of the tireless republican activist, Bernadette McAliskey - former Independent MP for Mid-Ulster - Roisin has been the victim of state terror and inhuman vindictiveness.

After months of torturous deliberation by the British government, Jack Straw eventually decided to halt the extradition order so long hovering over her, on the grounds that she was suffering from very poor mental health and that any extradition order would be “unjust and oppressive”. But she has to remain in hospital for further medical treatment.  

Thanks for nothing. Roisin was arrested in November 1996 in Germany, on suspicion of being involved in an IRA mortar bomb attack on the British army base at Osnabruck. The evidence essentially consisted of one eyewitness and fingerprints on a cellophane wrapping. The eyewitness later retracted his statement on German television. 

The treatment meted out to her ever since by the British authorities has been so severe that her health could be permanently damaged. She has developed osteoporosis (brittle bone disease) due to a stretch in solitary confinement - deprived of daylight, her body became chronically short of calcium. She has spent time in the Castlereagh ‘torture centre’, Belmarsh, and Holloway prisons. Last May, while on bail, she gave birth to a daughter, Lionir, which meant she was sent to the less than charming mother-and-baby unit at the Maudsley hospital. Strange that she now suffers from post-traumatic stress.

But Roisin is still being pursued. German prosecutors have demanded that Roisin stand trial in Britain. “We are requesting that the British take over the prosecution”, said Eva Schuebel, spokeswoman for the Karlsruhe prosecutors office. However, the German government seems keen to close the book on the whole affair. Roisin’s fate still hangs in the balance.

Her mother, Bernadette, was less than impressed by the British government’s sudden display of humanitarian sentiment: “Roisin is ill and she is ill as a consequence of being arrested and detained in Castlereagh detention centre and being moved to Holloway and to Belmarsh and back to Holloway. My understanding from the home office is that my daughter is not expected to make a 100% recovery. Roisin’s reality is that she may walk with a limp for the rest of her life”.

The McAliskey’s are now contemplating legal action for compensation.

Predictably - though not without some truth - loyalist politicians have been outraged, seeing Roisin’s release as a crafty manoeuvre in the ‘peace process’. Yet another ‘concession’ to Sinn Fein, who were just about to meet Blair. Ian Paisley (junior) of the Democratic Unionist Party spluttered: “I am totally disgusted but not surprised at this sop to the republican movement.” Ken Maginnis in turn predicted: “No one will be surprised if she now makes a miraculous recovery”.

At the end of last week, Gerry Adams told Ireland on Sunday there was no imminent prospect of the unification of Ireland. Instead he presented what has been called a ‘wish-list’ to Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister. Adams’ conditions to agreeing to a political settlement include cross-border bodies with executive powers, the dismantling of the RUC, the withdrawal of the British army, release of all republican prisoners, voting rights for Northerners in the Dail, etc. Some chance. Ahern has been sending strong hints to the British government - and the unionists - about ‘altering’ articles two and three in the Irish constitution, which claim jurisdiction over the Six Counties. Such a blunt abandonment of any hope for Irish re-unification would be very hard for Adams to swallow - and could serve to antagonise the republican rank-and-file in the catholic ghettos.    

Sinn Fein plans to return to the conference table on March 23. Very conscious of Sinn Fein/IRA’s grassroots supporters, Adams addressed a rally at Milltown cemetery in west Belfast to mark the 10th anniversary of the SAS killings of three IRA volunteers in Gilbraltar. He said any deal would be regarded by Sinn Fein as purely an “interim agreement”, concluding “republicans want to go much further and we will go much further”.

Worried by latest events, the Loyalist Volunteer Force has issued death threats against Protestants who collude in the ‘peace process’ - whoever they are. Nerves are fraying; a nice and neat imperialist-dictated ‘peace’ is far from guaranteed.

The Guardian is well aware of this. Its editorial talked urgently about how we are entering the “last and most crucial stage” of the ‘peace process’. This is a reference to the British and Irish governments, which have pencilled in May 22 as the day for simultaneous referendums, north and south, which will either approve or reject the ‘peace’ settlement cooked up by the respective parties. The rules of the Irish constitution mean any referendum bill has to be passed in the Dáil 30 days earlier. As The Guardian concludes: “So nationalists and unionists have perhaps six weeks to settle a war which has divided them for decades, even centuries … No, the only peace worth having is an inclusive one - an accord respected by the representatives of the men of war … The road to Northern Irish peace might just run through Dayton and Oslo” (March 9).

In other words, just as the new imperialist world order delivered ‘peace’ in Palestine, and flexed its muscle in Bosnia, so it thinks it can resolve the ‘Irish question’. We are confident that the undefeated nationalist masses in Northern Ireland will prove to be no pushover.

Eddie Ford