Free Irish prisoners

JOHN MAJOR and Patrick Mayhew are straining hard not to have the imminent release of Private Lee Clegg linked with a change in policy towards Irish republican prisoners. Taoiseach John Bruton and SDLP MP Joe Hendron have said that the two must go hand in hand.

It is easy to understand why Major and Mayhew say what they do, but Bruton has an unrivalled ‘pro-Brit’ reputation and substantial numbers of republican prisoners of his own. Hendron came to notoriety in 1992 by making deals with the UDA in West Belfast’s Shankhill Road in order to unseat Gerry Adams.

The republican prisoners’ cause is gathering a brace of establishment forces of its own because the ongoing ‘peace process’ has brought the issue into the realm of constitutional politics. After all no one is expecting freed volunteers to head straight back into the fray.

The Communist Party maintains its own stand for the release of all Irish political prisoners, and does not line up with the likes of Hendron. On June 7, a public meeting was hosted by Brent Branch of the CPGB and addressed by Saoirse, the campaign for Irish political prisoners’ rights, initiated by the prisoners’ families. Saoirse described the worsening conditions being suffered by republican prisoners since the ceasefire. Regular beatings, intimidation of visitors and attacks on political status are becoming more widespread and intensive.

The workers’ movement in Britain has already paid a high price, not least in the miners’ Great Strike, for its failure to support the Irish revolution. The task still remains to win workers throughout the UK to oppose ‘our own’ state in Ireland, and in particular campaign for the release of Irish revolutionaries.

The UK state has no right to detain Irish men and women in its jails. It has no right to occupy any part of Ireland. The CPGB demands the unconditional release of all Irish political prisoners. Saoirse calls, as an intermediate measure, for their immediate transfer to jails in Ireland near their families. Brent branch of the CPGB has affiliated to Saoirse and will be organising solidarity visits to Irish political prisoners held on the British mainland.

Mike Smith