Whilst you may not share her politics, the internment without trial of the Irish Republican Marian Price, has profound implications for anyone involved in political activism.
Whilst I do not share the political beliefs of Marian Price - I believe that it is important to highlight her current circumstances – and reflect on the implications that those circumstances may have in the future for all individuals involved in radical politics, whatever particular political standpoint those individuals may have.
Marian Price is a 58 year old Irish Republican. She was initially jailed in 1973 for her part in an IRA bombing campaign in London. She targeted the Old Bailey, and an army recruitment centre. She was subsequently sentenced to two life terms.
Immediately on her incarceration, Marian went on hunger strike. The hunger strike lasted 200 days – during which Marian was force-fed on over 400 occasions.
In 1980, Marian was gravely ill, days away from death due to severe anorexia – which she had developed following the ordeal of being force-fed. Marian was granted a ‘Royal Pardon’ (Royal Prerogative of Mercy) and was immediately released from prison.
Marian survived, and over the next thirty years, she remained active in several republican groups such as the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, and the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association.
In May 2011, Marian Price was arrested after appearing at a Irish Republican rally, where she held up a piece of paper from which a masked man read. She was immediately taken to Maghaberry high security prison (an all-male prison) and was placed in solitary confinement.
Marian has been accused of, ‘encouraging support for an illegal organisation’. Marian has now been in prison for 14 months, during which time neither her lawyers, or Marian have been allowed to see any of the state’s ‘alleged’ evidence.
Key facts from Marian’s internment in Maghaberry prison:
• She has been kept in solitary confinement in a ‘male’ high security prison
• She is effectively interned without a trial, sentence, or release date.
• She has not been given any timescale for any investigation.
• She has not been allowed to see the evidence that the state claims to have
• Her release has been ordered on two occasions by judges. However, on both occasions the secretary of state has overruled those decisions.
• The secretary of state claims he has ‘revoked Marian’s license’. This is despite Marian never being released on license. She was given a Royal Pardon.
• Marian’s Royal Pardon has ‘gone missing’ from the home office (the only time in history). The secretary of state has taken the view that unless a paper copy can be located – it must be assumed that she does not have one.
• Despite no ‘license’ existing for her release from prison in 1980, it is the non-existent license that is being used to keep her in prison.
• She can only be released by the secretary of state responsible (Owen Paterson)
Marian suffers from numerous physical health problems due to how she was treated in prison in the 1970’s. Due to her year-long solitary confinement, Marian’s physical and mental health has deteriorated rapidly, and she has been transferred to hospital.
As I pointed out at the beginning of this post – you may not share the same political views as Marian Price, but you should be deeply concerned about how the state treats people who it views as a threat.
I recall that some anarchists were snatched from their beds on the morning of last year’s royal wedding, and detained for the day – but imagine being interned without trial for over a year, and kept in solitary confinement.
The case of Marian Price is one we should all keep a close eye on, and is best summed up by the Irish civil rights leader Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, who said that:
“Is a clear signal to everybody who is not “on board” and who is not of the same mind as the government: that no dissent will be tolerated. No dissent will be tolerated and you challenge the status quo at your peril.”