Justice for the Craigavon Two
Irish TD’S raise Craigavon Two in the Irish Parliament. during a motion discussing 15 years since the Belfast agreement.
Find below some transcripts of the debate
Eamon O Cuiv.
I am surprised that the motion does not mention justice issues, particularly those which relate to prisoners in the North of Ireland. Deputy Ó Snodaigh is well aware of the matter to which I refer because he visited a number of prisons in that jurisdiction in the company of some Deputies and Senators who have shown great interest in these issues in recent times. I will try to outline the nature of the issues to which I refer and also of the injustices that have been perpetrated. I recognise that the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Taoiseach have made representations in respect of these issues. It is important, however, to place on the public record the facts about what is happening.
I wish, first, to refer to the case of Marian McGlinchey – also known as Marian Price – and Martin Corey. Both of these individuals were released on licence many years ago. Marian was actually released in the very early 1980s. In the past two years, they were both arrested and imprisoned. Neither they nor we know what the allegations against them are. It seems extraordinary that, at this remove, someone can be put in prison and not be informed as to the nature of the evidence against them. These people were arrested and imprisoned on the order of the British Secretary of State. There is no limit to the amount of time that can be taken to hear their cases. If parole is refused, neither will be informed of the grounds for this. It is impossible to refute evidence if one does not know the nature of it. If this was happening in any other part of the world, motions of condemnation of a state which allowed such a justice system to obtain would be tabled all over the place.
Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan and I visited Marian Price in hospital yesterday. Ms Price has been in hospital for nearly a year and last week she was moved to an acute unit. She is suffering from a multitude of ailments and her immune system is breaking down as a result of the various medicines with which she is being treated. I am concerned about the ongoing incarceration of these two people.
Unfortunately, I do not have time to go into his case. Both cases are effectively detention without trial and will do more to destabilise the peace process than anything else of which one can dream.
Why were Mr. Gary Adams and Mr. Gerry McGeough, the so-called on-the-runs, picked to be put in prison? As Mr. McGeough was released after two years, it is obvious that the system does not view him as a threat to society. A part of the delay in Mr. Adams’s case has to do with who he was with he was in prison. It is extraordinary that someone could be refused parole because he or she was put into a certain part of a prison. I assure the Minister that choice of who to associate with in prison is not that great.
Regarding the so-called dissidents, a dirty protest continued for more than one year. When it concluded last year, undertakings were given in respect of change. Judging by what we were told during our visit to HM Prison Maghaberry yesterday, no change has occurred. It further transpired that many of the people in question were in prison on indefinite remand for court cases that were still awaited. The remand period can continue in such cases. This is detention without trial.
The arrests and convictions of Mr. Adams and Mr. McGeough were contrary to an international agreement between the Irish and British Governments, that being, Weston Park Agreement. I am amazed that this has not been mentioned on the Sinn Féin motion’s “To Do” list.
Serious abuses have occurred in the case of Mr. Brendan McConville and Mr. John Paul Wootton. It was due to be started in the appeal court before the prosecution stated that it had further evidence. It now appears that the prosecution was collecting intelligence on discussions held between another witness who would confound the prosecution’s evidence and his solicitor. Matters have become so serious that an application has been made to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal to ask the Criminal Cases Review Commission to direct the police investigation, something that is possible in Northern Ireland.
I am a member of the foreign affairs committee. When we meet people from conflict areas, they take great heart from the Northern peace process. After generations of bloodshed, bitterness and deep division, peace was achieved. No one wants to see it undermined, but that is what is happening. Lasting peace cannot be achieved without justice, something that is being undermined in the North. I have raised the issue of prisoners at Maghaberry prison in Priority Questions and Topical Issues. With a group of Deputies, I visited the prisoners several times. Their human rights are being abused. I am not referring to their political views. How could a dirty protest continue for 18 months without anyone paying the prisoners a blind bit of notice? We have been told that the agreement is not being implemented in the prison.
Regarding Ms Marian Price, how could a royal prerogative of mercy that received significant coverage when given be lost so suddenly? She is the only female being held in isolation in a male jail. Her medical treatment leaves much to be desired. These are abuses of her human rights. Her hearing with the Parole Commissioners is repeatedly postponed. She has been held two years on the basis of allegations.
Equally disturbing is the case of Mr. Martin Corey, who has been in jail for three years having had his licence revoked on the basis of allegations. Following a judicial review, the judge opted to release him, but the Secretary of State prevented that from happening. He is long overdue a parole review. It will not be held until July. This is internment without trial. In a democracy, due process should be followed. Level a charge, bring a person to court and let him or her have a say. If there is a conviction, it can be appealed. Otherwise, the person serves time. So-called evidence is being produced, but it will be closed. Barristers and solicitors will effectively be going into the case blindfolded.
The sword of Damocles is hanging over others who are out on licence. We have had the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four. We now have the Craigavon Two, men who are being held following a series of allegations, dubious circumstantial evidence and serious issues relating to the PSNI and the covert surveillance of civilians. These injustices are putting the peace process in jeopardy. Do we never learn from history? Are we trying to create more martyrs and fill the ranks of dissident groups?
I believe in people’s democratic right to a fair trial. People in the North are being denied this right. Those being held on grounds of dubious allegations are not the problem. Rather, they would be a part of the solution if the situation was being addressed correctly and fairly.
The Good Friday Agreement has been a very positive development, but we should not take things for granted. There is still work to be done if we are to ensure the long-term sustainability of the peace process. Like other Deputies in yesterday’s debate, I want to concentrate on some of the prison issues. Marian Price and Martin Corey were released on licence many years ago but were rearrested in the last few years and are now imprisoned without trial.
It is called internment. A series of abuses have occurred in the case of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton, known as the Craigavon Two. Allegations are weak in both cases and there are serious issues relating to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI, regarding their convictions and recent failed appeal. Injustices have the potential to put the peace process at risk.
Having visited Maghaberry Prison on three occasions over the last three months with other Members of the Oireachtas and listened to the prisoners’ side of the story, one would have to be concerned. I have no interest in republicanism, but I feel the treatment of political prisoners in Maghaberry is unjust and leaves much to be desired. Prisoners’ rights were promised in 2010 but did not materialise and this led to a dirty protest which lasted 18 months up to last December. Promises were made again following the end of the protest, and again they were not delivered. Measures were to be introduced to bring about a conflict-free environment in the prison. These were to be brought in over three phases in a 12 month period to include movement access, whereby they were promised they would be allowed to have six men on the landing at one time, three in the laundry, three in the phone room and three in the classroom. It turns out the classroom is not available to them. There are no teachers available to them. These prisoners are getting no education and are locked up in their own cells most of the day. It does not make much sense.
What ever happened to the idea that prison was meant to reform the prisoner, make him or her a better person and fit for society? They also have serious grievances about the continued use of strip-searching and the use of isolation in an effort to break particular prisoners. It would make far more sense to have a peaceful atmosphere in the prison rather than one of conflict.
The issues Deputy Wallace has raised have been silenced by the mainstream media here in the South and we will ignore these issues at our peril. Not too far up the road we have a man who has been in jail for three years who meets all the criteria of the Good Friday Agreement, whose licence was revoked, allegedly for security reasons. He and his legal team have not been informed of these reasons and decisions have been made behind closed doors. The exact same situation faces Martin Corey and the very ill Marian Price, people who have not been presented with the cases against them and who have remained in custody for years. This is not the type of approach that will bring peace in the North. These people are becoming symbols of a continued injustice, and of the fact that internment without trial is still alive and well. There cannot be peace unless justice is done openly and transparently.
I am not a nationalist or a republican. I am an internationalist and am concerned about these issues very much from a human rights point of view, and that is why we have been involved in the cross-party delegations to Maghaberry Prison. It is absolutely reprehensible that the prison authorities and the establishment in the North and Britain have breached agreements and promises regarding prisoners’ conditions which should allow the men to go out onto the landings and socially interact, to get an education, to engage in handicrafts and other issues which deal with rehabilitation. This is not a way forward to bring a conflict-free environment. It is not in the interests of the prisoners or the staff in that prison. Unless we here address these issues we cannot have a lasting peace. I urge the authorities in the South to exert pressure for a desperately needed resolution of these issues.
It is appropriate that 15 years on we should note progress and renew commitment to the Good Friday Agreement in this House. The Government’s amendment stresses that it continues to work towards the observation and implementation of human rights principles. As has been outlined by other Deputies in their contributions, the human rights of prisoners in the North are being abused on a daily basis. Martin Corey, Marian Price and the Craigavon Two are all having their human rights abused. The Government needs to step up to the mark on this and ensure it deals proactively with the British Administration because the Secretary of State is overruling the court system in the Six Counties to ensure these prisoner are kept in custody. This is internment. Holding prisoners without any notice of charge, trial date or attempt to bring them to trial is an abuse of human rights. This Government needs to ensure this is addressed and to deal with it very proactively.
The purpose of the Good Friday Agreement was to remove the circumstances that caused the conflict in the first place, but the British Government is leaving the potential for martyrs and undermining people’s confidence in the justice system. The justice system has to be an integral part of any peace process and the workings of the Good Friday Agreement.