Mudcat Café message #268045 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #23852   Message #268045
Posted By: paddymac
30-Jul-00 - 04:26 PM
Thread Name: BS: Grit your teeth, the PIRA boys are out
Subject: RE: BS: Grit your teeth, the PIRA boys are out
Here's a nationalist view of the Friday releases. Trusting that Fionn's originating post for this thread is an accurate reflection of the London Times' reportage, you might think they were talking about an entirely different event. However, if you're at all familiar with Ireland, you recognize that the British press is noted for its "spin" of Irish topics. This material is from RMD. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Forty-six IRA political prisoners were released from Long Kesh yesterday on a day which saw the infamous prison virtually emptied and set for imminent closure. There was a strong sense of history as the IRA men walked free from the prison in which the British government famously tried to break the back of Republican resistance. Amid high spirits, the IRA men were mindful of those comrades who had given their lives in Long Kesh and all the other victims of the conflict in Ireland. The prisoners said they were "unbowed and unbroken" but ready to extend the "hand of friendship" to everyone wanting to build a better future for all people in the North. But as they emerged from the jail into the arms of delighted friends and family just before midday, the IRA OC (Officer Commanding) in the prison, Jim McVeigh, said republicans would continue to strive for a democratic socialist Ireland. "As republicans, who have experienced suffering, we understand well the hurt of others. We offer a sincere hand of friendship to everyone who is prepared to help build a new future for all of our people. The Ireland we seek is a more equal and democratic one, an Ireland that cherishes all of its children equally", he said.

Earlier, prisoners with the breakaway Republican INLA and three loyalist organisations were released in a staggered arrangement, catering to each group's taste for the attentions of the international media. The IRA prisoners were met by the Sinn Fein Assembly member, Gerry Kelly, who himself escaped from the H-Blocks in 1983. Mr Kelly rejected suggestions that the final phase of releases, which included some of the IRA's top operatives, posed a threat. "I was in jail and I am no threat to anybody", he said. If Long Kesh was to become a monument, it had to be a double-sided monument: "A monument to man's inhumanity to man, but also a monument to people who found themselves naked and alone but kept their spirit." Meanwhile, the only prisoner released from a jail in the 26 Counties yesterday accused the Dublin government of "cherry-picking" those who qualified for early release under the Good Friday Agreement. Dubliner Padraig Steenson, who was freed from Castlerea Prison in County Roscommon, called for the release of the seven remaining republican prisoners at Castlerea. "I have to stress that I am saddened I left behind some of my comrades. It is hypocritical that the Irish government have failed to release them under the terms of the Good Friday agreement even though they are qualifying prisoners," he said. "The Government have no right to cherry-pick who qualifies to suit their own political agenda." But in Belfast, Danny Morrison said it was a "day of celebration" for republicans - and particularly himself. His brother Ciaran, who had visited him as a four-year-old when he was interned, was among the first to emerge alongside David Adams, cousin of Sinn Fein president Gerry. Danny said he believed the release of prisoners was the "most stabilising thing" that could happen. Although he favoured retaining the hospital where the hunger strikers died, he said a testimony to prison officers should also be included. "It would be an act of reconciliation and a great recognition of one another's humanity," he said. Also present was Martin Meehan, the last internee to be released from Long Kesh, who also served a prison term in the 1990s alongside his son. He said his thoughts were with the suffering of prisoners' families over the years, as a "sad chapter for all" finally came to a close. "It is a momentous day, but there is a lot of suffering outside as well," he said. "There should be no triumphalism because there is a lot of hurt out there. Prisoners are hurt, families are hurt, victims are hurt." Sinn Fein councillor Paul Butler, who served 14 years in the prison, also returned and called for part of it to be preserved as a museum. "If that is done, it could hopefully be seen as a final chapter in the whole conflict. It should be a true beginning for everyone in the north," he said. "Whatever you say about the people who were in the jail and what they did, we need to learn from the failures of the past." LOOKING FORWARD Belfast republican Paul Stitt, who was sentenced to 22 years in prison, was one of those who walked free to a joyous homecoming in his Carrick Hill home. Speaking just two hours after his release, the 29-year-old admitted it was hard to believe he was finally free. "It's still a bit unreal. When I walked out this morning it felt like I was just going out on a visit - but then, when I came back to the house and saw the flags and everything, it started to sink," he said. "It's been a long wait and, to a certain extent, today was tinged with a bit of sadness because two of my friends were left inside. But it's an important day and there's a tremendous sense of relief to be out." He said he believed former prisoners had a vital role to play in Ireland's future. "We're absolutely essential because we are political prisoners and, just as we were part of the conflict, now we are part of the solution," he said. He has vowed to join Sinn Fein outside the prison to help further republican objectives. Before the prisoners left jail yesterday, he also revealed that a meeting was held to air views on what should happen on its closure. The consensus was that, at the very least, the H-block in which Bobby Sands served time, and the prison hospital, should be preserved as a museum. "We met and talked about it and we would particularly like to see H3 and the hospital retained," he said. "It could become a tourist attraction just the way Robin Island is in South Africa and Kilmainham in Dublin," he said. Looking ahead in the short term, he is preparing to enjoy the next few days at home and, with a string of newly-acquired qualifications, he is interested in working with computers. Above all, he is determined to work towards a positive solution to the situation in the North. "At the moment there are a lot of difficulties with the Patten report and all these issues need to resolved," he admitted. "But I have total confidence in the Sinn Fein leadership that they will do everything in their power to ensure that the Good Friday agreement is implemented."