LOCAL people been asked to come out and show their support for veteran West Belfast republican Marian Price this weekend at a special march and rally organised to highlight her plight. The rally comes as the 58-year-old’s health continues to deteriorate as she is held in isolation at Hydebank Women’s Prison despite having been granted bail on charges brought against her – a situation described by local republicans as internment.
Sunday afternoon’s march will leave from Beechmount Avenue at 2.30pm and proceed to Slievegallion Drive in Andersonstown for a rally to be addresses by Marian’s husband, Jerry McGlinchey, West Belfast republican and 1981 hunger striker Gerard Hodgkins and other speakers.
Marian was arrested in May 2011 on a charge of supporting an illegal organisation after she was accused of holding a speech for a member of the Real IRA during the group’s Easter Commemoration in Derry’s City Cemetery. Despite being granted bail on the charges, she remained in custody after Secretary of State Owen Paterson revoked her licence on security grounds. Marian’s supporters say a Royal Pardon issued to her on humanitarian grounds after being jailed for her part in the 1973 Old Bailey bombing over-ruled this licence. However, British authorities have since claimed to have lost the pardon document which Ms Price’s solicitor said would secure her release.
The charges in relation to the Derry commemoration were dismissed earlier this month, although the Public Prosecution Service said the ruling was “in no way the end of the case” and that it was “examining all the circumstances and how we will proceed”.
In July 2011 Ms Price was charged with providing property for the purposes of terrorism in connection with the murders of two British soldiers outside Antrim’s Massereene barracks in 2009.
Pauline Mellon from the Justice for Marian Campaign said Ms Price is now in need of “urgent medical intervention” because of the effects of her continued isolation and severe arthritis.
“The public at this point questions why Marian remains in prison given that the charge that led to her arrest had been dismissed,” said Pauline.
“The Public Prosecution Service were prompt to respond and announce their plans to continue with the investigation. Many see this as a stalling tactic designed to facilitate Marian's continued internment. It must be stated the other charges Marian was bailed on are charges based on third-party, hearsay evidence.
“British Secretary of State Owen Paterson justified sending Marian back to prison last May by claiming to have revoked the licence she was released on when close to death in 1980. However, six days after her release [in 1980] Marian received the Royal Prerogative of Mercy [the pardon] which made redundant the licence she was previously released on. The British authorities have claimed to have lost or shredded this pardon. There has been no investigation to try to locate this crucial piece of evidence as Marian's legal team are confident this document could secure her release.”
Marian’s supporters say that countless medical professionals have since recommended that she be transferred to an outside hospital for full-time care.
“Last week Marian was assessed by a doctor appointed by the United Nations,” said Pauline.
“She has been subjected to what experts define as torture and denied the most basic of human rights. The Justice for Marian campaign and Marian's family would call on the public to support Marian by joining the march this Sunday, and event that has been organised by independent human rights activists and which is not affiliated to any group or organisation.”
West Belfast republican and former 1981 hunger striker, Gerard Hodgkins, who has been supporting the Price family in their campaign, appealed for “anybody from a republican or socialist background, or anyone with an interest in human rights at all, to come out and support the rally”.
“Marian is entering into her second year of internment without trail on the word of an unelected and unaccountable Englishman,” he said. “That is not democracy and it’s not a system of justice.”
The ex-prisoners’ support group Coiste na nIarchimí have expressed their ongoing support for the campaign to release Marian Price.
“Currently she is being held under the orders of the British Secretary of State, whilst legally released on bail on other charges,” said Coiste’s Michael Culbert.
“Marian Price has spent a year in prison whilst the legal system has adjudged that she be set free on bail. This is wrong and Marian Price should be released as instructed at her bail hearing.
“Coiste also supports the call for the release of both Martin Corey and Gerry McGeough – two people also currently being held solely on the instructions of the Secretary of State. We call on all former political prisoners to support the campaign for the immediate release of these people from jail.”