A GROUP of former female republican prisoners have described the ongoing detention of West Belfast republican Marian Price as “cruelty beyond cruelty”. The Coiste na n-Iarchimí-led focus group was speaking to the Andersonstown News this week about its work to collate the first ever comprehensive database of female republican prisoners jailed in Ireland and the UK during the armed struggle. They said that Marian should be released immediately.
“While we’re not a campaigning organisation – we are a focus group aimed at specifically getting the women’s voice out there – we’re all in total agreement that Marian Price should not be in prison,” said focus group members and former political prisoners Breige Brownlee and Sinéad Moore.
“Marian had a terrible time the last time she was in prison and apparently it’s the same now. What’s happening to her is cruelty beyond cruelty.”
The focus group hopes to produce the definitive story on female republican prisoners by building a database of information and producing a special cultural project as a testament to their contribution to the republican struggle.
It already has the details of 450 former female inmates and is asking for other former prisoners to get in contact with Coiste and fill out a special survey forms.
“There’s never been a comprehensive, archived story done on the Armagh women prisoners,” said Breige.
“There’s been some great things done at the minute with Eileen Hickey’s book [‘In the Footsteps of Anne: Stories of Republican Women Ex-Prisoners’, which was published in November 2011 and originally started by the late Eileen Hickey, Armagh Women’s Prison’s first O/C] and Síle Darragh’s book ‘John Lennon’s Dead’ [written by another former Armagh Prison O/C] and we know that there’s loads of great audio interviews on women’s experiences too, but there’s nothing that people can access that contains all of these stories in one place. There’s also no statistical research on the women prisoners, which at this stage we were actually surprised to find out. So when Coiste asked us to run with this focus group, we jumped at the chance.”
The research project is looking for contributions from female prisoners from across the republican spectrum.
“We don’t stop at the Good Friday Agreement and I think that’s been the problem with previous attempts to do this as it has been specific to different groups,” said Breige.
“This project is for everybody. No matter who they are, what they are, from what era or what political affiliation they have now, it’s for everybody. We want everybody’s stories no matter how small a time they spent in jail.”
Once all the survey sheets have been collected and the database of names completed, the contributors will then decide how best to “mark their contribution to the republican movement”.
“This could be through a book, the collation of a library, a bursary, artwork, anything,” said Sinéad.
“But for it to be a genuine, truth-telling and true reflection it has to come from the women.”
If you would like to contribute to this oingoing research project, you’re asked to call the Coiste office at Beechmount Avenue on 02890 200770, or visit www.coiste.ie for the address of a Coiste-affiliated group near you.