Britain’s history in Ireland is one of brutality and inhumanity, often characterised through the abuse of political prisoners.
One would have thought that the British government would have learnt that lesson by now and would know that not only is the maltreatment of prisoners entirely wrong it is also entirely counter-productive.
All prisoners are entitled to humane prison conditions, to proper medical facilities and to be treated with dignity.
For this reason Gerry Adams publicly called recently on the British government to transfer those Irish prisoners seeking repatriation to Ireland and to resolve the dispute in Maghaberry by introducing decent prison conditions.
This was the public expression of a demand that the Sinn Féin negotiating team have repeatedly made to both the British and Irish governments.
In Maghaberry Prison 30 republican prisoners are experiencing a vindictive regime.
An oppressive and hostile system of controlled movement regulates the prisoner’s lives.
They are confined to their cells, denied adequate washing facilities and are forced to eat all meals in their cells.
Objections from the prisoners to this treatment results in them being put on bogus charges and punished by losing remission.
Aiden Hume is a 27-year-old native of County Louth serving a 22-year sentence in Belmarsh Prison in England.
He was convicted for his alleged part in a bombing campaign in 2001 in England.
Before his arrest he was involved in an accident severely damaging one of his legs.
While in prison his injured leg has deteriorated to the point where prison doctors have told him his leg needs to be amputated.
He believes this condition has been caused by medical neglect.
On four occasions the prison authorities cancelled an operation depriving him of the urgent medical attention he needs to save his leg.
Aiden believes repatriation to an Irish prison offers him the best chance of getting proper medical attention.
Since September 2005 the Department of Justice in Dublin has had his transfer application.
Aiden and his family believe the Justice Minister Michael McDowell is deliberately blocking his transfer.
His transfer application is supported by Sinn Féin, the SDLP, an independent TD and the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas.
Mickey McKevitt is serving a 20-year prison sentence in Portlaoise on the word of a paid informer.
McKevitt’s sentence followed a disturbing trial involving the informer David Rupert, the FBI, MI5, the Garda Special Branch, the Director of Public Prosecution and a number of senior judges.
During the trial Rupert was shown to be a thoroughly disreputable person who inhabited a world of criminality and deceit throughout his entire life.
Several files characterising Rupert and penned by MI5 operatives were presented to the court, and in my view destroyed his credibility as a person worthy of giving evidence in a court of law:
McKevitt’s defence revealed Rupert to be involved in a string of dubious ventures: a career informer for the FBI from 1974, gambling deals with the Mafia in Florida, drug dealing, tax evasion, bouncing cheques, white slave trading involving two young (minor) girls, human trafficking, arms, explosives, and other contraband smuggled across the Canadian border.
Under relentless cross-examination by McKevitt’s defence Rupert sought refuge in memory loss. He said ‘I don’t recall’ over 1,000 times!
He was convicted and his conviction upheld by an appeal court on the grounds that Rupert was a ‘credible witness’.
Informers insidiously undermine justice. They pollute and corrupt those they touch. They put justice on trial.
Whatever one’s opinion of Michael McKevitt’s political views, and I for one fundamentally disagree with him, he is entitled to justice through a fair trial in front of a jury.
Political manipulation of the judicial system is not only wrong it is counter productive.
Injustice whether at the hands of British or Irish judges must be opposed and exposed.
August 25, 2006