Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Class Struggle correspondent

Vicious Sentence

First Published: Class Struggle, Vol. 10, No. 7-8, July-August 1986
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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On June 11th, five Irish Republicans were found guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions in a number of English seaside hotels. One of them, Patrick Magee, was also found guilty of charges arising from the Brighton bomb in 1984. On June 23rd, Pat Magee was given eight life sentences, with a recommendation that he should serve at least 35 years. He and the four others – Ella O’ Dwyer, Martina Anderson, Gerry McDonald and Peter Sherry – were all given life sentences on the conspiracy to cause explosions convictions.

During their detention before and in the course of the trial, the prisoners were subjected to repeated strip searches. The Irish Prisoners Appeal, which organised protests against strip searching, commented at the end of the trial:

The British media has chosen to give virtually no coverage to the strip searching and other remand conditions the defendants suffered for 11 months. During the trial, the level of strip searching of all the defendants was increased to at least 17 times a week each. The average for each of the months before the trial for the women (who were subjected to more strip searches than the men from the time of their arrest until now) was 25 per month.

Strip searches cannot be justified on security grounds. They represent a deliberate and systematic attempt to degrade and humiliate, in this case Irish women prisoners. They are a form of sexual harassment that amounts to torture.

There was little doubt that the five would be found guilty. Over the past year, media coverage of their arrests and the police investigation had already convicted them. They had wanted to be tried separately, but that was denied to all those arrested but one, so that the others were· presented as guilty by association with each other any way.

The British state has never given Irish Republican prisoners a fair trial, and the sentences it has handed out have always been vicious. This is in contrast to the treatment given to British soldiers and RUC men who have gunned down unarmed Irish people in the Six Counties, including young children slain by plastic bullets: there always seems to be “justification” for them.

Patrick Magee was convicted of planting a bomb which killed five members of the British establishment in Brighton: it was a bomb which was intended to wipe out many of the British cabinet, including Thatcher and Norman Tebbit, who was injured in the blast any way. That cabinet, like others before it, had presided over a bloody war in Ireland, a war forced on the Irish people by 800 years of colonialism, and one which can be ended by British withdrawal from Ireland. The British politicians who have insisted on keeping the army in Ireland and denying the right of the Irish people as a whole to decide their own future are war criminals, and those who make war on the British occupation· and are captured as a result are prisoners of war.

These facts are still not recognised by the great majority of people in Britain. But they are facts all the same and they must be accepted sooner or later. Those who repress other nations are bound to face a fight back and· have no right to moan about the consequences.

After the guilty verdicts were delivered, the IRA issued a statement in Dublin which says, in part:

Contrary to the hysteria in the British media, there was no IRA plot to create ’carnage and massive destruction’ at British holiday resorts last summer.

Apart from the bomb at the Rubens Hotel in London, about which the British police know full well that a warning was to be given, no final decision to plant a series of small bombs around the English coast, with the purpose of diverting and embarrassing British forces, had been taken. Again, had such a tactic been adopted, warnings would have been given, despite all that has been said, it is not our purpose or in our interests to kill or injure innocent civilians....

...IRA attacks in Britain and elsewhere are in response to the British territorial claims – backed up by violence and government repression over the North of Ireland, a claim which is rejected by the majority of people in Ireland.

There is a momentum behind our campaign which no British government can stop. We want peace and we appeal to the British people to put pressure on their government to withdraw from our country and allow Ireland to determine its own political future, free from outside interference.

As Ella O’Dwyer left the dock, her sister shouted; “Ireland Unfree shall never be at peace!” The truth of those words should be well and truly proven, over seventy years after Irish Republican Padraig Pearse first uttered them.