A convoy of cars set off from the Six Counties to Dublin on Saturday morning, arriving in Dublin that afternoon to join in a short march through the city centre, to highlight the ongoing internment of Irish Republican activists. The event was organised by two organisations independent of political parties or organisations: Duleek Independent Republicans and Anti-Internment Group of Ireland.
The convoy set out on Saturday morning at 11am am from Newry and passed in turn through the towns of Dundalk, Drogheda, Julianstown and Whitehall to conclude at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin city centre. Unusually for such events, the convoy received no harassment in the Six Counties from the RUC/ PSNI – that work was left to their counterparts in the Twenty-Six Counties.
Supporters of the Dublin march began to gather at the Garden of Rembrance around 1.15pm and from then on every arrival was stopped by Irish Special Branch asking them their names and addresses. Some refused to give them.
The political police also asked for the driving licences of three of the convoy cars that arrived at the Garden of Rembrance (others had parked elsewhere in the city).
All of this harassment was exceeding the legal powers of the Gardaí and some of those they targeted told them so and refused to cooperate with them.
The march set off from its mustering point and proceeded down Dublin’s main street, O’Connell Street, passed by the Larkin Monument and the location of Bloody Sunday 1913, on to pass the O’Connell Monument (which still bears bullet holes from the 1916 Rising and possibly from the Civil War also) and across O’Connell Bridge.
Then D’Olier Street going south, turning right at the wall of Trinity College then right again at the Bank of Ireland building (until 1800 the Irish Parliament, from which Catholics and Presbyterians were barred).
The march turned right again into Westmoreland Street and headed back across the bridge to the GPO, along the same route as so many British artillery shells and rifle and machine gun bullets had poured one hundred years ago.
The march attracted considerable attention from people along its short route with many audible exclamations about internment still being in existence in Ireland.
SPEAKERS AT THE GPO
At the GPO building (the Headquarters of the Rising in 1916) the marchers gathered around to hear speakers. Diarmuid Breatnach from the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland greeted the marchers and other listeners briefly in Irish and then went on in English to note that internment without trial, which people believed had ended decades ago, continues still being used against Republican activists.
Breatnach recalled that one Republican had been sent to jail without trial for four years in the Six Counties. Another Republican activist had spent two years in jail on remand only to have the case against him collapse and he had been set free – however, having spent two years in jail already. Breatnach then introduced Cait Trainor, an Independent Republican.
Speaking in a strong carrying voice, Trainor pointed out that the Good Friday Agreement had not brought an end to political prisoners in Ireland and that among the crowd there that day there were “family members of Irish political prisoners and indeed some who have been prisoners themselves in the not-so-distant past.”
Trainor pointed out that different forms of internment have emerged over the years, including internment by remand, where activists are held in jail for long periods of time before coming to trial or sometimes the charges are dropped before they even get a chance to have their say in court but “in the meantime the person could have done the equivalent of a five-year sentence”. Moving on to another type of internment, that reserved for prisoners released “under licence”, Trainor mentioned that for example Martin Corey, Marion Price and currently Tony Taylor do not get to trial nor to see the reason they are being put in prison, it being a secret which will only be heard in a court hearing also held in secret.
“Every man was a right to know his accuser and to know at least what he is accused of,” Trainor pointed out.
Speaking to those who believe that there are no political prisoners in Ireland, Trainor asked how they explain “the scores of men currently in Roe House and Maghaberry Gaol”? Trainor stated that “while there has been British occupation of Ireland there has always been resistance to it, that did not end with the Good Friday Agreement.”
“The Freestate Government is no better,” stated Trainor and referred to the case of Dónal Ó Coisdealbha remanded in custody since May 2015 and convicted, not on anything he has done but on what he has said in conversation. To that has been added “the usual trumped-up charge of membership of an illegal organisation” and the state broadcaster RTÉ added the fabrication that he was in court on explosives charges.
Referring to special legislation in the 26 Counties by which the word of a Garda Superintendent is sufficient to secure a conviction on a charge of membership of an illegal organisation, Trainor highlighted the cases of five men from Sligo and three from Dublin so charged and reminded her listeners that these Gardaí are part of a force “rotten with corruption as Garda whistle-blowers will attest to.”
Trainor pointed out that December is traditionally prisoners’-focus month for Republicans and called for unity around the issue of prisoners, stating that in the future it will be only through the ridding Ireland of British occupation that there will be no political prisoners.
After the applause had died down, Breatnach referred to the special powers of the Offences Against the State Act in the Irish state and reminded listeners that a few days previously had been the day on which in 1972, British agents had exploded two bombs in Dublin City Centre in order to help the state push through the amendment to that legislation. Two years later they had exploded another two bombs in Dublin and one in Monaghan, killing more people in one day than any other explosion during the conflict. Yet little is said about those explosions, because they were not caused by Republicans.
Breatnach referred also to another point made by Trainor, saying that the Irish state is also becoming increasingly repressive and using its courts against people resisting the water tax and evictions. But those victims of the State appear not to see themselves as sharing the fate of Irish Republicans. “If we do not stand together we will fall,” said Breatnach, “but if we unite against repression we can defeat it.” In that context Breatnach regretted that “Irish socialists are not yet marching with us against internment.”
Breatnach then introduced Dave Hopkins, of the Irish Republican Socialist Party.
Hopkins addressed some of the points that had earlier been made by Cait Trainor and stated that “even being in the company of a known dissenting voice could be deemed reason enough to charge a person with ‘membership’ now in this failed statelet.”
Turning to the Six Counties, Hopkins attacked the “stop and search tactics” being used by the PSNI (“the unreformed RUC”) to harass activists.
As Trainor had earlier, Hopkins also referred to the wrongful conviction of John Paul Wooton and Brendan McConville (the Craigavon Two) and to previous cases of wrongful conviction such as the Birmingham Six, the Maguire Seven and the Guildford Four and pointed out that it had taken decades for these to clear their names.
Hopkins went on to discuss further repressive legislation which will “ensure further abuses of power and lead to more and more people becoming victims of injustice.” Hopkins referred to the “Investigatory Powers Act 2016” introduced by the Westminster Government which gives intelligence agencies …. the powers to track, monitor and use in evidence web browsing and internet use against all kinds of individuals.”
“What London does, Dublin will surely follow,” said Hopkins.
Following the applause at the end of Hopkins’ speech, Breatnach thanked both speakers on behalf of the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland and Duleek Independent Republicans, also pointing out that both organisations are independent of any political party or organisation, thanked all who had come to support the event, also the speakers and wished them all a “Slán abhaile.”