Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Meeting in Belfast Recalls Internment Past and Present

Following two successful events in Enniskillen and Dublin marking the thirty-eighth anniversary of the introduction of internment, éirígí Bhéal Feirste held a public meeting to mark the 38th anniversary of internment in Conway Mill in Belfast.

Upwards of 150 people packed into the Conway Education Centre on Sunday [August 9] to hear speakers Ruhal Ahmed, Pádraigín Drinan, Caitríona Duffy and Gerry McDonnell. Chaired by éirígí national vice-chairperson Rab Jackson, the talk was both thought-provoking and emotional.

Gerry ‘Blute’ McDonnell, who gave his account of being interned in the Long Kesh Cages, is a republican activist, a former blanketman, 1983 H-Block escapee and spent a total of 23 years incarcerated. Gerry gave a personal account of the hardship endured by the internees and their families.


Belfast-based lawyer Pádraigín Drinan then spoke about cases of the Hooded Men, whom she represented during their long fight for justice. The Hooded Men were a group of men selected for torture at the time that internment was introduced in the Six Counties in August 1971. She told of this human rights abuse and gave a forthright and moving recollection of that time in Irish history.

Ruhal Ahmed, who travelled from Birmingham to speak at éirígí’s event, is a British resident who was abducted by the US army in Afghanistan and subsequently detained in Guantanamo Bay. Ahmed, who was released in March 2004, spoke passionately about his experiences in US custody and the abuses of civil liberties inherent in the so-called War on Terror. One of the ‘Tipton Three’, whose horrendous experience was documented in Channel 4’s ‘Road to Guantanamo’, Ahmed related to the experiences of Gerry Mc Donnell and the Long Kesh Cages internees.

Finally, Caitríona Duffy from Lurgan spoke about the case of her father, Colin, who was one of the first Irish citizens to be detained under the draconian 28-day detention legislation. Colin has already been the victim of two previous miscarriages of justice. The articulate 18-year-old spoke of the vendetta the RUC/PSNI held against her father since she was a child.

éirígí spokesperson Seán Mac Brádaigh said: “Internment without trial in 1971 left a mark on nationalist communities across the North that lingers to this day. But it is important to remember that internment is not merely an historical event. The British government is still denying people the right to a fair trial, in the Six Counties and elsewhere. 28-day detention is a de facto form of internment.

“On behalf of éirígí I would like to thank the speakers and audience for attending today, especially Ruhal Ahmed who travelled from England to speak at the meeting. éirígí will continue to actively oppose modern day internment without trial and urges others to do likewise.”

Click here for more on the Dublin and Enniskillen events.

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