President defends decision of wife to visit jailed activist

President Higgins said his wife was visiting Margaretta D’Arcy as a personal friend

File photo dated October 7th, 2012 of Shannon Peace activists Niall Farrell (right) and Margaretta D’arcy attempting to block the runway of Shannon Airport in protest at the use of the airport by the CIA and US Military  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

File photo dated October 7th, 2012 of Shannon Peace activists Niall Farrell (right) and Margaretta D’arcy attempting to block the runway of Shannon Airport in protest at the use of the airport by the CIA and US Military Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Tue, Jan 21, 2014, 13:10

President Michael D Higgins has defended his wife Sabina’s decision to visit the activist Margaretta D’Arcy in jail.

Mrs Higgins paid a private visit to Ms D’Arcy (79) in Limerick Prison at the weekend.

Speaking before opening of the new Brighton Institute of Modern Music (BIMM) Dublin building in the Coombe, Mr Higgins said the appropriateness of his wife’s visit was “irrelevant”.

He continued: “That issue doesn’t arise at all. Sabina was visiting a friend of long-standing whose health is frail and who was a fellow artist with Sabina and were in many performances together.

“Sabina is a person who can speak for herself as well and is a person of very good judgement. We do a lot of things together but we do a lot of other things as well.”

The visit took place less than a week after Ms D’Arcy, who is 79 and undergoing treatment for cancer, was jailed for refusing to sign a bond to uphold the law and keep away from unauthorised zones at Shannon airport.

Ms D’Arcy received a three-month suspended sentence last month for illegal incursion of the runway at Shannon airport on October 7th, 2012 during a protest over US military use. The sentence was activated when she refused to sign the bond and she was escorted from her Galway home to Limerick.

Both women have been friends in Galway for many years, and President Higgins spoke at the funeral of Ms D’Arcy’s husband, playwright John Arden.

Ms D’Arcy’s son, Finn Arden, and two peace activists, Cmdt (Retd) Edward Horgan of Shannonwatch and Niall Farrell of the Galway Alliance Against War (GAAW),visited the prison today. They said she had raised serious concerns about conditions within the high security female section of Limerick prison.

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