Jailed republican Price in legal limbo despite her illness
Legitimate questions hang over the detention of Marian Price, but she still faces prosecution in relation to the murder of two British soldiers
ALMOST 40 years on and the Price sisters are in the news again, Dolours Price has been caught up in the row over the Boston Tapes, and Marian Price is, more pressingly, the subject of protests and calls for her release amid concern about her physical and mental health.
Marian Price (58) was sent back to prison in May last year by Northern Secretary Owen Paterson. He revoked the licence under which she had been released in 1980, weighing 5st 10lb and suffering tuberculosis and anorexia nervosa, after serving seven years in prison for the 1973 Old Bailey bombings.
Dolours Price is an unwilling protagonist in the legal saga over her purportedly telling the Boston Tapes project she was implicated in the murder of mother of 10 Jean McConville when acting for her then alleged IRA commander Gerry Adams – a charge the Sinn Féin president denies.
She will make no comment on the legal wrangle – “I have put that away to the back of my head; it will run and run, and let it run, and I will not lose a night’s sleep over it” – but instead she tells of how she is “completely distraught” with anxiety for the wellbeing of her sister, who is younger by three years.
In 1973 the two sisters, who remain steadfastly opposed to the present political dispensation, believing it to be a republican sell- out, were part of the IRA unit that planted four car bombs outside the Old Bailey court in central London, two of which were defused and two of which exploded, leaving 200 injured and one man dead from a heart attack.
Their arrest, imprisonment and hunger strike lasting more than 200 days, which involved force- feeding, was a dominant news issue at the time and ultimately resulted in the sisters and the other IRA unit members being repatriated to prison in Northern Ireland.
The current Free Marian Price campaign has been gathering steam in recent weeks.
This week several priests, politicians, artists and academics wrote to The Irish Times urging her release on humanitarian grounds, contending she was a “victim of psychological torture and internment without trial”.
There is little or no doubt that Price is seriously ill.
On independent medical recommendation, she was transferred from Maghaberry Prison near Lisburn to Hydebank Prison in Belfast in February and then last month to a Belfast hospital, under guard and still in custody.
This month, United Nations doctors who examined her reported she was “unable to comprehend the allegations being made against her to sufficient degree to inform her defence” and that “she would be unable to follow the evidence in her own hearing as she lacks the ability to attend to detailed evidence”.
There are legitimate human rights questions over the detention of Ms Price, while equally it must be pointed out that she is facing prosecution in relation to an alleged offence of providing property for the purposes of terrorism. She is accused of purchasing a mobile phone for a dissident paramilitary who used it to make a claim to the media that the Real IRA killed the soldiers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey at Massereene in Antrim in March 2009. Her defence, it is understood, is that she did not know how it would be allegedly used.