2014 newsmaker: 80-year-old Shannon Airport protester

Margaretta D’Arcy: ‘Why shouldn’t I go online and find myself a Thai man?’

 Margaretta D’Arcy is released from Mountjoy prison, in Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Margaretta D’Arcy is released from Mountjoy prison, in Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Margaretta D’Arcy was imprisoned this year for refusing to sign a commitment to keep away from unauthorised zones at Shannon Airport.

The 80-year-old political activist, who lives in Galway, was protesting at the fact that US military aircraft refuel there. She served almost 10 weeks of her three-month sentence, and was visited in prison at one point by Sabina Coyne, the wife of President Michael D Higgins.

“Prison was a bit like being in one of those battery-hen places. There’s hardly a window in the place. My toilet was in the cell – an aluminium one without a lid, which was not very pleasant.”

What has she been doing since she was released? “I’m an artist. I’m on the job 24 hours a day. I’ve been continuing my conversation with the State about Shannon and prisons. Shannon is a complete blot on our society. I’ve been going on marches. I’ve been writing letters. Everyone is fed up with what’s happening in this country. Nothing nice has happened to me this year.”

D’Arcy’s husband, the playwright John Arden, died two years ago. “My partner of 55 years is dead. Physical intimacy is a very important part of life. Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you don’t want to have access to it any more. I have been extremely annoyed this year about the proposal to criminalise the buying of sex. The sex industry needs to be cleaned up, not banned.

“I’m a widow. I’m 80. Who can I go to for physical contact? I feel very strongly about the marginalisation of sex for older women. Why shouldn’t I go online and find myself a Thai man? Why should that be an offence if I did that? For 2015 I am considering doing it. I might. That would be a very funny court case. It’s not just men who would want to break the law about paying for sex. It would be a very, very interesting case. And if I am sent to jail again I’ll make sure I stay there for the whole sentence.”