Jailing of Irish writer and activist


Sir, – What exactly is the public to make of the widespread reporting of the visit of a private citizen to a prisoner in Limerick jail (Home News, January 21st)?

The fact Sabina Higgins is wife of the President does not make her private visit to a friend a matter of public interest or concern. She is not a public office holder.

By reporting this matter so widely, including on the 9pm television news, the media runs the risk of blurring the clear lines between the President and the judiciary.

If this had not been a private visit the public could interpret it as being a commentary on the trial and sentencing of Ms Higgins’s friend.

The media should speedily clarify. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 18.

Sir, – How fitting that Ireland’s first lady, Sabina Higgins, chose to visit Margaretta D’Arcy in a show of solidarity with this wonderful woman of courage, conviction and conscience.

In its latest statistics, Shannon Airport proudly announced an increased 1.4 million passengers transiting last year, but one wonders just how many of them were in fact US soldiers on their way to or from war?

We need to wake up and reclaim Shannon Airport as the civilian airport it claims to be.

Shannon belongs to us, not the US. – Yours, etc,



Co Limerick.

Sir, – I am rather perplexed at the decision of Sabina Higgins to visit jailed protester Margaretta D’Arcy in prison.

What sort of message does this send out – especially given that I have not read of the first lady visiting other prisoners?

While no one likes to see a person of any age in prison, it might be no harm to look at the facts. Ms D’Arcy was convicted before the properly constituted courts of this land for intrusion at Shannon Airport, she received a suspended sentence for so doing, but has refused to enter into a bond giving effect to the suspended sentence. She has therefore, her release in her own hands.

While I am sure there are mechanisms on humanitarian grounds for releasing a person detained, those salient facts must not be lost sight of. We have separation of powers here, and the advocates of such separation are often the first to shout when such an independent body makes a ruling not of their liking and call on politicians to intervene.

The courts here are still thankfully one of our few institutions still untainted, and if we do not respect their decisions and independence, then we have nowhere left to turn. – Yours, etc,



Co Mayo.

Sir, – I do not understand why the President did not accompany his wife on her visit to Margaretta D’Arcy – was he not a supporter of her cause in 2003? Perhaps he was otherwise engaged.

I accept that Ms D’Arcy has broken the law and is therefore entitled to be committed to jail. What I cannot understand is how a woman of 79 years, seriously ill with cancer, can jump an almost endless queue of people who have broken the law and should be in jail – but are not and never will be. – Yours, etc,




Co Monaghan.

Sir, – We in the Irish Workers Group would like to add our voice to those calling for the unconditional release of Margeratta D’Arcy from Limerick prison. This demand will not be easily conceded as it challenges the courts.

We need a mass struggle centred in the trade unions and the USI to win it.

To this end, we must begin a mass struggle of civil disobedience for Ms D’Arcy’s release, and the unconditional dropping of all charges against her.

The Galway Alliance Against War and the local Shannon Watch groups should set the ball rolling. – Yours, etc,


Monivea Road,


Sir, – Margaretta D’Arcy was sentenced by an Irish court to three months in Limerick prison for refusing to renounce in writing her political protest at the administratively condoned use of Shannon Airport for foreign military and extra-judicial operations.

The use of the Irish prison system to extract a written self-denunciation from an elderly artist who has devoted many decades to the promotion of human rights and the practice of principled dissidence, however unpopular the cause or uncomfortable the truth, is a national scandal. Had it been perpetrated in another jurisdiction, it would have been denounced for the grotesque misuse of power that it is. Ireland’s standing in the world has, in the past, been based on the ability to speak the truth on oppression and injustice to more powerful actors.

The State’s treatment of Margaretta D’Arcy suggests that this standing is now just another casualty of war. – Yours, etc,


Ralahine Centre for Utopian


University of Limerick,


Co Limerick.

Sir, – It’s sad to report, but I’m not at all surprised by the jailing of a 79-year-old artist and anti-war activist. In a State that has completely lost its moral core it’s almost inevitable that those who tenaciously pursue their principles and speaks out against the hypocrisy of power will find themselves silenced.

If Ireland is to find its way out of the present morass it will need more citizens like Margaretta D’Arcy, armed like her with a strong moral compass, and not the self-serving crew who currently helm this sorry ship of State. – Yours, etc,


Arbour Hill, Dublin 7.