POLITICAL PRISONERS

 

A chara, We are on the eve of the first anniversary of the Government's ratification of the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners

(November 1st). This allows for prisoners in all EU states to serve their sentences in their home country, where they can be closer to their families.

This is a basic right under European law, and one which obviously eases the enormous burdens placed on families having to visit their loved ones abroad. It is a nightmarish experience for many families who have to visit republican prisoners held in jails throughout England, under conditions which were recently described by Deputy Eamon O Cuiv as "intolerable".

Some of these political prisoners have been held for over 21 years. One, Joe McKenny, is approaching his 70th birthday. Many have spent years in solitary confinement and have gone months, and even years, without visits. Others have been denied compassionate parole on the death of a close family member.

Their repatriation is a basic human right and therefore cannot be justifiably opposed as a "concession" to any group. However, it would still represent one of the many confidence building meal sores which are nob necessary to help in bridgeing the vast gulf of mistrust between republicans and the British Government. This problem was exacerbated by the cynical use of prisoners as pawns by the British Home Office, following the IRA's cessation of August 1994.

The political prisoners' immediate repatriation to prisons in Ireland is the very least we can expect from the British Government, particularly when we consider the special treatment given to the convicted paratrooper, Private Lee Clegg. He was speedily transferred to a prison close to his family in England, only to be released last year, having served Just two years of a life sentence.

We must also remember that the republican prisoners were influential in bringing about the IRA cessation. How could politicians expect them to help bring about any future ceasefire, should they believe that they would, again be callously ignored, receiving no "peace dividend", and without even hope of being repatriated to prisons closer to their families in Ireland? - Is mise,

Bothar Bhaile Cora,

Baile Munna,

BAC 11.