The release of Brendan Lillis was welcome news and is a testament to the tireless and unrelenting campaign for his release led his partner Roisin Lynch. However it should also be noted that Stormont ‘Justice’ Minister David Ford ominously dangled the ‘Sword of Damocles’ over Brendan Lillis with a warning that if his health improved the original charges could be brought again. There seems to be no end to the pettiness and vindictiveness of the British and their surrogates here in Ireland.
However we have no time to rest on laurels but focus must now return to the POWs currently on ‘Dirty Protest’ in Maghaberry prison. All this year we have been marking the 30th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikes. The fact that thirty years later young Irishmen are being forced to engage in a similar protest against an attempt by the British State to criminalise them and by extension their cause tells us we have not travelled very far. The very presence of political prisoners in the Six-County State is a declaration for all who wish to see that it is an abnormal state.
The big obstacle faced by all campaigners for the Republican prisoners is the paper wall of silence, which Westminster, Stormont and Leinster House have erected around Maghaberry, and the wider issue of political prisoners. Since the right of political status in the Six Counties was signed away under the terms of the 1998 Stormont Agreement the official line is that there are no political prisoners in Ireland. In the years since 1998 their willing messengers within the media peddled this line to such an extent that among the mass of people it has become an accepted fact. Thus the big lie is repeated over and over until it is believed. The first hill to climb consequently is to establish in the public consciousness the very fact that today in the Ireland of 2011 there are political prisoners in both the Six and 26-County States and why they are there.
Breaking this artificial wall of silence around Maghaberry will allow the voices of the POWs to be heard and disturb the cosy consensus of the elites.