Tonight The Pensive Quill featured guest writer, Sandy Boyer who highlights the grave situation of the Irish republican political prisoner Marian Price who 41 years after the a British Tory Government introduced internment, findes herself interned by another British Tory government.
Marian Price could be in a British prison for the rest of her natural life. Unlike other political prisoners in the North, she has had no trial, no sentence, no release date and not even a date when the Parole Commission will review her case. Unless the courts intervene, she will only be released by order of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson.
Twice she has been arrested and brought before a non-jury Diplock Court. Twice a judge has ordered that she be released on bail. Each time Owen Paterson overruled the judge and ordered her back to prison. He said that he was revoking her license.
But Marian Price was not actually on license. Convicted of bombings in Britain, she received a full royal pardon (the “Royal Prerogative of Mercy”) when she was freed in 1980 because she appeared to be on the brink of death from severe anorexia nervosa. The anorexia was the result of being force fed more than 300 times when she was on hunger strike in a British prison.
The Northern Ireland Office now says the pardon “cannot be located” – that it has either been lost or shredded. Price’s solicitor Peter Corrigan recently told a crowded meeting in Belfast’s Conway Mill that this is the only time in the entire history of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy that a pardon has gone missing. Mgr. Raymond Murray, the veteran human rights campaigner, said simply “You can draw your own conclusions.”
Nevertheless, the Parole Commission sided with the Northern Ireland Office and refused to release Marian Price. Her lawyers will be appealing to the European Court of Human Rights..
Marian Price is being held in conditions designed to break her body and spirit. She has been in solitary confinement for more than 300 days although the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture says solitary confinement for more than 15 days amounts to torture.
She is locked in her cell 21 hours a day. There is a camera in the cell. She has been told it is switched off but there is no way to know if that is true. She has no privacy because prison staff is constantly going in and out of her cell. At night male prison officers open the peep hole and shine a light in her face so she can’t sleep. Marian has told relatives she feels like she is "in a zoo."
Her husband, Jerry McGlinchey, recently told Radio Free Eireann (99.5 FM or wbai.org) “My fear is that Marian will slip into a deep depression that it would take her years to come out of. I believe that is what the government intends.”
He previously said that he is "very, very worried" about her health. She has never recovered from the force feeding. It caused tuberculosis that had to be treated in 2010 and she was due for a checkup when she was arrested. The anorexia has returned and she suffers from such severe arthritis that she can't even open her hand. McGlinchey believes that her health will get steadily worse as long as she is in solitary confinement.
We can’t depend on the courts to free Marian Price. Each of us needs to help set her free. In the past month hundreds of people have come to protest meetings in Derry and Belfast.
There is one very simple thing each of us can do today. We can email Owen Paterson at email@example.com and tell him to free Marian Price immediately.
This may be especially important for those of us who don’t live in Ireland. The British government has often proven very vulnerable to international pressure.
To learn more about Marian Price and get the latest updates on her case go to freemarian.co.nr/