18 February 2012     

Marion Price should be released

By Lynda Walker

The Communist Party of Ireland welcomes the transferring of Marian Price to Hydebank Wood female prison from the all-male high-security jail at Maghaberry, where she was held in solitary confinement for nine months. She is now being held in the hospital wing of Hydebank.
     The Northern Ireland Assembly discussed the situation in January, and the SDLP called for her to be released. Not surprisingly, the Unionists opposed a motion that was put by the SDLP; it was defeated in the vote, despite support from Sinn Féin. It will take women’s organisations, trade unions and human rights groups to make representation on her behalf.
     Marion and Dolores Price, along with Gerry Kelly MLA and others, were given life sentences for their role in an IRA bombing campaign in London on 8 March 1973. Both sisters went on hunger strike and were force-fed in prison in England. They were demanding to be repatriated to Northern Ireland, a demand that the Communist Party of Ireland supported at the time.
     Marion and her sister were returned to Northern Ireland in 1975, and Marion was released from prison in 1980 through ill-health.
     Marion Price, who is now in her fifties, was granted bail in a Derry court last May after being charged with supporting an illegal organisation. However, she was not released, because the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, made a separate decision to revoke her early-release licence. She was accused of holding up a speech for a masked man at a dissident rally on Easter Sunday 2011. She is also facing charges relating to an attack on the Massereene army base in 2009.
     The SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey questioned whether the government had the right to return her to jail, as he said she had received a royal pardon three decades ago, details of which, he claimed, had gone missing from state files. “Marian Price at this present time should not be in prison,” he said. She should either be in hospital receiving medical care or be at home with her family.” The Communist Party of Ireland supports the view that she should be brought to court or released from prison.
     While the Communist Party of Ireland is opposed to the paramilitary campaigns here, we are equally opposed to attacks on civil liberties.
     The question of women prisoners brings many more problems into discussion, especially women who are being imprisoned for questions relating to poverty and debt, but that requires a much broader debate.
     Marion Price is not the only person to suffer from the injustice of what is a “left-over” from the days of internment and the Special Powers Act. Robert McCartney and Brendan Lillis were imprisoned without charge (and others still are) until campaigns were fought to free them.
     The Stormont minister of justice, David Ford, said that the decision to revoke the licence on national security grounds was led by the secretary of state, but Ford is just ducking the issue. Marion Price should be released.

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