I was just blimping through my copy of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973, and Part (IV) Miscellaneous and General gives a definition of terrorism.

"Terrorism means the use of violence for political ends and includes any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public or any section of the public in fear."

Now, dear readers, how does that grab you? It's wonderful what you can do with words, isn't it?

I was thinking to myself, being in jail and all that, of all the people I know who are involved in terrorism. No, I don't mean you and me! I mean all the people who fit into the above definition. It would take a few volumes to go over all the categories which immediately flip through my little mind so, to be parochial about it, I will deal with one category only. It is a special category all on its own. Would you believe I mean the people in charge of prisoners, here and in England? I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll just slide over a few of their recent activities and you can work out for yourself whether they can be described as above. Sound?

The first thing I want you all to do is to consider reports of the Balcome Street trial. The craic is this: the men involved have claimed responsibility for the Guildford and Woolwich bombings. To date they have supplied a solicitor with separate statements of how they carried out these operations and, from what I read, the statements are so detailed and precise that there can be no doubting their authenticity. Furthermore, witnesses are available to swear that there was no collusion between the men when they wrote the statements and that each statement was given voluntarily.

The only difficulty is that the British state has already jailed other people for causing these explosions. Other people who have consistently claimed that they were framed, that they were forced to sign confessions, and that they are innocent. Other people who were arrested simply because the British couldn't catch the IRA units involved. So they invented "IRA units" they could catch.

One obvious point which arises is why and how do innocent people come to sign statements, and how do those who don't sign still manage to end up doing long sentences? Surely the British police, the judiciary and the prison systems aren't guilty of "the use of violence for political ends" or of "putting a section of the public in fear"?

And what of the beatings handed out in Albany recently? I wonder how Sean Campbell received a broken arm, jaw and leg, plus fractured ribs? How did Father Fell come by a broken nose? How did others receive severe bruising and head injuries? Maybe they all fell down stairs together?

Which brings me to the case of Eddie Byrne. Last week Eddie suffered a dislocated shoulder while in Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight. And what of Patrick Hackett, who is now in solitary in Brixton Prison? Patrick, who had lost a hand and a leg in an explosion, was given solitary for not walking around an exercise yard.

There are many other cases of Irish prisoners receiving mysterious injuries and long stretches in solitary. A Scottish solicitor, Alastair Logan, has published in the Law Guardian, the journal of the London Law Society, a well-researched and documented indictment of the treatment of Republican prisoners held in British prisons. He also includes descriptions of injuries received by Irish people while in police custody or on remand.

An Irish Press editorial of 20 December 1976 comments:

The descriptions in Mr Logan's article of the harassment to which Republican prisoners are subjected, make painful reading. The restrictions on visits by relatives, clergymen and lawyers, the humiliating strip-searches, the limited access to reading material . . . the denial of education and recreational facilities are chronicled in a depressing sequence. What must it be like to spend all one's time in a cell where the light is on 24 hours a day?

So much, dear readers, of England. What then of Ireland?

Solitary confinement was condemned as far back as the end of the nineteenth century by a British Parliamentary Committee. Today in Long Kesh Republican prisoners are held in solitary twenty-four hours a day. They are naked, have no contact with the outside world (newspapers, letters, visits etc. are stopped), no exercise facilities, and they can expect to continue in this manner for the foreseeable future.

Solitary confinement is an unpleasant, soul-destroying and mind-bending experience. Imagine yourself locked in a coal-shed for a week, naked, with no means of communicating with the world outside. Imagine the uproar in our newspaper columns and halls of learning if this activity was uncovered in South Africa, Chile or Rhodesia. Yet it is happening now, and only a few hundred yards from where I write.

The Association for Legal Justice has condemned what it calls the lack of humanity shown by the British government's Northern Ireland Office in its treatment of these prisoners. "Just as serious," their statement continues, "is the rising tide of worry and resentment being generated among their families and relations..."

I wonder if this practice fits into the British definition of "putting the public or any section of the public in fear"?

Fr Faul, in an address to a recent conference on prisoners' rights, declared: "I have a big doubt in my mind about the regime in Portlaoise Prison . . . it is disimproving the men and producing hardened and embittered persons."

The Dublin government minister responsible for Portlaoise, in a BBC interview during the recent controversy surrounding the declaration of a State of Emergency, declared: "We intend to finish this thing once and for all". He didn't say that his government wouldn't use violence, and it is common knowledge that prisoners in Free State jails are ill-treated and confined to solitary. One prisoner, Tom Smith, was shot dead while "attempting to escape". It is also common knowledge that severe restrictions on visits by relatives, lawyers and clergymen have been imposed in Portlaoise and Limerick jails. Two bishops have been refused permission to visit prisoners, as have the parish priests of some of the men.

Despite evidence of beatings, despite the deaths of prisoners, despite the verdict at Strasbourg, despite cornmissions, tribunals and inquiries, no British soldier, RUC man, policeman or screw has ever served a day in prison since 1969 for murder or torture committed while on duty.

The reason for this is that British laws, like the one which defines terrorism, have neat Catch 22 clauses built in. The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act, for example, "applies to persons who have attained the age of fourteen and are not serving members of Her Majesty's regular naval, military or air force". Yahoo!

Would the real terrorists stand up, please?

Reproduced from Cage 11: Writings from Prison, by Gerry Adams, with permission of Robert Rinehart Publishers, 6309 Monarch Park Place, Niwot, Colorado. These excerpts may be read only, any printing or reproduction of this material must be obtained in writing from Robert Rinehart Publishers.

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