Over 200 people attend public meeting to discuss Marian Price case

Thu, 16/02/2012 - 23:20 -- Editor

There was standing room only tonight at the Tower Hotel as the public gathered to discuss the case of Marian Price.

Over 200 people came to hear human rights activists discuss the 58-year-old's continued imprisonment at Maghaberry prison.

Monsignor Raymond Murray, SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey, Eamonn McCann and Bloody Sunday campaigner Linda Nash all addressed the crowd seperately, each expressing their deep concern for Ms Price's health and well-being after over nine months in isolation.

Ms Price has been held in solitary confinement at Maghaberry Prison for over nine months without charge. She was arrested after holding a piece of paper for a masked man at an annual Easter Rising commemoration in Derry, a few days later Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson revoked her release from prison on license.

Linda Nash made an impassioned plea for Ms Price's release. She quoted research which showed that psychological damage can occur after 15 days in isolation, and that Ms Price had now been isolated for nine months. She said Ms Price has a medical condition which needs careful and frequent monitoring of medication which is impossible in prison.

"Internment is internment no matter how you dress it up," she said. "Enough is enough. Marian should not be in prison. Release her now."

Pat Ramsey was told the gathered crowd that he had been questioned as to why he was fighting for the release of Marian Price.

"This is a personal thing. It is a right cause," he said. "It is injustice. If Marian Price was my sister, my loved one I would be deeply distressed as to the condition of her health. In the last year she has developed chronic medical problems. If she was my sister and she was on the outside I would be taking her to her GP and her GP would be admitting her to hospital immediately. It is that urgent.  If there is any decency left in the world she should be at home, or the next best thing, in hospital."

Mr Ramsey also highlighted other prison issues such as strip searching in Maghaberry and revealed that the Justice Minister David Ford was tonight visiting Portloise Prison in Dublin to review their search model, which eradicated the need for strip searching.

Monsignor Raymond Murray, the former Chaplain at Armagh Gaol, then addressed the audience telling them that through history Internment did nothing except allow the continuation of conflict and the rise of hopelessness.

"Will the British government ever learn?" he asked. "After the 1970s did we ever think that Internment would happen again in 2012? Marian's case must be widened to a global case. The British government are forever concerned about their image all over the world. Let us make it our job to tell the world of the ill treatment of a prisoner in their care.

"Marian Price is not a number. She is not some abstract person. She is a person with all the wonder of a human being. She is a wife, a mother, a sister. The sheer number of people who have come here tonight speaks volumes. We will not forget her. She must be released."

Monseignor Murray said that he had written to Secretary of State Owen Paterson on the issue but had yet to receive a reply.

Eamonn McCann said that Marian Price's continued imprisonment was a 'scandal'.

"I find it hard to believe that a government department would keep just one copy of the Royal Perogative of Mercy that pardoned Marian Price and would now secure her release. That is not how governments work. In my opinion Owen Paterson put Marian Price into Maghaberry on MI5 opinion, because they thought the place would be better off without her.

"There are some here who wouldn't agree with Marian's politics. This is not a political issue, it's a humanitarian one.

"The right to freedom is not just for nice people. It's either for everybody or it's for nobody."