Saturday [June 27] saw upwards of 80 people take to the streets of Newry to oppose Internment. Various banners and placards were held aloft by the participants for the duration of the white line picket. Among those in attendance included former republican prisoners, Trade Unionists, community activists and Independent Republican elected representatives.
The annual event, which was organised by the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland, attracted much attention from Saturday shoppers on one of Newry's main streets with thousands of leaflets distributed to passing motorists and pedestrians alike. For the duration of the picket the Anti-Internment Group also manned a busy information stall.
The event was chaired by Cabs Kavanagh and the speakers included former republican prisoners Stephen Murney and John Heaney. John provided an in-depth, historical background to Internment along with detailing his own family’s suffering at the hand of the British forces over the decades.
Speaking at the event éirígí's Newry representative, and former republican prisoner, Stephen Murney gave a brief background to Britain's use of Internment in the 1970's compared to today's form of the draconian policy.
Stephen explained "One of the better known examples of Internment took place in the early 70's when hundreds of people were rounded up in dawn raids and taken to Long Kesh Internment camp. While that was a policy of mass internment, today our enemies seem to have learnt from that mistake.
"Today our enemies have adopted a more insidious policy of selective Internment whereby they target specific individuals rather than the masses. This is designed to remove key activists who are considered to be opponents and also to strike fear into others, to attempt to dissuade people from actively involving themselves in republicanism."
Murney also slammed the political and state forces responsible for enforcing the policy by stating "It has to be noted that some of those who were at one time victims and opponents of ‘internment by remand’, and who even represented and defended victims of that process, are today part and parcel of the prosecution, judicial and political system which implements this form of internment."
Furthermore Stephen spoke about the torturous conditions under which Republican prisoners are forced to live under in Maghaberry Stephen said "The continued use of strip searching, controlled movement and isolation is completely unjustified. There is no logical reason for the continued use of these oppressive policies as they only serve to fuel and create conflict.
“Republican prisoners have stated countless times that they seek to create a conflict free environment, they aren’t asking for anything unreasonable, they are simply seeking to live their lives in a particular fashion.
“Within Roe House, republicans find themselves subjected to a repressive, restrictive regime, enforced by bigoted, sectarian screws under the control of MI5. Time and time again we have heard accounts and reports of how the screws, the riot squad and various governors continue to provoke and intimidate republican prisoners. Some of those governors have been brought over from prisons in England to oversee the torturous regime in Maghaberry.”
Stephen also urged those attending to redouble their efforts to highlight Internment and the human rights abuses within Maghaberry “There is an onus on each and every one of us to do something to highlight these issues. Whether
it's handing out leaflets, putting up posters, or organising and attending events such as this one. We can all play our part.
“The British establishment think they have us right where they want us when we’re in prison. For centuries republicans have been held within British prisons for their involvement in the struggle for national and social liberation. And for centuries the British have failed miserably to break us behind the wire. If anything being held captive by our enemies strengthens us and makes us more determined to pursue our goals.
“They fail to understand that republicans know more about surviving in prison than they, the gaolers realise.”
Murney concluded by quoting the republican prisoners in Maghaberry.
“They will say we threatened them, but, for all they say, they understand best that we do not need to. Our integrity is what threatens their entire regime; our defiance rattles it to its very foundation.
For all their technology, resources, finance, personnel, desire and inbred need to subjugate, there is nothing they can do to prevent the collapse of their current attempts to ‘rehabilitate’. Their weapons cannot penetrate here.
Little observations, in many prisons, over very many years, have amassed all the armour required. This is our terrain.”