THOUSANDS of people took to the streets of West Belfast on Sunday as part of a march and rally in support of veteran West Belfast republican Marian Price.
Local republicans of all backgrounds and concerned people of no political affiliation marched from Beechmount to a rally at the Busy Bee complex on the Andersonstown Road where speeches were given by former 1981 hunger striker Gerard Hodgkins, Marian’s husband Jerry McGlinchey and others.
A letter from the former chaplain of Armagh Women’s Prison, Monsignor Raymond Murray, was also read out by the former political prisoner Nuala Perry.
Marian is currently being held in isolation in Hydebank Women’s Prison where her health continues to deteriorate – this despite her being granted bail on charges brought against her.
Speaking at the rally, Marian’s husband Jerry demanded the “immediate release” of “an Irishwoman, a mother, a wife and a sister”.
“Make no mistake, Marian’s health has deteriorated greatly – we her family are very worried about the lack of action of medical staff who have told us for months now that she should be in hospital,” said Jerry.
“The politicians tell us that the healthcare of all prisoners is in the hands of medical staff – why is Marian still in prison? On her original release from prison in 1980, Marian – close to death after having been tortured and force-fed for over 200 days – was granted a Royal Prerogative of Mercy, a pardon. We are asked to believe that this pardon destroyed by a government agency was not a pardon. This from a government whose record of human rights abuses in Ireland – collusion, planted evidence and murder – is legendary.
“The UN just last October condemned solitary confinement and said that 15 days led to deterioration of mental and physical health. Imagine the effect of more than a year? Marian has now been in jail for 380 days.”
In a letter written by Monsignor Raymond Murray, who was chaplain of Armagh Women’s Prison when Marian and her sister Dolours were imprisoned there in the 1970s, he described Marian’s current situation in Hydebank.
“Male officers look into her cell during the night, directing a torch light on her so that she cannot sleep and she is extremely tired during the day,” he wrote.
“She is not able to attend court or attend visits in the visiting room.
“Her case is urgent. It is time Owen Paterson [British Secretary of State] released her and ended the violence being pursued by government.”