Quarta parte dell’intervista esclusiva di Gerard Hodgins, che ha scelto di rispondere alle domande di Flavio Bacci. Oggetto della discussione le attuali disfide che i Repubblicani si trovano ad affrontare senza avvertire la necessità della lotta armata e i pows, per cui Hodgins si sta battendo al fine di vedere riconosciuti i loro diritti. Marian Price? “Vittima di persecuzione per il solo fatto di essere repubblicana”
PART 4 – REPUBLICANISM AND POWS, TODAY
F.B. One of the most famous modern day POWs is Marian Price. She is currently detained in custody at Maghaberry prison, because she is alleged for “providing property to a terrorist organisation”. Do you think she is facing a persecution by the PSNI?
G.H. Marian is being persecuted for being an uncompromising republican and also as a warning to other republicans that any time the British want to reimprison us they can.
The British negotiated Sinn Fein into accepting the outworkings of partition and its consequences. Marian is the only woman being held in isolation in Maghaberry prison, an all-male prison, and she was transported there on the day the British Queen visited Ireland, while the political and social elite were telling us how wonderful the visit of the Queen was and how this visit normalised and improved relationships between Ireland and England. The Queen coming to Ireland done nothing to prevent this grave injustice being perpetrated upon Marian.
Unless and until Sinn Fein abandon their Pontius Pillate approach to the plight of prisoners the British will continue to victimise and brutalise prisoners in Maghaberry prison.
F.B. Do you believe the enemies for a sovereign 32-County Irish Republic are the same now as they were in the 70-80’s? Or do you believe the dynamics of the challenge faced by Republicans has changed?
G.H. The dynamics have changed and I prefer to think about political opponents rather than enemies these days. The hegemonic sectarian nature of the old state has been altered insofar as there is now a place at the table for any man or woman duly elected, but it is very much an imperfect peace which nevertheless obviates the necessity of armed struggle. We settled for democracy over freedom and as anybody who lives in a democracy knows there is nothing very democratic or free about the free and democratic society we live in.
More significantly, there is no current demand from our communities for armed actions to be resumed against the British, and with no support from an active community then any armed actions are doomed to descend into sporadic acts of desperation and ultimately fail. While the general change from a war dynamic to a political dynamic is a positive development the great betrayal is the change within Sinn Fein from a revolutionary party committed to social and economic emancipation to a party content to ingratiate itself with the political and economic power structures we fought against for so long. The socialist dimension of our struggle has been completely abandoned; the vision of Bobby Sands has been abandoned for a few bob and a few houses for the few.
The dynamics have changed too in the sense that we now take a more realistic appraisal of the Unionist community; we used to believe that once we forced the British into retreat the Unionist people would quickly recognise the realities of the new situation, come to terms with it and cut their niche in the new, United Ireland society of which they would comprise 20% – a not insignificant percentage in voting terms. However it is more complex than mere statistics, we have a million people here who identify themselves as British every bit as passionately as I recognise myself as an Irish Nationalist – you can’t steamroll over people like that, you have to find an accommodation with them – all the de jure interpretations of history are enlightening but the de facto developments of history, the current societies we live in are what we have to deal with and find accommodation with.
The certainties and absolutes of national sovereignty and identity are no longer as certain and absolute as they once were before the digital age; we do live in a different world where people view and experience life differently from what I did in my youth. The world is a smaller place where affordable communications and transport technology allow for greater mobility and access to ideas, fashions and cultures. Borders are becoming less rigid and countries growing more interdependent than independent.
Yes Ireland is still partitioned and the whole history of British involvement in Ireland remains an ignoble one littered with brutality and deceit, but the tragedies of the past don’t mean we have to be locked into perpetual, self-destructive tactics of the past, engaged in an endless pretend armed struggle going nowhere. People change, priorities change and circumstances change, and along with that the dynamics of the challenge changes.
F.B. Whilst Anti-GFA Republicans (or ‘dissidents’) are still struggling in order to improve the conditions for POW’s currently in jail, the PSF supporters seem to have adopted an attitude that the current prisoners are second-class Republicans. Do you believe the conditions of modern day POW’s are greatly improved or have they still the same needs and demands as there was at the time of the 1981 hunger strike?
G.H. It is unfair to say the only people still struggling to improve prison conditions are anti-GFA or Dissidents. I am neither anti-GFA nor Dissident yet work on the prison issue, trying to highlight the appalling conditions prisoners are forced to exist under.
I see a continuity of struggle in the prison milieu, what those young men are facing today is the same levels of brutality we faced in the H-Blocks; and you are correct to highlight the position of Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein as a party grew out of the horrors of the H-Blocks and the deaths of the ten hunger strikers; Sinn Fein knows instinctively what the experience for a republican prisoner in the British penal system is, yet Sinn Fein administers a governmental system here which still persists with penal policies from Margaret Thatcher’s day. Sinn Fein have copyrighted Bobby Sands and use his image in practically every single piece of election and political literature they produce, yet Sinn Fein implements penal policies in Maghaberry prison similar to those which led to Bobby’s death.
But the dissident groupings too have a responsibility to behave in a manner which leaves no opportunity for detractors or critics to attack their integrity or portray them as second-class republicans. Some of the people associated with dissident groups would have a hard battle in convincing people of their bona fides given their histories and still current behaviours. The dissidents must address this if support for the prisoners is to be built upon.
The saddest thing about the present conflict within the prison is an agreement reached between the prisoners and the Prison Administration and mediated by outside negotiators in 2010 was immediately abandoned with impunity by the Prison Administration.