It Only Seems to get Worse (The Pensive Quill)

Sandy Boyer (SB) interviews via telephone from Belfast Marian Price‘s husband,Jerry McGlinchey (JM) about his wife’s health and ongoing internment. Radio Free Éireann WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio. New York City. Saturday 4 August 2012

SB: We’re going to Belfast to speak to Jerry McGlinchey. His wife, Marian Price, has been in prison for over a year on the basis of secret evidence she can’t see, her lawyers can’t see (and) for most of that time she’s been in solitary confinement. There have also been grave, ongoing concerns about her health. Jerry, thanks very much for being with us.

JM: Thanks very much for giving me the chance to be there, Sandy.

SB: And Jerry, as I was saying, it only seems to get worse for Marian.

JM: It’s getting much worse at the moment. I was in hospital visiting her today. She has actually been moved to main hospital wing because she now has pneumonia on top of all else that’s wrong with her. It’s a canard. Months ago the family asked, when she was in Maghaberry still, that’s how long ago we asked for x-rays to be taken because we believed then that she wasn’t well, and needless to say the x-rays weren’t taken and we believe that’s when the actual infection started that has now shown itself as pneumonia. For your listeners maybe a word: In the late 70’s when Marian was forced fed for over two hundred days the force feeding actually stopped when they put the feed tube into her lung instead of into her stomach and almost killed her by flooding the lung. The lung then collapsed leaving her with a weakness obviously. And that’s been ongoing ever since then she’s had a weak lung. And now as I say, with pneumonia, the family is very, very concerned about it, about the effect on her health.

SB: And Jerry, you were telling me before that she’s had many medical conditions over the years, including tuberculosis, but one of them is very, very severe arthritis.

JM: She has very, very severe arthritis. And the problem at the moment is her joints. Earlier in the week we went over and she was actually hallucinating, she’d been over-sedated and was in great pain and had a fever all because of the pneumonia. And the family were extremely worried. Her arthritis at the moment can’t be treated drugs because the drugs used to treat the arthritis counter the drugs that they’re using to get rid of the pneumonia. Therefore her joints swelled, her feet were badly swollen, she’s in alot of pain and as I say, this all stems from the fact that months ago when the prison was asked to have x-rays done – they didn’t do it.

SB: And Jerry a few weeks ago, I’m not sure exactly when, after a long delay doctors from the United Nations were able to exam Marian. The first time they tried the prison turned them away and said, well wouldn’t you just like to talk to the prison administration as well. But what did the UN doctors find, as far as we know?

JM: The UN doctors as far as I know now from the reports put in have found that she has been kept in intolerable conditions and the best treatment for her would a home care package. This by the way is an agreement with the independent medical staff here from The Belfast Trust. (Which is) also in agreement with what the prison doctors recommended but for some reason this hasn’t been done. And as I say, we put it down to the fact…when I was first asked to speak about Marian and her condition, I stated at the time that to my mind, my belief is that Owen Paterson is determined to stop Marian functioning as a proper human being and breaking down her physical and mental health. He’s come a long way towards that and apparently, despite all the concerned parties recommending that she be released, Owen Paterson is the one blocking it. Judges have recommended she be released. As you may know, the UN put out a report condemning Britain for its human rights abuses, for torturing prisoners and for too long pre-trial sentences; periods held in custody before people could reach trial. Marian human rights have been most certainly been abused and as I say the torture in prisons….I most certainly say that she’s been tortured in prison.

SB: Well, Jerry, actually two judges, two separate judges, said that Marian should be granted bail and each time Owen Paterson has come along and unilaterally reversed them and ordered her back to prison. And now, of course he’s done the same thing with Martin Corey. So we have a situation…

JM: He’s done the same thing with Martin Corey despite the fact that Senior Judge, Judge Treacy, actually said that Martin Corey was being denied his human rights. And as a step further in the UN report last month, one of the British Ministers, a Lord McNally, has said that Britain is proud of its human rights record, that there’s much room for improvement. There’s most certainly room for improvement in their human rights record here in Northern Ireland because abuse in prisons is ongoing. Conditions are probably every bit as bad if not worse as they were in the 70’s. And as I’ve said, this time around there’s the position: a man who appears to act with total impunity and can overrule judges as he wants and there doesn’t appear to be any come back from it.

SB: He has said almost explicitly: “I don’t care about judges. I don’t care about the law. I can just do it. And so I do it.”

JM: Yes, he is most certainly acting like a dictator as I say. And it’s not just Marian’s case as you’ve said, Martin Corey’s now been added to it. And I’m sure there are numerous other people…as you know people have been in prison for more than two years and then eventually found innocent and released but that doesn’t give them back the time they spent in prison.

SB: And just to get back for a minute to the United Nations doctors, and we wouldn’t know about this only from the article in The Irish Times, and they said that she’s not competent to stand trial. She couldn’t…

JM: She’s certainly not competent to stand trial. Apart from that, how anybody could be competent to stand trial if you’re not allow to see the charges against you? I defy anybody to defend themselves if they don’t know what they’re charged with!

SB: It would be difficult, yes. But Marian in particular, first of all…you went into the forced feeding…she came out of that with tuberculosis with very severe…I mean…she was released, let’s be frank, she was released only because she suffered from such severe anorexia the British government thought she was going to die and they didn’t want her to die on their hands. She miraculously recovered but her health, I would say, is permanently broken.

JM: You’re bringing up the point that is the most important point in this case. Because Marian received a royal pardon in 1980. Everybody is aware that this pardon was received. Unfortunately, from our point of view but very, very fortunately from Owen Paterson’s point of view, he claims that the pardon can’t be found and is believed to have been shredded. Yet despite that, he claims to know what was in the pardon and that the pardon wasn’t actually a pardon. So as I said again that beggars belief that he expects people to believe this and there’s a system in place here where a supposedly three man independent commission said that because of the absence of the pardon they would infer that Secretary of State Paterson’s interpretation was correct. And I would imagine it would be very, very hard to find independent thinkers who could possibly believe that the pardon was actually shredded or lost accidentally.

SB: Actually her solicitor, her lawyer, has said this is the only pardon in the entire history of British jurisprudence that’s ever gone missing.

JM: Correct. That’s correct. And I said, as soon as Owen Paterson claimed they’ve revoked her licence the solicitor brought up the fact that he hadn’t got the power to do it because there existed a royal pardon and as I say I honesty believe that they then went and found the pardon and said: “Get rid of that”. It’s the only explanation that makes any logical sense.

SB: So what’s next for Marian? I know she has overwhelming support. I mean, Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, you could go on and on and on…

JM: There’s an awful lot of support there but as I say…apart from the support now from the SDLP, from Sinn Féin, from human rights bodies…as I say, it appears to be one man who defies all logic, all compassion, all common sense and is saying “No!”. Behaving like a spoilt child: (mocks) “No. I have the right to do whatever I want and I will do it.” And as I’ve said, that man is Owen Paterson.

SB: And what’s your feeling about the immediate? Is Marian actually recovering at the moment from the pneumonia?

JM: The terrible thing from our point of view is that to see that Marian has been attacked both physically and mentally on health conditions. She is sitting in a hospital at the moment but normally in prison with no idea of how long she’s going to be there as I’ve said, at the will of one man. She’s now ill both physically and psychologically. As I’ve said, it harks back to all sorts of horrendous torture because how anyone can be expected to recover and not know what the future holds for them…is frightening to say the least. She is bound to be in psychological torment every day and every night because the family’s most certainly feel the pressure now, both her sisters, brother, myself and our children, are all feeling the pressure now. How can one man get away with this? How can this system be allowed to exist in what is claimed to be a democracy? And as I said, a country that has claimed, as Lord McNally said, to be proud of its human rights record? It just defies any sort of belief in this day and age.

SB: And Jerry, you were telling me that if by some miracle the doctors succeed and Marian’s condition improves, what will happen is that she’ll just be put back into prison.

JM: Well that’s one of the possibilities and we would most certainly hope that’s not the possibility that would occur. But from Owen Paterson’s point of view that certainly appears to be what he intends to do. Her health has reached a very, very low point at the moment and if she can’t be released at the moment God knows what the future holds.

SB: It’s very clear that the cause of her illness is the trauma of imprisonment and if you return her to prison it can only get far, far worse.

JM: What needs to be pushed again, as I say, she was kept in solitary for over a year and the UN have also condemned solitary confinement and said that any period over fifteen days leads to decline in both physical and psychological health and will take a long time to reverse. And as I’ve said, Marian was kept in solitary and as I said over a year in horrendous conditions once she was moved to Hydebank. She didn’t tell the family because she didn’t want to worry the family but when she was in Hydebank she was kept at the end of a corridor which had been blocked off with a solid green door and no windows. So a virtual hellhole.

SB: Jerry, thank you for doing this. I know it’s very difficult.

JM: Thank you very much, Sandy, for giving me the opportunity and for your help and your support.

SB: I want to ask our listeners to do one simple thing. We keep taking about Owen Paterson. He’s the guy who keeps Marian in gaol who could let her out of gaol. You could just send him an email. It’s: Again, send an email to Owen Paterson (repeats email address) and demand that he release Marian Price immediately.

JM: If I could just say, Sandy, not just Marian Price if he could put in place proper human rights instead of what he’s doing at the moment where he is actually overruling judges’ decisions.

SB: Jerry, thank you very much.


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