Republican POW Letter to RACs

MONDAY 22 NOV 1976


A Chara,

This is the first opportunity in quite a whlie for the Press Relations Officer to write to you directly on the subject of political status for sentenced prisoners of war. Until now it has been the practice for the prisoners themselves to write and communicate with their particular area committee and this will remain the case, apart from this one instance. I have a few points for your approval, but before raising them I would like, on behalf of all the prisoners from all areas, to offer you our sincere thanks for the stirling work you have carried out to date. This never was an easy task, but the drive and determination of the area committees in getting the message across has been an inspiration to us all and we take great succor from your efforts. Such worthwhile success will ensure that we will not lose the issue at hand - of that we are supremely confident. There is still a long way to go and there are many hardships to bear, but your committee and the many like it will sustain the men behind the wire and in the cell blocks until that victory is won - and won it will be.

You will be aware of the fact that the numbers of men in the cell blocks grow daily and that further repressive measures have been taken by the NIO and the prison staff against the prisoners in a desperate attempt to break them and have them conform to the status of criminal. Proudly and defiantly, the prisoners are resisting these attempts by the prison staff and the NIO and, although naked and in solitary confinement, they have voiced their determination never to allow themselves to be treated as criminals. Mass has now been denied the men and they are not even allowed out of their cells to empty their chamber pots unless they go in prison clothes to do so. Exercise is now also denied them men and they are locked up 24 hours per day, with no contact with another living person. The eye looking through the peep-hole in the cell door is the only sign of life they see outside of meal times, when their meals are shoved through a gap in the door - as would be seen any day during feeding time for the animals at Belle Vue Zoo. Despite these disgusting methods, the men are not broken and their morale is high as ever, befitting the cause for which they are imprisoned and belying the criminal tag the NIO are trying to place upon them.

Now that it is clearly obvious that the NIO are escalating their campaign against the helpless prisoners, we believe it is time we in tern escalate our support for the men. There are various ways this can be done, and some are listed below. Is is of course obvious that not every area can apply every one of suggestions, but those who can do should begin as quickly as possible in conjunction with the Central Committee (who have been furnished with a copy of these proposals) and all other active groups in your immediate vicinity. The proposals are as follows:

(1) The continuation and escalation of the protest rallies and meetings to highlight the plight of the prisoners

(2) The circulation of a petition form asking signatories to support the stand for status. These petition forms should be printed by the Central Committee, who would collect them completed, for presentation to the NIO after a period of four weeks. Copies of the petition form should be printed in the Republican News, An Phoblacht, Andersonstown News, and all local news sheets for four successive weeks. The forms should be on display outside all chapels at every mass and devotions for the four week period, and be available at all rallies and protests.

(3) Everyone should be encouraged to ring the NIO at Dundonald 4522 (Treatment of Offenders Branch) and register with them their support for the prisoners. This was done earlier in the year and was very successful in that the switchboards at the NIO were jammed for considerable periods.

(4) Pickets at Council Offices where meetings are scheduled or in progress (country areas). Letters to the Councils are also effective in that they are read as part of Council business and therefore are generally reported in the provincal press.

(5) Pickets and sit-ins at travel agencies and Government Dept Buildings, with banners, petition forms on display. Numbers at such pickets need not be great and effective sit-ins have been lodged with only ten protesters present.

(6) Protests outside prisoners and courthouses, especially when prisoners are on trial.

(7) Blocking of main roads and junctions by women with prams, again a very effective means of protest which generaly gets coverage in the media, especialy where women accompanied by children make up the bulk of the protesters.

(8) Poster campaigns. New and graphic posters are this moment being designed for distribution to all areas and these will be available within the next few weeks. Area committees should ensure that these are placed in every available shop and house in the area.

Those then are just some of the ideas your area might find practical. As mentioned earlier we are circulating these ideas to all areas and to the Central Committee for their approval. It would be hoped that this new phase would be launched in early December and carry through to January, reaching a pitch at Christmas - a time of great stress for the men in the cell blocks, and a time when it can be calculated with extreme confidence that the NIO will apply even more repressive measures against the prisoners to try to break them. We have established a means by which the prisoners in the cell blocks can learn of the support actions being taken on their behalf. For them it will be a lean and bleak Christmas but at least they will have the knowledge that it is not all one-sided and that there are those on the outside who are enough to raise their voices in protest, defeating the British intention of tagging our men as criminals. The men in the cell blocks are the only true Irishmen; off their knees and openly defiant of the British and their ways.

Again, may I offer on behalf of these men our sincere thanks and appreciation for all you have done in the past for this most noble of causes. We wish you, your Committee, and all your families, the Happiest and Holiest of Christmasses. Our prayers will be with you and will be offered for your intentions.

Is Mise,
R.G. McAuley, PRO

[ Home | RACs ]