**Received via email from Helen McClafferty – 17 April 2012

Pressure grows for release of Gerry McGeough and Marian Price

Former Fianna Fail minister Éamon Ó Cuív has added his voice to a campaign for the release of a high-profile republican dissident, former Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle member Gerry McGeough.

Mr McGeough from Tyrone, a father of four, was arrested leaving a count centre in Omagh in 2007, having stood as an independent republican candidate in the Six County Assembly elections. He stood trial last year on IRA charges dating from 1981, and is now serving 20 years at Maghaberry prison.

His arrest was clearly politically motivated, given that he had been living openly in the North since 1996. Mr McGeough was stopped at checkpoints many times, called for jury service on two occasions and
made numerous appearances on television and radio programmes in advance of his arrest.

Campaigners have also raised concerns about McGeough’s health. He has had five stents inserted after a series of heart attacks, and a prison doctor has said that, due to his health, he should not be in prison.

Mr Ó Cuív spoke at a press conference this week with the Gerry McGeough Justice Campaign, Irish-American campaigner Fr Seán McManus and members of McGeough’s family.

He said part of the Weston Park agreement signed in 2001 between the Dublin and London governments dealt with the issue of outstanding prosecutions. It accepted that prosecutions for offences that would benefit from the early-release scheme should not be pursued.

“Unfortunately this legislation was never passed in Westminster and the matter has been left in abeyance,” Mr Ó Cuív said. “However, I believe that the agreement should still be implemented.” He said the event involved happened 31 years ago, and Mr McGeough had always supported the peace process. He had returned to Ireland, gone to Trinity College Dublin and “lived and worked peacefully”.

“All we are asking for is for the Weston Park agreement to be acted on and for Gerry to be released immediately,” Mr Ó Cuív said.

Members of Sinn Féin, republicans and a number of human rights organisations joined Mr O Cuív in the pre-Easter meeting to demand that McGeough be freed. His 11-year old daughter Una issued her own personal plea at the press conference.

”Everybody tells us that life at home is better now because of the peace process, but our lives are very sad. Why is there no peace process for us? Why is only our family being punished? We want our daddy home,” she said.

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RALLY FOR MARIAN

A major rally challenging the continued internment of Marian Price is to be led by Father Raymond Murray next weekend.

The former prison chaplain will speak at the event at Derry’s Guildhall Square on Sunday April 22. The rally will follow a procession through the city from Free Derry Corner at 2.30pm.

Rally organisers say the relaxation of Price’s prison conditions was a result of pressure applied by a meeting attended by hundreds of people in Derry and believe her continued confinement is “in direct conflict with current human rights legislation”.

”Owen Paterson sent Marian Price back to prison following the revocation of a supposed life licence. She was released from prison close to death in 1980,” they said in a statement.

”Mr Paterson conveniently overlooked the fact that Marian Price received a Royal Prerogative of Mercy [pardon] shortly after her release.

”This document wiped the slate clean for Marian and overrode the licence she was previously released on.”

They are challenging the claimed “loss or shredding” of Ms Price’s pardon, which her legal team believe would secure her release.

”Owen Paterson has no mandate in the north of Ireland nor is he accountable to the people here yet he can disregard the rulings of two judges and keep Marian Price in prison,” the statement read.

”This scenario raises questions about the justice powers devolved to Stormont and the judiciary as well as the independence of this branch of government.

”We believe justice is a core element in the establishment of real peace and stability and would ask everyone to join the procession and rally on April 22 to call with one loud voice for justice for Marian Price and all victims of internment and torture.”

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