President's wife visits friend jailed for airport peace protest
Published 21/01/2014 | 02:30
THE wife of President Michael D Higgins has visited a 79-year-old peace activist who is being held in prison.
Margaretta D'Arcy was jailed last week for refusing to sign a bond to keep the peace and stay away from unauthorised zones at Shannon Airport.
Sabina Higgins has been friends with Ms D'Arcy for many years and is understood to have visited her in Limerick Prison on Sunday.
Aras an Uachtarain last night confirmed that Mrs Higgins had undertaken the visit in a "private and personal" capacity.
Ms D'Arcy, who is a member of arts group Aosdana, is suffering from Parkinson's disease and has been diagnosed with cancer.
She had received a three-month suspended prison sentence in December for illegal incursion of the runway at Shannon Airport on October 7, 2012, in protest at the use of the airport by the US military.
Her sentence was activated after she refused to sign the bond.
She was arrested at her home at Woodquay in Galway city last Wednesday and taken by gardai to Limerick Prison.
Ms D'Arcy and Mrs Higgins have been friends for decades and it is understood the President's wife was eager to make a personal visit to her in prison.
Ms D'Arcy, who was married to the late playwright John Arden and is a grandmother of six, has been an activist since joining the anti-nuclear Committee led by Bertrand Russell in 1961.
Mr Higgins referred to his close friendship with the couple when he spoke at John Arden's funeral at Mount Jerome crematorium in April 2012.
The President said: "In recent decades those of us in the west of Ireland were privileged to have him among us as an inspiration and a valued friend.
"My deepest sympathies are extended to his wife, Margaretta D'Arcy, and family."
It is understood that she was considered for temporary release by the prison authorities.
However, she refused to sign the release bonds, which included a condition that she keep the peace - including keeping away from the unauthorised section of Shannon Airport.