Saturday 24 September 2016

The words of Maud Gonne MacBride from her prison cell

Published 28/03/2016 | 02:30

Maud Gonne MacBride was held in Holloway Jail for female prisoners. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images
Maud Gonne MacBride was held in Holloway Jail for female prisoners. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images

I thought you would be interested in looking at the following letter, found while I was doing research for my unpublished book Cameos of Kerry - Impressions of an Outsider. From the National Archive in Kew, London, it was written by Maud Gonne MacBride, a prisoner at Holloway Jail in London.

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Some idea can be gained of the conditions the Irish female prisoners were experiencing at Holloway Jail - a prison for women - in one paragraph, which was deleted completely by the official military censor and has not been made public until now.

The first and final paragraphs of her letter were published at the time in the Irish Independent.

Her final sentence is a scathing attack on the vindictiveness of the British judicial system towards the Irish freedom fighters.

The letter reads: "We are allowed to write and to receive three letters a week, but as I get letters I get no answers. I doubt if any of my letters get beyond the Censor's offices.

"One letter was returned to me because it contained more than 20 lines which, I was then told, was the limit assigned to our letters, and replies are limited to 30 lines.

"I have asked repeatedly since the day of my arrival here to see a Solicitor, but I am not allowed. We are not allowed Irish or Labour papers. No charge has been brought against us, yet we are shut up in cells seven feet by 13, with window too high to see out of, and [an] air opening about half a foot, 18 hours out of 24. We meet in the exercise yard while cells are being cleared and for about an hour in the afternoon [whole paragraph deleted by Censor]

"No writing materials are allowed. Pen and ink taken away directly weekly letters written. Please insist on open trial. Our treatment is specimen of English justice".

John Bentley

Ledbury Hefordshire

Luas strikes and the public

The Luas strikers could bring about the end of public transport in Ireland if not tamed now. The taxpayer invested in the Luas system, and its operator staffed it with well-paid people enjoying excellent work conditions.

These workers have made outrageous wage demands backed by strikes. They aren't happy to just inflict losses on their employer after the normal fashion of a strike, but are incensed by moves to assist the public by providing alternative means of transport - in other words, they seem to believe the Luas system belongs to them. They have shown clearly that they wish to hurt their customers.

If they hurt the customers enough they will surely protest to the extent that whatever wages are demanded will be conceded. These actions may or may not fit the legal definition of blackmail, but they certainly fit a moral definition. Does the public have to tolerate this abuse of power? Is Siptu not deeply ashamed to be associated with it?

The wage settlements offered are already excessive. Their knock-on effect on Irish Rail, the Dart, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann could help bring on the death knell of transport in Ireland, making ever-increasing subsidies necessary to meet wage demands as there are limits to what the travelling public can afford to pay.

Solution? I suggest the wage offers already made under duress should be withdrawn and all negotiations suspended - to recommence only after six strike-free months. Any new agreement must contain assurances of reasonable behaviour with sanctions.

Patrick Duffy

Idrone Terrace, Blackrock, Co Dublin

******

Luas operatives reject a pay deal, basic salary €36k. New gardaí earn €23k per year as they start in a job in which their life can be threatened. Have I sympathy for Luas staff? Absolutely not.

Tom Kelly

Newbridge, Co Kildare.

******

The irony of a Luas strike during the Easter 2016 commemorations is that one of the very men at the centre of the commemorations, James Connolly, was involved in the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. Curious that its successors would consider depriving the public of transport to such an event.

Kieran Cummins Trim, Co Meath

Post-election disaffection

While I recognise that much of the Dublin-based media are busy acting as cheerleaders for a Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil grand coalition, there is one possibility for an alternative government that has been largely ignored.

Were Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and a number of Independents willing to agree a common policy platform, they would command a working majority in Dail Éireann. This potential coalition could have a cabinet including such capable, competent individuals as Stephen Donnelly, Mary Lou McDonald, Billy Kelleher, Peadar Tóibín, Shane Ross and Dr Michael Harty.

Regrettably, Fianna Fáil has apparently decided not to even negotiate with Sinn Féin. Meanwhile, Sinn Féin appears determined to reject even the possibility of government and has instead chosen to remain hurling on the ditch in the ridiculous hope it may one day lead some form of hard-left regime, a political philosophy the Irish people have consistently rejected. It is time for both members of the estranged Irish republican family to put aside their differences and form the nucleus of a new administration that will be both socially progressive and economically rational. We can only hope.

Dr Ruairi Hanley

Bush Road, Gibbstown, Navan

******

Fine Gael thought they were the Tories. They weren't. Fianna Fáil thought it was forgiven. Not quite. Sinn Féin thought its leader would be Taoiseach. He won't. AAA-PBP thought there'd be anarchy on the streets, but that was just a rush to an open till at Lidl.

And the Independents all sang separate hymns, making a less than beautiful noise, with the Healy-Rae brothers singing from the same sheet. I can think of only one solution to this mess: another election.

Brian Ahern

Meadow Copse, Clonsilla, Dublin 15

******

Why is it that those who are chosen to represent us in the Dáil are so reluctant to serve? Surely it is their duty to put the country above their personal ambitions and form a government as we electors requested?

There is a fine word for such type of politicians: a 'snollygoster' - "an unscrupulous person guided by personal advantage". Over to you, Mr President. A prod from your direction wouldn't go amiss.

Joe Neal

Castlebridge, Wexford

Irish Independent

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