Terms of imprisonment have reached “absurd” levels: Guthanna

October 27, 2014

Go to and enter the term ‘Irish citizen held without charges” – you will find many articles regarding a young man called Ibrahim Halawa currently being held in Egypt without charge.

Ibrahim and his family’s story has been well documented in the media and public representatives from the Irish government have publicly called for his release. Undoubtedly Ibrahim has suffered during his time in a foreign prison, it is wrong, and is an affront to most Irish citizens’ beliefs.  However I can’t help but wonder why there is no mention of the Irish citizens who are currently being held in prisons right here in Ireland.

There are approximately 50 republicans being held in Maghaberry, and similar numbers in other prisons, many of these have not been convicted but continue to remain in custody or subject to, what some may consider, almost impossible bail conditions.

The circumstances under which a person can be imprisoned have also reached new levels of absurdity with the implementation of the charge of possessing items or information that could be used by terrorists. The charge of possessing information or items that could be useful to terrorists has been used for some time; however it is the recent interpretation of the law that is of concern.

A judge in London determined that The A-Z London Map was an item that could be useful to terrorists.  Taxi drivers are obliged to have and be familiar with the A-Z map, many tourists also use it.  This charge was put into practice here, allowing for the imprisonment of Stephen Murney for having in his home, his son’s toy gun, a band uniform that he had worn as part of a local band including a beret and gloves and photographs of police that were policing a public protest that he had taken part in and were posted on his Facebook page as part of his political activism.

Why is it that in our democratic society that our public representatives continue not only to fail to question what is effectively legislative internment in Ireland, but they are, in their silence, supporting it?

It is not right that a man is held in prison and denied his freedom on the basis of having innocuous everyday items. The truth is that he imprisoned because of his peaceful political activism and his political beliefs.  They call this democracy

Why is it that government representatives will call for the release of an Irish citizen from an Egyptian prison but continue to ignore Irish citizens held in Irish prisons?  Not to mention a lack of reporting in mainstream media.

It seems popular and acceptable for governments and elected representatives to oppose injustice in Egypt and faraway places. They choose to ignore it in their own country. The media present injustices in far-away places on the top of the news agenda.  They ignore the same injustices in Ireland.