Margaretta D’Arcy is due to be transferred to Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison in the coming week, having refused to sign the bond which would grant her release. She remains determined to carry on her protest as long as Shannon Airport continues to be used as a hub for the US military.
The 79-year-old veteran anti-war activist, writer, film-maker, and feminist is to be transferred from Limerick Prison, where she is currently being held, to Mountjoy, in order to have more ‘comfortable’ surroundings given her age, the fact she is being treated for cancer, and is suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
The gaoling of Ms D’Arcy has led to a chorus of calls for her release from Limerick Prison, culminating in a visit to Ms D’Arcy by Sabina Higgins, wife of Uachtarán na hÉireann Michael D Higgins. Despite this Ms D’Arcy has communicated through her supporters that she is less interested in the campaign to ‘Free Margaretta’ and wants efforts to be concentrated on ending Shannon being used by the US military.
Ms D'Arcy was yesterday remanded in custody at a court hearing in Ennis.
The 79-year-old was jailed last week for illegally accessing a runway at Shannon Airport during a protest against the US Military.
She appeared in Ennis District Court yesterday over her refusal to sign a bond pledging to keep away from the Airport which led to the activation of her three-month suspended sentence.
Ms D'Arcy asked the judge to throw the case out, saying it would save an awful lot of time if he could just throw the case out. She also said that the country is broke and couldn't afford such a hearing.
Judge Patrick Durcan said that in the circumstances this was not possible, that this is a preliminary matter, and that he was not in a position to throw the case out.
A warrant was issued by Ennis District Court for the arrest of Ms D’Arcy in December 2012 following her protest on the Shannon runway in October of that year.
She received a three months prison sentence, suspended for two years, on the condition she sign a ‘good behaviour bond’ to “keep the peace”, but she refused as it contained references to Shannon Airport. This led to Ms D’Arcy being taken by the Gardaí from her home in Galway last week and taken to Limerick Prison.
Niall Farrell of the Galway Alliance Against War has visited Ms D’Arcy in prison and told the Galway Advertiser she is “doing fine” and remains “determined”.
“Margaretta is standing on a point of principle,” Mr Farrell said. “She has no difficulty in signing a bond to ‘keep the peace’, but will not sign one containing references to Shannon. For her that is a contradiction, with US military going through there and the airport being used as a hub to transport soldiers to America’s wars in the Middle East. While people are saying ‘Free Margaretta’, she is saying “Free Shannon from the US army’.”
Sinn Féin senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, who is also supporting Ms D’Arcy, said she will “not climb down” on this issue and that her protest is important in raising awareness on the human rights abuses such as rendition and illegal incarceration, as well as the sufferings of people in Iraq and Afghanistan.
However Mr Farrell and Sen Ó Clochartaigh are actively calling for her release. The GAAW will be holding protests on the issue while Sen Ó Clochartaigh has pointed out that the President, under Article 13, Section 6 of the Constitution, has the power to pardon and that it may be possible for him to grant Ms D’Arcy a release from gaol.
Last Sunday’s visit by Sabina Higgins is also regarded as highly significant. Although the president’s wife said she was visiting in a private capacity as a friend, it has widely been seen as the office of Uachtarán na hÉireann tacitly supporting Ms D’Arcy’s stance, a view further strengthened by President Higgins saying that questions over the appropriateness of his wife’s visit were “irrelevant”.
While the Higginses have long supported the anti-war movement, both Mr Farrell and Sen Ó Clochartaigh say the gesture was important given the office they now occupy.
“The fact that Sabina visited her is very important for the peace movement,” said Mr Farrell. “To those critical of her, I say some two million people have been killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and that is what should be objected to rather than worrying about a woman visiting her friend.”
Sen Ó Clochartaigh said: “Margaretta’s stance and Sabina’s visit have highlighted a subject the national media and the political establishment had ignored.”