Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Margaretta's Stand

One of the good things about Margaretta D'Arcy's jailing is that it has focused interest again on the State's abdication of the rights to monitor foreign aircraft at Shannon airport.

For some time the topic had gone off the radar of governance. Apart from Shannonwatch and the coterie of anti-war stalwarts who regularly or intermittently protest at Shannon on the second Sunday of every month, the burning issue of Shannon as a warport had died down.

The Labour and Green politicians who had waved banners there when they were in opposition deserted the cause when they became part of government. Only the voices of four independents, Sinn Féin TDs, a socialist and two "People before Profit" TDs were still on board.  The Fine Gael/Labour establishment ignored protests and told protestors in Dublin "Very few foreign planes pass through Shannon now".  Translation: "that was years ago - what are ye goin' on about?"

But Margaretta has raised the stakes.  She has put her body on the line. She has  stature.  A friend of President Michael D Higgins, a member of Aosdána, an author, an actress, an award winning film maker and prominent feminist, she turned the tables on the establishment during her trial.  Attempting to make a citizen's arrest on Judge Durcan (who fled the bench), she attempted to read out a statement that was grabbed from her hand but which got published anyway on social media.

Her imprisonment gave a brief awakening to the anti-war movement in Ireland. Weekly protests have been scheduled for Limerick, Dublin and Galway while she remains in prison. Sabina Higgins, wife of the President, has caused controversy by visiting Margaretta in prison.  Suddenly, the nation recalls that President Higgins (now silenced because of his office) was one of the most vocal and effective anti-war voices during his term as TD and Minister. He was a member of the Labour party which is now complicit in the virtual sell-out of Shannon airport.

My bet is that Margaretta D'Arcy is now an embarrassment to the powers that be.  In a reply to an e-mail I sent to the Justice Minister Alan Shatter, he implies  that he would like to free the doughty peace activist but cannot.

Stay strong Margaretta.  May the force be with you.  And may the revolution be non-violent.

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