Repatriate Aiden Hulme Campaign
Aiden Hulme was transferred to Portlaoise Gaol in December 2006 following a
prolonged campaign for his repatriation. The campaign was notable in its
ability to attract support from a broad spectrum of political parties,
groups and individuals. A number of Republican groups in particular added
their support to the campaign, providing a possible template for future
cross-republican co-operation. éirígí continues to call for the repatriation
of all prisoners viewing incarcaration as punishment enough without the
added burden of long distance travel being imposed upon visiting families
éirígí is supporting the campaign for the repatriation, on humanitarian grounds, of Aiden Hulme to Ireland. Aiden, an Irish political prisoner is currently serving a 22 year sentence in Belmarsh Prison, London. Aiden, who is twenty-seven years of age and originally from Co. Louth was imprisoned for his alleged involvement in the 2000/2001 ‘Real’ IRA bombing campaign. Prior to his arrest and imprisonment he was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him with a severely injured leg, which he is now in danger of losing through amputation.
The condition of Aiden’s injured leg had initially improved following medical treatment after the accident. This improvement, however, was reversed following Aiden's arrest and imprisonment in the notorious Belmarsh Special Secure Unit (SSU). After long delays Belmarsh prison appointed a specialist to examine Aiden's injured leg, who after a brief examination informed him that the injured leg should be amputated. Aiden's family and friends upon hearing this diagnosis immediately sought a second medical opinion.
Following intense lobbying Aiden was eventually examined by an independent specialist who concluded that the leg could be saved if Aiden receive appropriate medical treatment. Aiden subsequently underwent surgery which temporarily improved his condition but unbelievably due to continued medical neglect by the prison authorities, he is once again in danger of losing his leg. It is clear that while Aiden remains in prison in England he will not receive the appropriate medical attention.
Aiden has applied for repatriation to Ireland, as he is entitled to under the European Convention. Following this application the British authorities transferred all relevant documentation to the Department of Justice in Dublin in September 2005. However, to date there has been no movement from the Irish authorities on his case. Aiden is not seeking preferential treatment, merely that his application for repatriation be given a fair hearing by the Department of Justice.
The Case for Repatriation:
The right of prisoners to be repatriated to their home country has been supported for many years by a variety of human rights organisations and political parties. The European Convention on the Transfer of Prisoners gives legislative effect to the repatriation of convicted prisoners to serve out their sentences in their own country.
The plight of those imprisoned in a foreign country and of their families is extremely difficult. The financial cost of regular trips to visit relatives in another jurisdiction can be prohibitive, further punishing not only the prisoner but also their families and friends. In the case of elderly parents and young children already stressful jail visits become unbearable. Many English prisons are considerable distances from urban centres which means lengthy road or train journeys follow the original flight or sea-crossing. The practice of “ghosting” (whereby relatives are informed upon arrival at one jail that there loved one has recently been moved to another jail, sometimes at the other end of the country) has been a common experience over the years for Irish relatives of prisoners in English jails.
Support for the Campaign:
The campaign to repatriate Aiden Hulme back to Ireland on humanitarian grounds has widespread and growing support. The campaign which is being led by the New Republican Forum has received support from a cross section of political opinion.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan has written to the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell seeking clarification on the case for repatriation. Former SDLP leader John Hume has also called for the case to be dealt with speedily.
Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan issued a statement calling on “the British and Irish governments to speed-up existing repatriation procedures and return Aidan Hulme to Ireland immediately so he can receive the medical attention currently denied to him in England.”
Aiden’s case was also raised in Leinster House recently by Independent TD for Dublin North Central Finian McGrath.
The Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas has also backed calls for Aiden’s repatriation. Fr. Gerry McFlynn of the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas said:
"Aidan has to be sent back to Ireland as soon as possible. He is one of about 20 prisoners waiting to come home. The process takes between two-and-a- half to three years, which is unacceptable given the distress it causes to inmates and their families. You have to wonder if the will is there to move quickly on these issues. All we can do is try to keep as much pressure on the authorities as possible. In this case, the hold-up is with the Irish, and we are pushing for a resolution given the state of his health."
Campaign is Growing:
A recent protest outside of the GPO in Dublin attracted a sizeable crowd which was representative of a broad section of political opinion. Paul Doyle, one of the organizers of the protest said they were delighted with the turnout and the response from the general public. “We are encouraged by the response form the general public to Aiden’s plight and will to continue to put pressure on the Department of Justice to speed up Aiden’s application for repatriation.”
Letter from Aiden Hulme
I am outlining the current situation regarding my medical condition as I am unsure whether you have been given the full details.
I believe you were written to by Fiona McTaggart MP, who informed you that I was receiving appropriate treatment under the NHS and that I have to wait to see a consultant. She also stated that when I am due for surgery, Full Sutton Prison will make the appropriate arrangements, and that my family will be informed, but due to security arrangements the details cannot be disclosed.
However, a few salient points were omitted from that letter:
(1) I have already seen a consultant, Mr Joseph, and his opinion is that my leg will probably need to be amputated because of the degenerative condition. He is also of the opinion that if this is to happen, it would probably be more beneficial for me to have that particular operation in an environment more compatible for me - (i.e.) back home in Ireland. Full Sutton Prison has
been informed of this opinion by Mr Joseph.
(2) Since my time in Full Sutton Prison, I have had four operations cancelled with no reason given. It appears the prison service are content to 'contain' my condition with an on-going course of medication, but are in no rush to allow my operation to go ahead, whether it be here or in Ireland. The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs are aware of my case and have written to the Governor at Full Sutton on at least one occasion. I also have a support group back in Ireland who continually highlight my plight, but no movement seems forthcoming. As you can imagine, this situation has seen my mental state deteriorate due to stress and the fact that I have not seen my family for a long time. Therefore I write to you in the hope that your office could perhaps determine if there are any precedents in this area, and to see if you can aid me in any way you can.
I stress that I ask for no preferential treatment, but only for existing documented medical opinion to be followed up on.
Thank you for your time and consideration...
HMP Full Sutton
February 21st 2006