Róisín McAliskey – A Harrowing Ordeal
Róisín McAliskey is the 35-year-old daughter of veteran civil-rights campaigner andsocialist-republican activist, Bernadette McAliskey.
On November 20, 1996, Róisín was arrested by the RUC, on foot of a German government warrant, for her alleged involvement in a republican bomb attack on a British army base in Osnabruck, Germany.
Despite the fact that no credible evidence was ever produced to substantiate the claims made against her, Róisín was subjected to a horrific 16-month ordeal in the English prison system.
The young Tyrone woman was pregnant at the time of her arrest and was subsequently forced to give birth to her daughter, Loinnir, under armed guard.
Róisín was strip-searched upwards of 70 times during her pregnancy, in a vindictive campaign by the prison regime. The conditions which she was forced to endure whilst imprisoned put the health of both herself and her child at risk.
This shocking treatment highlighted the draconian attitude of the British penal system towards Irish people in general and political prisoners in particular.
Amnesty International was among the many human-rights organisations that condemned Britain for their mistreatment of Róisín.
In a 1997 report, Amnesty concluded: “Róisín McAliskey has been detained in conditions which constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and which affected her mental and physical health. Such treatment violates the United Kingdom’s treaty obligations under the United Nations (UN) Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Article 7 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.”
Several aspects of her treatment caused concern for the humanitarian organisations in question.
As the political powers in control of the British penal system deemed Róisín to be a ‘Category A’ prisoner, she was not allowed to associate with other prisoners during group activities including exercise. She was thus required to exercise by herself on the prison roof, which could only be reached by climbing up several flights of stairs, something that was clearly unsuitable.
The healthcare that Róisín and her baby, when she was born, received, while in prison was negligible in the extreme and beneath the standard expected in any supposedly civilised society.
Róisín’s arrest, detainment and the psychological and physical abuse she suffered during this time were the latest in a long line of British state attacks on her well-known and respected family.
Her case clearly demonstrated that the British government considered their prisons to be a brutal battleground in the war against Irish republicanism.
Amidst mounting pressure and a total lack of evidence against her, British Home Secretary Jack Straw finally released Róisín in 1998 and subsequently rejected the German government’s extradition demand on the grounds of insufficient evidence. .
However, more then nine years later on May 21, 2007, Róisín was again arrested at her county Tyrone home; some seven months after the German government issued yet another extradition warrant.
The German authorities consistently failed to provide any reliable evidence against Róisín, who has always maintained her innocence. To all objective observers, the allegations against her were completely spurious and without foundation.
Despite this, Róisín and her family were forced to endure another torturous legal ordeal.
The legal process surrounding this second attempt at extradition lasted a number of months before the case against Róisín was finally thrown out on November 23 2007.
The presiding judge in this case, a Mr Burgess, agreed with the defence case that it would be “unjust and oppressive” to proceed with extradition.
“Ms McAliskey believed the threat of extradition was behind her from the time in 1998 when the (British) home secretary announced in the House of Commons that he was refusing to extradite her on medical grounds,” Burgess said.
The judge said this was confirmed in Ms McAliskey’s mind by a statement made in the British House of Commons in 2000 by the attorney general that there were no grounds for instituting proceedings against her in Britain or occupied Ireland.
Speaking on the day that the McAliskeys finally won their small but significant victory, Daithí Mac an Mháistír said: “This outcome must be a massive relief for Róisín and all the McAliskey family. On behalf of éirígí I would like to extend best wishes and solidarity to them all.
“Roisín McAliskey should never have been in front of a court today or on any other occasion. It was clearly established 10 years ago that she had no case to answer and the decision to let her get on with her life, while welcome, is clearly the least that could have been expected.
“When the British government released Róisín in 1998 any right-thinking human being would have believed they would, after the ordeal they put her through, have left her alone to rebuild a normal life in peace. However, their decision to re-arrest her shows that their attitude towards Irish citizens in relation to concepts of justice and human rights remains rooted in a colonialist mindset.”
Daithí concluded: “What was witnessed today was a narrow escape from a massive miscarriage of justice.”