A MOTION calling for the release of three Republican prisoners has been branded a “cheap stunt” by the SDLP.
Last Tuesday Sinn Fein presented a Notice of Motion calling for the immediate release of prisoners Marion Price, Martin Corey and Gerry McGeough. The motion was proposed by Magherafelt councillor Debroah Ni Shiadhaill and seconded by councillor Ian Milne, and opposed by both the DUP and UUP. The SDLP abstained from voting after they proposed an amendment to the motion, which was voted against by Sinn Fein.
Following the meeting, SDLP representative Jim Campbell released a statement branding the motion ‘a cheap stunt’, and accused Sinn Fein of “forgetting” the victims of the Troubles in what he called a “confused and flawed” proposal.
Councillor Campbell said: “The SDLP tried to move an amendment highlighting the needs of the victims of 40 years of needless and unjustifiable state and paramilitary violence.
“The victim of McGeough’s crime was a rural postman at the time and is now a Councillor in Dungannon. Samuel Brush was a working man providing a vital service to his community and the attack on him was reprehensible. Like myself he is now a Post Office pensioner and while our paths never crossed when working, I have total empathy with him and the many other postal staff who endured vicious attacks down the years providing a public service,” he said.
“We are disappointed Sinn Fein voted against our amendment emphasising the needs of victims but it simply reinforces the point that this motion is a blatant and feeble attempt by Sinn Fein to cause division in this council chamber and give the impression that they have been active on this issue”.
Describing the Sinn Fein motion as “confused and flawed” Councillor Campbell added: “Magherafelt Council has no remit whatsoever over the outcome of these matters. These cases are a matter for the Secretary of State, the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
“Despite this reality, Sinn Fein has tabled no Assembly Motions on any of these three cases. They have tabled only two Assembly Questions on Marion Price, none on Martin Corey and none on Gerry McGeough; choosing instead to table an ineffective council motion.
“This, alongside the fact that the motion calls for no action to be taken through the appropriate channels in the Assembly and Westminster, is proof that this is nothing more than a cheap stunt to create division and divert from their inactivity on this issue.”
Councillor Campbell said his party was one “vociferously opposed to violence” and one that is “proudly and unswervingly based” on human rights and civil rights.
He added: “We completely disassociate ourselves from the political views of these prisoners but we recognise that as a lawful society, there must be respect for due process and legal rights must be afforded to all prisoners”.
Tuesday night’s Sinn Fein motion read: “That is Council calls for the immediate released of Marion Price and Martin Corey and Gerry McGeough.
Everyone is entitled to due process. Both Martin Corey and Marion Price have been denied this. Their continued detention without trial is an infringement of their human rights and clearly undermines the justice system. Their imprisonment is unjust and is in defiance of rulings by the courts in both cases. Both have been granted bail by the courts and yet remain in prison.”
The arrest and continuing detention of Gerry McGeough represents a flagrant breach by the British Government of its commitments in the Weston Park Agreement with respect to OTRs. All three should be released.”
The SDLPs amendment, which was voted against by Sinn Fein, read: “This Council calls for the immediate release of Marion Price and Martin Corey and Gerry McGeough; expresses concern about the absence of due process in the case of Marion Price and Martin Corey; notes their continued imprisonment without trial and believe this to be unjust and an infringement of their human rights; and calls for Gerry McGeough to be treated in accordance with commitments made by the British Government.”
It continued: “Acknowledges that the overriding principle of any civil rights based society is that human rights and justice for all are delivered and protected; that the right to life and respect for life must be paramount; and calls on this Council to write to the Secretary of State, Office of First and Deputy First Minister, the Ministers for Justice and the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety to advise on progress in regard to the strategy to address the legacy for victims of 40 years of needless and unjustifiable state and paramilitary violence.”