Time to free Martin Corey

August 14, 2012

Sandy Boyer, the co-host of Radio Free Eireann on WBAI in New York City, reports on the ongoing imprisonment of former IRA activist Martin Corey.

MARTIN COREY has spent more than two years in Northern Ireland's Maghaberry Prison, but he still doesn't know why he is there.

A Belfast judge ordered him released on unconditional bail on July 9 because he was being held on the basis of secret evidence neither he nor is lawyers had been allowed to see. His family rushed to the prison to bring him home.

But while Corey was sitting in the prison reception area and his family was waiting outside, Owen Paterson, the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, overruled the judge and ordered him re-arrested. Later, two judges confirmed that he can be held at least until a September 28 hearing.

Corey received a life sentence in December 1973, when he was 19 years old, for killing two members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Northern Ireland police force, in an IRA operation. He served 19 years and was released in June 1992. He returned home to Lurgan in County Aramgh, where he worked steadily, formed an ongoing relationship and became a highly respected member of the local community.

Supporters rally for Martin Corey's release in Lurgan last year
Supporters rally for Martin Corey's release in Lurgan last year

The police appeared at Corey's door and took him away to prison in the early hours of April 16, 2010, almost 18 years after his release. His younger brother Joe described what happened:

They came to the door at around 6 a.m. There was about 12 of them standing there when I answered the door. They asked for Martin and told me the Secretary of State had revoked his [parole]. They gave no reason for this. There was no struggle. He just got up and walked out with them. They brought him to Maghaberry, where he has been ever since.

Corey wasn't charged with any crime and wasn't told what, if anything, he was supposed to have done. He was simply informed that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland had revoked his license (parole, in American terms) because he was a "security risk." Later, it was claimed that "he was involved with dissident republicans."

IN 2011, Corey told The Lurgan Mail:

I have been in prison for nearly a year and a half, and I still haven't been given a reason. They have put forward a number of allegations against me, and I'm not able to defend myself against any of them.

They say I have been seen speaking to known republicans, and that I visited a number of houses. What does that matter? It doesn't mean I've done anything wrong. They have absolutely nothing on me, and that's why they haven't charged me.

His partner, Lynda Magee, said, "He does not know what he has done and has been told nothing about why he is being held. He has already served his time, and he was willing to do it. But now he is being held for no reason."

Corey is a member of Republican Sinn Fein, a legal political party throughout Ireland. They are opposed to the Good Friday Agreement because they believe it perpetuates British rule in Northern Ireland.

Republican Sinn Fein is almost universally believed to be affiliated with the Continuity IRA in the same way that Sinn Fein was traditionally affiliated with the IRA. This can be used to justify imprisoning Martin Corey because he is a "dissident republican" and a threat to the peace process.

But people on both sides of the Atlantic who have little or no sympathy with Martin Corey's politics are demanding that he be released.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams met Owen Paterson in the Dáil (Irish parliament) and urged him to free Martin Corey. Adams stated that "Martin Corey was released by the courts...[He] should be released, and I put it very strongly to Mr. Paterson that this should be done."

At their recent convention, the Ancient Order of the Hibernians passed a resolution "that the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America condemns Owen Patterson for the continued imprisonment of Martin Corey and urges that the judge's ruling be enforced and that be released immediately on unconditional bail. "

Many people were especially alarmed when Patterson overruled the judge's decision and ordered Corey back to prison. He had twice ordered Marian Price, another political prisoner, re-imprisoned after a judge released her on bail, claiming he was revoking her license.

If Paterson can get away with this, no political prisoner who may have been released on license will ever be safe. Owen Paterson has effectively placed himself above the law and is imprisoning people at will. This means that it's no longer enough to campaign for one or another of the political prisoners, as essential as this has been. It's time to broaden our campaign to include as many prisoners as possible and challenge the whole policy of locking people up on the basis of secret evidence.

As Northern Ireland civil rights leader Bernadette Devlin McAliskey put it:

The direct action of the British Government, through their Northern Ireland Office, in abusing executive authority to overrule the independent decisions of the judicial system in both the Corey and Price cases is the clearest indication to date of how little has really changed in Northern Ireland in respect of accountable democracy.

The Good Friday Agreement promised an end to this abuse of human rights and democracy. It is long past time it delivered on this promise. It is also time the international power players who created this deformity of democracy held it to account.

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