The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
McDowell Blocks 'Last' Repatriation


Fionnbarra O'Dochartaigh • 21 January 2007

"Aiden may be home by Christmas". Hard to believe. Previous messages indicated September, October and then November. However, in early December two brothers, both serving long-terms, Aiden and Robert Hulme, held in different jails in England, were both repatriated, initially to E-2 Wing, Portlaoise Prison, and Co. Laoise.

This development was highly welcomed, especially by those groups and individuals, who campaigned for political prisoners over a number of years. Robert had been relegated to 'second place', so 'a double', early Christmas present was viewed as an unexpected campaign 'bonus'. Understandably, at home and abroad, the diverse campaigners' central humanitarian emphasis was on Aiden's ill-health., and a speedy return to Ireland, for in-dept medical examinations and hopefully, better treatment.

Aiden Hulme has suffered a severe injury to a leg as a result of a motor-bike accident in Belfast, prior to his arrest. After "settling-in" Aiden sent out a draft of a 'New Year's Greetings' letter. It expressed heart-felt thanks to all those who kept up communication with him, and those who made direct interventions, on a number of occasions. Although not named, these included the SDLP leader, a few journalists, and clergy etc., who responded to requests from groups such as the Oct. 5 th. Assoc., an independent network of 1968 civil rights veterans and supporters.

Over the years other groups have campaigned on prison issues. These include. the Irish Freedom Committee, USA, Radio Free Eireann, NYC, Irish Political Status Committee (London), the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas (Co. Kildare), the Irish Republican Prisoners' Welfare Association and the on-line newsroom of the Irish Anti-Partition League, to name but a few. Aiden also thanked those who attended pickets in Dublin, Chicago, London and New York, etc., in a bid to highlight his plight. Such was his suffering and lack of proper treatment, his legal team filed a case for medical neglect against the British prison service.

When Aiden was examined in Portlaoise the pain-killing drugs issued in England, deemed adequate for his condition, were immediately binned.. A new medical regime was introduced, which, within a few days, enabled an 80% reduction in pain, with the resultant 'luxury' of being able to have a good-night's sleep.

His New Year message commented: "My brother and I have settled in well on E-3 Wing. The men here, and on the other wings, have been very supportive and welcoming. Now, I am delighted to note that the medical treatment I am receiving for my injured leg is more than adequate".

He continued: "In due course I am to be moved to Portlaoise hospital for more tests, and the medical people here assure me more can and will be done to help me walk again. That's in sharp contrast to what I was told in Full Sutton prison last year-that no more could, or would be done, for my injury, and that I would probably lose my leg. I believe now, that if my repatriation had not happened, my medical condition, and my health generally, would have greatly deteriorated."

To his credit, he ends his correspondence: "Please remember also Noel Maguire, now isolated and vulnerable in HM Prison, Full Sutton. There he was subjected to an unprovoked life-threatening knife attack, and hospitalised, in October 2005. Noel is currently not only the last remaining PoW in England, but is now apparently a political hostage as well, due to the stance of Michael McDowell. Noel's most recent application has, once again, been refused."

A partitionist mindset?

With Aiden and Robert back in Ireland an equally bright spotlight was re-focused on Noel Francis Maguire, from Co. Fermanagh. Previously he felt he had been somewhat neglected. Noel, born 22.12.1968, is now the last on the list entitled to be repatriated. Alas, as with the Hulme brothers, et al, his wishes are being frustrated by Michael McDowell TD, regretfully, still the current right-wing Minister of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in spite of several justified 'leaks' leading to high-profile controversies..

Mc Dowell, one might dare to suggest, has adopted an outdated and narrow-minded moralistic and pro- partitionist outlook, in relation to Maguire: e.g., (a) Divorced. & (b) Not a 26-County resident. The Minister thus claimed that the prisoner has no supportive family in Ireland.

Such is blatantly untrue. Noel does have strong family ties to Ireland, north and south, in addition to holding an Irish passport, issued in Dublin . Therefore under the current constitution Noel should be treated equally, as every Irish citizen deserves and should expect. It's also noteworthy that before going to England, he did reside in Co. Carlow between 1998 and 2000, where his former wife and two children still reside.

He has four siblings living in Co. Fermanagh. His partner, since 1999, a native of Ballina, Co. Mayo, currently resides in London with her fifteen-year-old daughter. She regularly undertakes the seven hour round trip to visit him in prison, and wishes to return home as soon as possible. to care for her elderly mother, once Noel is repatriated.

She and Noel, prior to his arrest, planned to return to Ballina to reside on a full-time basis, in 2001. She is the only daughter of a close family of seven children, headed by her mother, now a widow. The immediate and extended family circle are aware of Mr. Maguire's situation and are supportive of the relationship, and look forward to Noel and his partner's return to Ireland.

Long Sentences

Noel is currently serving a term of 22 years imprisonment. It was alleged that he was a member of an ASU. Long sentences were imposed on all the alleged members linked to explosives-related charges. Police reports alleged that " his fingerprints were found on a banknote which was used to purchase a maroon taxi that exploded outside the BBC Television Centre in London, in 2001".

His parole eligibility date in the UK is 14, November, 2012 and his non-parole release date is 16, July, 2016. He greatly desires to be repatriated, long before then, so as to make contact with, and re-build a loving relationship with his young children, a son and a daughter, hopefully before they attain adulthood. Both are unaware that he is in an English prison.

Mc Dowell's second refusal to grant repatriation was signed on 25 April 2006. Around July of the same year another application was submitted, on the grounds that Noel's circumstances had changed and that his ex-wife would visit him in Portlaoise, accompanied by the children. However, in spite of intense lobbying, the Prison Policy Division duly wrote: "It is recommended that this application be again refused on the same grounds as before".

Basically, official correspondence, in April 2006, claimed that: (1) He has no family support south of the border (2) He is a native of the N. of Ireland; (3) His closest relationship is UK-based & (4) He previously expressed a desire to transfer to the North of Ireland. At the time of writing this article, hopefully to be published by the on-line periodical, The Blanket, this writer was phoned by a member of Noel's immediate family in Co. Fermanagh. On behalf of the siblings it was stated that they would gladly and regularly travel to Portlaoise to visit Noel, once he is repatriated. No doubt they too may also suspect that McDowell adopted a moralistic and partitionist attitude towards each of Noel's applications, and his compliant civil servants promptly fell into line.

Recent solidarity

A two-page correspondence from the civil rights veterans and supporters network to Mr. Jason Ruffy of the National Offenders Management Service of the British Home Office has raised issues contained within the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. It expressed fears that "the unprovoked and vicious knife attack, by two other prisoners, may be repeated, now that he [Noel] is the only remaining Irish political prisoner in that jail [HM Prison Full Sutton]" . It also noted that " those inmates responsible have been charged with attempted murder, such was the seriousness of his injuries".

In a reply to the on-line Derry-based civil rights network, the Catholic Church's Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO) noted, 11 December 2006, "As to Mr. Noel Maguire, he has applied twice before for repatriation and his applications have twice been refused. Mr. Maguire applied for the third time on the 24 th of November. We would agree with your assessment that Mr. Maguire is in grave danger in an English prison and we will be writing to Michael McDowell, Minister of Justice, pointing this out and also stressing Mr. Maguire's ties to Ireland (his former wife and children both live in Ireland). For all of these reasons we will urge Minister McDowell to approve Mr. Maguire's application for repatriation as soon as possible".

Significantly, that letter signed by Kate Jackson, ICPO-Maynooth, concluded, "Thank you for your services since 2002 in advocating for Irish prisoners in English prisons". Such acknowledges the length of time and considerable effort involved because of the general foot-dragging and inhumane antics of the Dublin government, and Michael McDowell in particular, when dealing with this and all previous repatriation cases.

The British Home Office's E-mail reply, re. the repatriation of Noel Maguire, clearly states that the matter now rests solely in the hands of the Minister of Justice in Dublin. This E-mail reply, along with other documentation, has been sent to Mr. Dermot Ahern TD, the Minister for Foreign affairs, whose department also bears constitutional responsibility for Irish citizens abroad, incarcerated or not. The civil rights veterans have asked this minister to supply the names and positions held by each, and all within the FF/PD Coalition cabinet, so that each, and all, are made fully aware of the seriousness and urgency of this case. The main thrust of this correspondence is that knowledge of Noel's applications, and the subsequent blocking of all three, should not be the sole preserve of the Minister for Justice and/ or his departmental civil servants.

A recent E-mail, to the civil rights veterans' office, from a group of exiles, within the London-based Irish Political Status Committee, succinctly ends with the comments:

"Noel's six co-defendants, all Irish like he is, have already been repatriated to Portlaoise Prison, and it's obvious also that the Irish Dept. of Justice, Equality and Law Reform have made a conscious decision to ignore Noel's special circumstances. The fact his life is in danger, and he has already been the victim of a cowardly attack-and likely to be attacked again-makes him a special case for repatriation. All this has been deliberately set aside by that Department. He also has close family within a short distance of Portlaoise, and no ties at all in England".

Mc Dowell's most recent announcement is that he will not consider any fresh application, "until another twelve months have elapsed". The general public have a right to be informed on this latest dictum, which amounts to an unreported national scandal. Will the Irish media respond and reveal a humanitarian professionalism that such a case justly warrants?

Does Noel Maguire have to be murdered in his cell before he makes it back to Ireland?





Fionnbarra O'Dochartaigh hails from Derry's Bogside. He was a co-founder of the N. Ireland Civil Rights Association, in January 1967. His published writings include: "Ulster's White Negroes- From Civil Rights to Insurrection", with a foreword by Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey (Publishers: AK Press 1994). He is one of a number of co-webmasters of such sites as and The civil rights veterans network's E-mail is






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