The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Marie Wright


Anthony McIntyre • Christmas Day, 2004

Turning into the home strait for Christmas always sees those hectic final days spent in town picking up the last minute things that should have been got much earlier but are invariably overlooked or put off. It was while returning from one such trip the Monday before Christmas that I met a former republican prisoner and ex-blanket man in Castle Street. We bump into each other frequently enough so long gone are the expressions of cheery bonhomie and the firm handshakes accompanied by the stock 'haven't seen you in a while.' The first thing he said to me was that the former republican prisoner Marie Wright had died the night before. She had waged a long battle against illness. During her life Marie had waged many battles, all of which she managed to win. This one was different. It has the measure of us all.

Parting company with the former prisoner I made my way up towards the Falls Road saddened at the news he had left me to contemplate. It was 15 years earlier that I had first met Marie while visiting at Maghaberry prison. I was on Christmas parole and during the visit to the jail was introduced to Marie who was being visited by her loved ones. She had been arrested in April of that year along with a close friend of my own, Pat Sheehan, outside Grosvenor Road RUC station. A booby trap bomb was found in their possession or close by. The Saturday they appeared in court was the day that many Liverpool fans were crushed to death at Hillsborough Football ground in Sheffield. Both Pat and Marie had spent time in prison before. They knew the years of tedium that lay ahead if they were to return yet remained undeterred. When sentenced they both received twenty-four years. Even by the going rate of the day, these sentences were considered pretty severe.

After the initial encounter I was to meet Marie many more times. The circumstances were always the same: in the confines of a jail visiting room. It never amounted to much more than a hello or goodbye and some small talk. Often the journey up on the bus would be spent in the company of her parents or sister. They were devoted in the way that only families can be. There was rarely a day that I clambered on the bus at Sevastopol Street to make the journey that they did not do likewise. On occasion I travelled to the family home straight after a visit to leave something in that had been sent out by Marie. It was a working class home which had been the site of much suffering and anguish over the years due to the conflict. From such homes in impoverished Belfast estates came the brightest and the best to pit their talents against a vastly technologically superior foe, the most formidable the modern repressive state apparatus can throw up.

Born in Belfast on 20th October 1960, Marie was arrested in 1983 and later convicted of possessing explosives and sentenced to 7 years. She was released in 1987. She experienced only two short years on the streets before once again hearing the distinctive bang of a cell door. She was one of the first two republican women to be freed under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Shortly after her release, along with Rosaleen McCorley, she was interviewed by An Phoblacht/Republican News. Both women gave accounts of life in prison. Marie commented, 'you get realistic, it's a time when you do lots of growing up. You can focus on yourself, on the things you never had time for in the past.' For similar reasons prisoners in English jails have referred to prison as the 'thinking factory'. Marie was giving to thinking about things to the extent that the sheer excitement of anticipating immediate release did not prevent her from sitting an exam on the morning of her freedom for her Open University degree. Speaking about the reception both her and Rosaleen received when they were released on the 21st of October, Marie said she was, 'absolutely overwhelmed', but in typical fashion shifted her thoughts to those left behind: 'we are so conscious of being home with our family and friends that our thoughts are with the families who won't have their loved ones home.' She went on to talk of the joys of being free. 'It's the simple things, being with family, privacy.' Privacy and the joys of family were to be short-lived experiences. Six years after her release, Marie succumbed to the illness which had ravaged her for some time.

She was given a full republican funeral. She remained firmly loyal to the Provisional republican leadership. By all accounts her final journey was attended by many IRA volunteers of all ranks. There was nothing self serving or opportunistic about her. Her life was genuinely one of sacrifice and struggle. Most human beings are like oysters; every now and then one of them is prised open and a pearl reveals itself. That is how many who knew her came to see Marie Wright.

Those of us who dissent from the politics behind the peace process can nevertheless do little but respect the integrity and genuine commitment of many of those who support it. Few have been more deserving of that respect than Volunteer Marie Wright.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

14 January 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Criminalising Republicanism
Anthony McIntyre

Brian Mór

Leading Human Rights Solicitor "Shut Down" by Law Society
Sean Mc Aughey

A Little Known Republican Military Group: Saor Eire
Liam O Ruairc

Too Bad The North's Future Depends On Tony Blair's Bravery
Paul A. Fitzsimmons

Free Tali Fahima - an anti occupation activist in the Israeli prisons
Iris Bar

Marie Wright
Anthony McIntyre

10 January 2005

SF - Securocrat Fantasists
Anthony McIntyre

Mick Hall

Merge Ahead?
Dr John Coulter

DPP Cover-up RUC/PSNI Malpractice Yet Again
32 CSM Press Release

RSF Are The Sole Inheritors of the Sinn Fein Mantle
Des Dalton, RSF

Óglaigh na hÉireann New Year Statement 2005

The Caged Men
Ruairi O'Driscoll

Changing Fortunes
Anthony McIntyre



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