David Coen examines elderly playwright Margaretta D’Arcy’s jail sentence for refusing to stop protests over US military flights at Shannon airport.
Margaretta D’Arcy, an Aosdana member and Peace Activist, has been held in Limerick Prison for a three month suspended sentence. D’Arcy, who is also currently undergoing treatment for cancer, was jailed for refusing to sign a bond to uphold Irish Law. This law concerns the right of the establishment to prevent people from access to unauthorised areas.
On October 7th 2012, the Peace Activist was reprimanded for illegal incursion of the runway of Shannon Airport in opposition to US military use. She sought to oppose war crimes and Ireland’s participation in such atrocities; two million US soldiers have passed through Shannon airport on their way to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Conditions of Limerick prison have interestingly been brought into question through this case. Her son, Finn Arden and two fellow peace activists; Edward Horgan of Shannonwatch and Niall Farrell of the Galway Alliance Against War (GAAW) have, through their visits, developed an understanding of the substandard quality of D’Arcy’s environment.
Shannonwatch described D’Arcy as deeming the conditions as “unsatisfactory” and as claiming that the impact on women who are imprisoned is something “that needs urgent attention.” The aforementioned GAAW have issued a statement in relation to their visits to Margaretta, and through this have announced that D’Arcy will only sign a bond to keep the peace if there is no direct reference to Shannon Airport. This proclamation conveys D’Arcy’s primary idea; that “criminal acts are being committed at Shannon on a daily basis through the presence of a US military hub there, which is deeply involved in waging war in foreign countries that continues to result in the deaths of many innocent people.”
She has subsequently received many visitors to her temporary abode in Limerick. Áras an Uachtaráin have recently confirmed that Sabina Higgins, wife of President Michael D. Higgins, visited D’Arcy in Limerick Prison. Her supporters in Shannonwatch have been frequent visitors, with prominent members Zoe Lawlor and John Lannon recently being in the presence of the imprisoned activist. D’arcy was told of the great support for her cause, as well as written articles and photographs surrounding the furore that has been caused by her actions. Through Shannonwatch, D’Arcy was said to be “pleased that the issue of the US military use of Shannon was being highlighted, and expressed her thanks to everyone who has shown their support.”
The importance of women’s role in conflict was also addressed by D’arcy in her meeting with Shannonwatch. Her reference to the UN Security Council’s resolution 1325 is important to considering her initiative at Shannon Airport. The resolution refers to the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and recognises the contributions women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building. Indeed the former UN assistant secretary-general Denis Halliday has appealed to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, claiming that Darcy’s refusal to sign a bond is based on her belief in the Nuremberg Principle of 1945 whereby “individual citizens of any country have international duties and responsibilities that transcend national and domestic obligations of obedience to local law”.