Peace activist Margaretta D’Arcy was today released from Limerick prison five days early and branded the conditions as ‘inhumane’.
Ms D’Arcy, 80, a close friend of President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Coyne, was imprisoned after refusing to sign a bond to not enter unauthorised areas of Shannon Airport.
The pensioner, who received chemotherapy treatment for cancer in the weeks up until her detention, said that while in prison she had to defecate in the same cell where she ate and that she was locked up for 23 hours a day.
She also said that she could not see much help provided for inmates who have problems with their mental health and addictions.
Prior to her two-week sentence she had said that she would go on hunger strike in solidarity with victims of war, in particular those in Gaza, and she abstained from food for the first few days of her detention.
Earlier this year Ms D’Arcy served nine-and-a-half weeks of a three-month sentence for a similar offence – initially at Limerick prison and then at Dóchas women’s prison in Dublin.
Speaking upon her release Ms D’Arcy called for the Minster for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to close down and fast-track the government’s proposed redevelopment of the women’s section of Limerick Prison.
“Unlike the Dóchas Centre which is all little houses which are like hostels – we eat in our cell, and we also we go to the toilet in our cell, and I think this is unacceptable,” she said.
“As well as that now that the weather is good, we’ve got flies. You talk about hygiene; there are bloody flies around the place on our food and everywhere. It needs to be closed down.
“The women are treated as inferior citizens. Contrary to what everyone says, the sensory deprivation is that we are just cooped up in a tiny little area. Limerick (Prison) was never meant to be for women. They are meant to be having a new jail.
“We now have a woman as the Minister for Justice who used to be Chairwoman of the National Women’s Council and I hope she is going to do something about the discrimination.
“There are plans for a wonderful new jail, which will be based very much on the Dochas Centre and they are just waiting for the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan,” she added.
She also said that she has ‘solid proof’ to warn of the potential targeting of planes using Shannon by militant groups spurned by her initial campaign against a US militant presence at the airport.
“Isis has said that they are targeting Americans, they know about Shannon, and there is no reason why every single plane, whether it is an American war plane or a civilian plane, could not be targeted,” she added.
“The government have got to take responsibility to protect not only Irish citizens, but also for our international visitors.
“We now have actual solid proof that rendition flights are going through Shannon. The fact is that the Irish Government is complicit to that.
“We are getting, I hope, a case going to take the Government to court for crimes against humanity, that is the only way to make them wake up.”