IRPWA – Summary of Annual General Meeting on Saturday 26th September
The IRPWA held its Annual General Meeting on Saturday 26th September. The AGM took place in Newry where over 100 activists from across the country gathered in attendance.
The event offered the opportunity for activists to meet and engage with each other against the large screen visual display of images from protests, pickets and events carried out over the previous year as a back drop.
IRPWA Chairperson Francie Mackey formally opened proceedings by welcoming all who had attended including family members of current Republican Prisoners and former prisoners. Francie also expressed solidarity with the POWs. Apologies were also read out for those who couldn’t attend.
Francie continued with a reading of the report from the previous AGM.
Treasurers from the Six and Twenty Six Counties then submitted their reports which covered all monies raised and welfare paid out to prisoners over this last year.
Francie paid special thanks and offered tributes to all those activists who had raised monies for the prisoners over this last year and to all those IRPWA activists who, since its formation over 17 years ago until the present day, had never once let the prisoners and their families down by failing to meet their financial needs. Francie also welcomed the close working relationship between the IRPWA and the Prisoner Department in recent months.
The Head of the Prisoner Department then outlined how the idea of the creation of the Prisoner Department, which arose after it had been debated in the jails and discussed with others outside the jails, had come to be established. He set out its clearly defined objectives and the programme of work that had been established to meet those objectives.
Representatives from the Prisoner Department then outlined the work that they had been engaged in over this last 10 months since its formation:
The jail representative for Portlaoise spoke of the regular communication with the jail and the issues the prisoners there face and how the IRPWA in the 26 Counties had responded to their needs. The representative outlined the development of the IRPWA specifically in the Dublin area, while highlighting the need for expansion and development in other counties. It was noted that Dublin contributed to 95% of the welfare needs of Republican Prisoners in Portlaoise. Although it was outlined that potential existed for future development in other counties such as Cork, Galway, Louth and Meath.
The jail representative for Hydebank and Maghaberry jails spoke of the communication with Hydebank and the issues faced by the only female Republican Prisoner currently held in the Six Counties. The representative spoke of communication with Gavin Coyle, held in isolation on the CSU for over 5,000 days, and the special conditions both he and another prisoner are subjected to. The representative then spoke of the prisoners held on Roe 4 in Maghaberry and the ongoing communication between the Prisoner Department and those prisoners and the core issues faced by them.
The area of Public Relations was discussed with Mandy Duffy outlining the work the Prisoner Department had carried out in this area since its formation. Some major successes over this last year were noted in this regard, particularly on the back of events like the protest outside Maghaberry and the annual Anti Internment March in Belfast, when our spokespersons were able to access the mainstream television and radio media to articulate the prisoner issues. Mainstream print media had continually throughout the year carried articles in relation to the issues in Maghaberry, with our spokespersons commenting on those issues. Mandy also welcomed the development of the IRPWA website and social media platforms such as our facebook page which allowed prisoner statements and updates from the jail to be delivered promptly and to a wider audience.
The Prisoners’ magazine, Scairt Amach and the sale of prisoner crafts was then reported on. A representative from the Prisoner Department outlined sales of Scairt Amach since going to print. It was noted how areas had met their allocation and that some areas had increased that allocation by up to 50%. Requests from some areas for the next edition would see an increase of their allocation by up to 100%. The representative then spoke of prisoner crafts, encouraging local areas to assist in their sale. An online shop would also soon be up and running where the crafts could be sold. Special thanks were given to our comrades in Scotland who had assisted the IRPWA throughout the year.
The final representative for the Prisoner Department spoke of the establishment and development of the IRPWA’s website and related Facebook page. An impressive Prezi presentation was given with information and statistics shown on the large screen. It was noted that the website had attracted over 45,000 unique viewers based in 134 different countries. One post published on Facebook reached around 250,000 people. Facebook followers continue to grow weekly and are now close to 5,500 with engagement on our Facebook page comparing very healthy in comparison to other organisations but the speaker urged everyone to participate more on IRPWA social sites including our YouTube channel and reminded everyone of their responsibility to help spread the message of our POWs and that of the IRPWA by simply liking, sharing and commenting on our posts and statements. The presentation can be seen at the bottom of the page.
The Head of the Prisoner Department then summed up by outlining work which was still in progress and other areas of work which would be undertaken in the coming year.
The chairperson of the Justice for the Craigavon Two committee, Packy Carty, was invited to the podium to speak in relation to the campaign. Packy highlighted the work the campaign group had undertaken since its formation, speaking of how the IRPWA had been to the fore in the campaign group’s work. Packy also spoke of the setbacks such as the rejection of the Appeal and the more recent British Supreme Court’s ruling and their decision not to hear the case. Packy highlighted the need to focus nationally and internationally on the campaign. He stated that while the presentation of the case to the European Courts was always an option it would take years before it would come before it. In the shorter term the campaign group were focusing on the CCRC, as the campaign committee viewed this as the avenue which would be more productive.
Elections were then held for the incoming National Executive with nominations taken and seconded from those who had gathered.
Francie once again thanked all for their attendance and encouraged all to continue with their good work and activities in the coming year. He then formally closed the meeting.