Irish unsafe in British prisons

Issue 

Irish unsafe in British prisons

"Catholic, Irish nationals, once found guilty of offences against the security forces, are subject to systematic or retaliatory harm, physical detention or potential death in Northern Ireland. The security forces either participate or tacitly endorse these actions", a United States district judge ruled in a San Francisco court on June 24.

James Smyth, an alleged member of the Irish Republican Army, was one of 38 republican prisoners who escaped from the notorious Maze prison in the north of Ireland in 1983. Arrested in June 1992 in San Francisco, Smyth is facing attempted extradition by the British government.

The judge's finding came after the British government refused to hand over to the court documents on security force actions in the north of Ireland. Requested documentation included the never released Stalker Inquiry into the security forces' shoot to kill policy.

Irish parliament legalises homosexuality

The Irish parliament on June 24 passed the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, legalising homosexual activity for people 17 and over. It is expected to go by before the Senate in the next few weeks.

Sexual acts between women have never been illegal in Ireland.

The Irish press called the bill a "welcome reform", while opponents of the bill knelt in prayer outside parliament as it was debated. Some carried banners accusing law-makers of supporting the spread of AIDS.

In recent years, local governments have banned homosexuals from marching on St Patrick's Day.

Since last year a number of social laws in Ireland have been liberalised. Parliament recently

voted to permit vending machine sales of condoms, which were not available at all till 1979, and even then only to married couples. Next year divorce, currently outlawed, will go to a referendum.

... Catherine Brown

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