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Plea for republican Price 'gravely ill' in prison despite case's collapse

(Suzanne Breen, Belfast Telegraph)

Former Old Bailey bomber Marian Price is gravely ill after months in solitary confinement, her family has said.

The extent of her illness emerged after she was found to be too unwell to stand trial or even appear in court via video-link.

A court heard that Price's health had gravely deteriorated during a year's solitary confinement in jail.

The claim was made as charges against Price and three other republicans relating to an Easter commemoration in Derry were dismissed.

The judge threw out the case after prosecution papers still weren't ready. But Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory, insisted the case against Price and the others will proceed despite the ruling.

Price (58) had been charged with encouraging support for a paramilitary organisation after holding a statement from which a masked Real IRA man read.

The veteran republican was granted bail when initially charged with that offence last May but her licence was then revoked by the Secretary of State.

She was held in solitary confinement in the top security Maghaberry jail until February when she was moved to Hydebank prison which is said to have a more relaxed regime.

But Price's husband, Jerry McGlinchey, told the Belfast Telegraph that his wife's health had deteriorated rapidly in Hydebank:

"Marian is so ill that she had to be taken to a recent visit in a wheelchair. Her hair is falling out, she has lost a lot of weight, and her arthritis has got worse.

"She is suffering from severe depression after a year in solitary without any release date.

"The doctors in Hydebank have told us she's not fit to be in jail – she should either be in hospital or at home."

Mr McGlinchey claimed his wife's conditions in Hydebank were "so bad" that she has actually requested a transfer back to Maghaberry.

"She is locked in her cell far longer every day than in Maghaberry. She has much less access to fresh air and exercise," he said. "Her cell is near cells where unruly young male prisoners are housed.

"She often gets no sleep as they shout, bang on the walls, and sometimes sing the Sash all night."

When revoking Price's licence, Owen Paterson said she posed a security threat. Her lawyers claim he'd no right to do so as she'd been granted a royal pardon when freed from jail in 1980. The government claims this pardon has been lost.

Two months after her licence was revoked, Price was charged with supplying a mobile phone to those who murdered two young British soldiers at Massereene Army base in 2009. Price was granted bail on that charge.

A candlelit vigil will be held at 'Free Derry Corner' on Sunday to mark the first anniversary of Price's imprisonment.

Marian Price is the national secretary of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement allegedly the Real IRA's political wing.

Her sister Dolours and Gerry Kelly – now a senior Sinn Féin politician – were part of an 11-member IRA unit which bombed London in 1973.

Around 200 people received minor injuries when two bombs exploded outside the Old Bailey and Whitehall. One man died of a heart attack.

Price embarked on a 200-day hunger-strike in Brixton prison demanding a transfer to Armagh jail. She was force fed 400 times. She opposed Sinn Féin's political direction in 1994.

May 13, 2012

This article appeared in the May 12, 2012 edition of the Belfast Telegraph.

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