THE JAILING OF MARGARETTA D’ARCY

 

One of the most, well, disturbing aspects of living in Ireland, aside from the surveillance of ones internet and cellular traffic by the NSA, is the awful fact that Shannon Airport, a civilian airport, is used on a day to day basis by US Aircraft on their way to war zones. The fact that successive governments continue to assent to this is deeply troubling. No inspection of the crafts occur. They arrive, refuel, and presumably take off again after their business is completed. The gargantuan nature of the US Air Force, not to mention the sheer level of economic clout the US economy makes it difficult to refuse them permission to land. But they should be refused permission to land, not simply because they are landing in a civilian airport, but by allowing them to refuel, Ireland is assenting to their deeply controversial foreign policies, policies that have led t the deaths of countless innocent people. I have no intention of giving analyses of US policy here, simply to say I deeply disagree with this not only as a citizen, a civilian, but the very root of my disagreement with them comes from the fact that I am a writer. These are not wars against ‘terror’, as they are portrayed in the media. These are wars of empire expansion. No artist worth their salt can remain silent when things like this are happening. This is exactly the reason why Margaretta D’Arcy is in Limerick Prison. As an artist, her work both in the theatre and in novels have advocated and analysed the political in all aspects of human life, decades before the invasion of Iraq, sometimes to powerful negative reaction. To extend the notion of the artist and politics, the idea that somehow the life of any artist is somehow apolitical or not involved in the polis is contradicted by every major artist for millennia. To come to my point though, the use of the facilities of Shannon Airport is both an anti democratic and contrary to basic human rights – Shannon was used not only as a military stop over , but also on over thirty occasions a stop over for rendition flights. In other words our government, by allowing US military to pass through without any inspection gave unwitting assistance to torturers. This is simply unacceptable. The fact that D’Arcy is an elderly extremely ill person in jail for disobeying an unjust law is contemptible. But she was always right, long before she became ill. D’Arcy has a long record of powerful activism. Its an act of heroism and an example of moral courage that she despite illness and infirmity continues to go on. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this is firstly the dreadful fact that she is in jail, but also the reaction of our Arts Council (M. D’Arcy is a founding member of Aosdana) which shows to me how misunderstood the work of the artist can be at a critically historical time, when freedoms are being restricted, and bit by bit our political life drifts ever rightward. And I quote:

“The Arts Council does not wish currently to make a statement. No one here questions Margaretta D’Arcy’s integrity as an artist; she is well-respected and also a member of Aosdána. However .. the Arts Council does not see her actions as part of her art, or as artistic expression, nor has she herself represented them as such. It is difficult to see, therefore, what standing or authority the Arts Council would have in making a statement about what is essentially a political and judicial matter. Please do not interpret this as the staff or members of the Arts Council being unmoved and unconcerned on a personal level for Margaretta’s welfare – quite the contrary.”

Acting Director: John O’Kane, john.okane@artscouncil.ie
Director: Orlaith McBride, orlaith.mcbride@artscouncil.ie
PRO: Seán MacCarthaigh, sean.maccarthaigh@artscouncil.ie
Theatre Officer: David Parnell, david.parnell@artscouncil.ie

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