An elderly artist and anti- war activist, released early from prison yesterday after serving part of a second jail term over her opposition to the US military’s use of Shannon Airport, has described conditions inside Limerick Prison as "inhumane".
Margaretta D’Arcy, 80, a close friend of President Michael D Higgins’s wife Sabina, said she had to defecate in the same cell where she ate her meals, and was locked up 23 hours a day.
Ms D’Arcy was released by prison authorities five days before her custodial term ended. The Galway pensioner, who is receiving cancer treatment, had not eaten for some days after been taken into custody last Wednesday.
She had gone on limited hunger strike as an act of solidarity with victims of war around the world.
Ms D’Arcy, of Woodquay, Galway, and Niall Farrell of Ballynacloghy, Maree, Oranmore, Galway, were each given two-week sentences and fined €100 last month at Ennis District Court for an unauthorised incursion into Shannon Airport in September 2013.
On her release, Ms D’Arcy called on Justice Minster Frances Fitzgerald to close down the women’s section of Limerick Prison and fast-track its proposed redevelopment.
“Unlike the Dóchas Centre (Mountjoy), which is all little houses which are like hostels — we eat in our cell, and we also go to the toilet in our cell, and I think this is unacceptable. 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,” she said.
“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. There are plans for a wonderful new jail, which will be based very much on the Dóchas Centre and they are just waiting for Michael Noonan (to pass funding).”
Ms D’Arcy said she could not see much help provided for inmates who have problems with mental health or addictions.
She said, however, that she was “feeling pretty good” after her second stint behind bars.
“I’m feeling good, and that’s why I like to talk about these important things,” she added.
She said she expected to be placed back inside a prison cell as she would not comply with a previous court order to refrain from unauthorised access to Shannon Airport.
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