Nicky Kelly: Irish socialist framed

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Nicky Kelly, political prisoner: framed by the Southern Irish government for the March 1976 robbery of a Dublin mail train. His case has been called Irish Dreyfus case: no witnesses or evidence has ever linked him to the robbery. Yet the government has spent seven years and $1.5 million to keep him in jail because of it.


The robbery was an acute embarrassment to the Irish authorities. $400,000 was taken, none of it ever recovered. Unable or unwilling to track down the real perpetrators, the authorities hunted for radical scapegoats. They found the Irish Republican Socialist Party (lRSP), a legal political party which stands for the reunification of Ireland and the establishment of a socialist republic-anathema to the capitalists who rule in Dublin. The authorities decided to kill two birds with one stone: “solve” a major crime and neutralize a growing threat.

False confessions. Less than a week after the robbery, the government raided IRSP headquarters and in two days arrested 40 party members. Kelly and 17 others were selected for “in-depth interrogation” — two-and-a-half days of grilling without access to an attorney or a doctor. Kelly was deprived of sleep and repeatedly and severely beaten. Finally, he signed a “confession.”

Kelly and six others were tried before a juryless Special Criminal Court in 1978. Their “confessions” were admitted as evidence; the prosecution had nothing else on which to base a case. In December, days before the verdict was handed down, Kelly fled to the U.S. He was sentenced in absentia to 12 years.

Appeal denied. Five months after the verdict, the Provisional IRA claimed responsibility for the train robbery. The authorities chose to ignore the claim. But a year later, in May 1980, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the confessions of Kelly’s co-defendents should never have been admitted as evidence. They were released.

Yet when Kelly returned to Ireland to clear his name, he was rearrested. And on October 29, 1982, the Irish Supreme Court rejected his appeal, even though his case was the same as that of his co-defendents!

Outcry. A huge public outcry in Ireland against this injustice, and intervention on Kelly’s behalf by Amnesty International, failed to secure his release. And on May 1, 1983, Kelly began a hunger strike, which he ended 38 days later only after the European Court of Human Rights agreed to hear his case on an emergency basis. This court cannot free Nicky Kelly; it can only recommend action.

Kelly sees clearly that his case is part of a systematic attempt by the neo-colonial Irish Free State to stamp out republican socialism. In June, Bernadette Devlin McAiiskey was denied a visa to come to the U.S. to publicize his case.

Nevertheless, support for Nicky Kelly is growing in the U.S. Currently, a petition campaign is under way to pressure the Irish Minister of Justice to release him.

For copies of the petition or more information, contact: San Francisco H-Block/ Armagh Committee, 827-14th St., San Francisco, CA 94114

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