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Irish rally behind jailed peace activist Margaretta D'Arcy

rish politicians renewed their fight to free elderly peace campaigner Margaretta D'Arcy

Irish politicians renewed their fight to free elderly peace campaigner Margaretta D'Arcy from prison.

The 79-year-old, who suffers from Parkinson's disease and has cancer, was jailed in January for three months after blocking flights from Shannon airport.

Shannon was allegedly used as a stop-off point in the US extraordinary rendition programme.

Her arrest caused an uproar and serious concerns have been raised about her health.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams visited her last week and said he'd achieved assurances from Justice Minister Alan Shatter that Ms D'Arcy has "access to the full range of services in prison, including all medical services."

Mr Adams said: "Nonetheless she is a frail and elderly woman with a serious medical condition who should not be in prison.

"Margaretta is taking a stand for Irish neutrality and for human rights and against the use of a civilian airport for military purposes, and the secret rendition of detainees to places of torture."

Mr Adams said that both the Irish human rights commission and the UN committee against torture had condemned the government for its complicity in rendition, where terror suspects are illegally smuggled across international borders.

"Margaretta is not a criminal. She represents no threat to the public and it is outrageous that she should be still in prison. Margaretta D'Arcy should be released immediately," he said.

Regular protests have been held calling for Ms D'Arcy's release.

At a vigil on Wednesday outside Leinster House - the home of the Irish parliament - Unite union regional secretary Jimmy Kelly hit out at the charge on interfering with the "proper" use of Shannon airport.

"During the past decade, over two million US soldiers have passed through Shannon Airport, most on their way to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"That is not proper use of a civilian airport in a neutral state.

"During an eight-month period last year, over 350 foreign military aircraft were allowed to land at Shannon.

"That is not proper use of a civilian airport in a neutral state."

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