Above: Margaretta D’Arcy leaving Ennis Courthouse. This picture from Indymedia.ie.
Most of you will know a little of who Margaretta D’Arcy is and the ridiculous situation she found herself in. We drafted David Flemming in to take a look at her exceptional life and find out why she is so steadfast on Shannon.
Born in London in 1934 to an Irish father and a Jewish mother of Russian descent Margaretta D’Arcy has been a lifelong advocate for peace and justice and has dedicated herself to this pursuit in her work as an actress, playwright, writer and later director. She has also made a number of films with her son Finn Arden. I spoke to him to find out what his mother is like, the content of her work in collaboration with her late husband John Arden and how it was for him growing up with a rebellious Ma.
“She was always a bit of a rebel really, her background kind of seen to that. The circle she was hanging around in the late fifties would have included Francis Bacon and Brendan Behan, people like that and then she met my Dad.”
With John Arden, Margaretta penned a number of plays including a 24 hour show about the life of James Connolly.
“She was a big influence on his (John Ardens) plays and after a while they began to co-write them and from then their writing became more political. My Dad wouldn’t have been as radical as my Mum: she kind of brought the more political element to it”.
At the end of the sixties and with the writing becoming more radical because of the political situation with Vietnam, Northern Ireland and everything that was going on at that time they became ostracised by the British establishment theatre and they went to Ireland but were too radical for Ireland at the time so they were ostracised from both ends really”.
Following this she became more involved in Guerrilla and underground theatre movements and has written a book about her experiences entitled LOOSE THEATRE: Memoirs of a Guerrilla Theatre Activist.
At the beginning of the eighties Margaretta decided that she wanted to get involved with pirate radio so she set up her own station from her Galway home which featured an array of different personalities from across the societal spectrum. Through this medium she campaigned on many local, national and international issues and became a member of the World Association of Community broadcasters and the Women’s International Network.
“She was also protesting in Greenham Common against the nuclear cruise missiles as well protesting for the rights of female political prisoners in Northern Ireland at the time”.
As a result of a protest in which she was arrested and refused to pay a fine, a precursor to her time now being spent in Mountjoy prison at the behest of the state, she spent six months locked up in Armagh prison in the early eighties alongside other female political prisoners including Mairead Farrell who would later be gunned down in Gibraltar. She also participated in the little publicised dirty protest that was carried out by the women of Armagh prison in conjunction with the male protest at the Maze in Antrim. She wrote a book about this entitled Tell Them Everything.
From theatre, writing, radio and acting Margaretta D’Arcy has also made a number of films with Finn including Big Plane Small Axe, following the legal trials of the peace activist Mary Kelly, Yellow Gate Women, documenting Margaretta’s and other women’s experience at Greenham and Welcome To Our World featuring John Arden and campaigning for an accessible city for wheelchair users in Galway. Her environmental activism is well known and she has organised or taken part in many actions in support of the community in North Mayo against Shell’s nefarious pipeline about which she and Finn made the film Shell Hell.
Margaretta D’Arcy has had a life that is difficult to sum up in a short piece like this but the one thing of which we can be certain is that throughout her varied and interesting life she has strived to stand up for what she believes in and to campaign for human rights and fight injustice locally nationally and internationally wherever she sees fit. She should be applauded for her actions rather than being imprisoned by this state and upon her release later this will hopefully get the kind of reception that her actions warrant.
Additional information was provided by Maggie Ronayne of Global Women’s Strike, Ireland.