Dublin — The prisoner relief program run by An Cumman Cabhrach (The Dependents' Fund) in Dublin and Green Cross in Belfast provides between 5 to 10 British pounds sterling a week ($5.50 to $11.00) to the families of political prisoners in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The contributions are above and beyond the regular government welfare payments that prisoners' wives and families receive. One of the most recent additions to the An Cumman Cabhrach (ACC) fund rolls is Marie Ferris and her five children. Mrs. Ferris is married to Martin Ferris, who was convicted in early December of conspiring to ship some seven tons of guns and ammunition on the Irish fishing trawler Marita Ann to the outlawed Provisional Irish Republican Army. Ferris was a member of the executive committee of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Provisional IRA. He is also suspected by Irish authorities to be a member of the IRA. In an interview outside the Dublin court where her husband was being tried, Mrs. Ferris said she receives 10 a week from the ACC. She noted that she is already receiving 67 pounds a week ($74) through the Irish welfare system. She added that she will also receive a supplemental prisoner's wife allowance from the Irish government. Mrs. Ferris says the ACC money will be used to pay for her visits to the prison and to buy clothes for her husband.
Contributions for the ACC and the IRA reached their highest levels since 1969, when the recent fighting in Northern Ireland began. With between 1,500 to 2,000 political prisoners eligible to receive the assistance, the 5 and 10 payments add up. By some estimates, it could cost as much as 600,000 a year ($660,000) to the run the program. Nothing near that amount has been publicly declared by Noraid as being collected in the US. The rest of the money, according to Green Cross workers, is raised in the Irish Republic and in Northern Ireland through house-to-house collections and lotteries.