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demands'' could still be achieved."
Improvements in the general prison regime were, however, "a different matter"; the regime was generous and would be administered flexibly, he said, adding: "There is scope for yet further development."
The statement appeared to demonstrate the Government's determination to stand firm; the encouragement derived from it by the Commission is presumably due to a belief that the Government is trying to put itself in a position from which it can move forward to a solution without appearing to give way at all to the demand for special political status.
Its tone revealed a willingness to show a greater degree of flexibility than has hitherto been the case. At the same time it acknowledged that the prisoners' reluctance to abandon their protest could be due to their mistrust of the Government's commitment to "continue to improve the prison regime.Such improvement, it stressed, "is not something that can all be accomplished overnight."
The timing of the statement was probably more important than its content: it was the clearest indication yet that the Government is now making the resolution of the crisis one of its top priorities.
The Justice and Peace Commission is now clearly playing a key role in the attempts to resolve the crisis before more deaths occur. It would appear that its efforts over the next week or two will be directed at analysing the minute details of the prison regime to see precisely where room for development exists.
But time is running out if something is to be done before another prisoner dies: Joe McDonnell. entered the eighth week of his fast last Sunday represents an isoluble architectural problem inmost old churches.
It was all very grave and undramatic and sophisticated and of the sort of beauty that does not grow boring with repetition. There was no theatre. The mystery in it was ostensibly Public.
By chance a few days later went to the Sunday evening Mass in South Ashford. If ever you want proof that the Mass is not a performance this was it.
They used a hall as a church. It had a stage at each end, one equipped for the Mass, the other for film shows and dances. The altar could he totally closed off with a screen.
The chairs were stackable and a bit slithery. There are many such places, usually used as sort of sacred outhouses in a large parish. Something about the furniture and the classless people and the statues and the lack of all but family fuss made me say "Irish" to myself.
A young. bearded Irish priest came on to the altar-stage with two very well behaved altar boys in sneakers. The priest apologised for the hall not being full, but then they had had 37 first cornmunica.nts in their old church that day. And it looked well filled to me. Gravity, however, was not quite the right word to use for the occasion. I though it joyous.
In the bidding prayers they prayed for protection against redundancy, for Ashford depend on British Rail as well as upon God. Boys on motor cycles sped away when it was over. In a somewhat different way we are much favoured to have both manners of doing the same thing.
Which the people would choose or whether they would prefer an older and different mode if they were given the choice I would not dare suggest. I found that in the rnonastry I was regarded as a somewhat old fashioned, not to say conservative. person.