'We're proud of what Chelsea's done'

Jonathan Healy meets the family of one of the worl'd most famous whistleblowers, 'Chelsea' Manning.

Chelsea Manning - the WikiLeaks whistleblower formerly known as Bradley Manning - is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence after being convicted of 20 charges in connection with the leaks, including espionage.

It was after this sentencing that Manning announced he wanted to live as a woman and had taken the name Chelsea.

Among the files Manning passed to Wikileaks was video footage of an Apache helicopter killing 12 civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

Chelsea’s mother Susan is Welsh, as are many of her extended family on that side.  Some of them are visiting Dublin this week to attend an event on Friday evening organised by AFRI (Action From Ireland)

Jonathan met with Sharon Staples and Kevin Fox, Chelsea’s aunt and uncle.  

On Chelsea's decision to leak material Kevin said 'I think he's a hero for what he did.  I think he deserved a medal for what he did.  He was standing up for innocent people.  Maybe he was a traitor to the US army but to the rest of the work he's a hero.'

On the footage of the Apache helicopter that Chelsea leaked Sharon said 'When I look at that it brings it to life.  That's how I understand why he spoke out.  If I had experienced that I don't think I could have kept quiet.'

'What ever happened to the people in that helicopter?' asks Sharon.  'Were they ever reprimanded?  Were they punished?  In this country if you go around killing people you're locked up.   Seems like there's one set of rules for Chelsea and another set of rules for them. '

On their recent contact with Chelsea Sharon said 'She doesn't say much on the phone obviously, but she sounds upbeat.  She sounds a lot happier now the trial is over because that weighed heavily on her.  It was the not knowing.'

On seeing Chelsea again Sharon says 'We love her and we're there for her.  We'll be there for her on the day she gets out - whenever that day will be.  Sooner rather than later, I hope.'

Listen to the full interview here.

Sharon Staples and Kevin Fox are in town this week to attend an event hosted by AFRI (Action From Ireland)
‘An Evening for Private Manning’ takes place on Friday the 29th of November at 7pm in the Edmund Burke theatre at Trinity College. Gerry Conlon of the Guilford Four and Human Rights lawyer Gareth Pierce will be speaking, entrance by donation.