Category: Archive

Maghaberry jail a ‘powder keg,’ officials warn

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Several prisoners are now on a “no-wash” protest. All inmates have been confined to their cells and all access to the outside has been prevented, according to a spokesman for the Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association.
Dissident sources report that a remand republican prisoner was told he was to be moved into a cell with notorious West Belfast loyalist Mo Courtney. When he refused, he was allegedly beaten by prison officers and moved onto the punishment blocks.
An effort to resolve the problem was made from another prison building by prisoners’ spokesman John Connolly, but the prison rebuffed this. Connolly then ended negotiations. Connolly is a 26-year-old Fermanagh man serving a 14-year sentence for possessing a so-called “barrack buster” mortar bomb.
Marian Price, spokeswoman for the IRPWA, said republican prisoners at Maghaberry are “very determined” and “very united” on this matter. This follows a rooftop protest last week after a move by the prison to house loyalist and republicans together.
Speaking after a jail visit last week, Price said the men were “absolutely serious about taking this all the way to a hunger strike.”
The Real IRA and Continuity IRA prisoners in the integrated jail want their own wing separate from loyalist and non-paramilitary prisoners. The Stormont prison service is, however, determined not to allow this.
Price is appealing to the wider nationalist community and the Catholic church to apply pressure on the British government to end integration, which, she said, is “illogical.”
“On the outside, communities from where these prisoners live are separated by so-called peace walls,” Price said. “Sinn Fein and the church must realize the dangerous situation the prisoners are now in. Do they really want to see 1981 repeated all over again.”
Said Finlay Spratt, chairman of the Prison Officers Association in Northern Ireland: “Maghaberry jail is a powder keg and anything could happen there, even a hunger strike.”
The British prison service, however, said integration is the safest environment for both prisoners and staff. It does not want a repetition of the post-1981 hunger-strike set-up in the Maze to be repeated, with prisoners running their own wings along the lines of a POW camp.
West Tyrone Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty has called for the segregation of prisoners at the jail. “Whatever about our view of the political affiliations of these prisoners, it is clear that the present situation is unacceptable,” he said.
“The Prison Service must realize that every prisoner has the right to be treated in a humane manner and the forced integration of prisoners must end.”
Supporters of republican prisoners at the jail staged a protest inside the Stormont offices of the British government’s prisons department. Waving banners and placards, they demanded segregation.
Claims that the protesters had walked out with confidential files caused the DUP’s Ian Paisley Jr. to say: “I am absolutely shocked at the audacity of this raid. The way in which personal information was obtained is an outrage.”

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese