A judge has ordered a republican prisoner to be released from a County Antrim prison's punishment block while a legal challenge is heard on the wearing of Easter lilies.
North Belfast man Terry McCafferty was released from the punishment block at Maghaberry Prison yesterday after an application for judicial review was granted at Belfast High Court.
Earlier this week, the New Lodge man was given three days on “the boards” after refusing to remove an Easter lily in the prison’s segregated Roe House last Sunday.
Paddy O’Mahoney was also singled out by prison authorities.
He has had his transfer to the punishment blocks delayed until after the legal challenge has been heard.
Currently prisoners are allowed to wear Easter lilies only inside their cells.
Paul Pierce of the law firm Kevin Winters and Company said: “Prison service policy breaches Mr McCafferty’s rights under article 10 of the European Convention [on Human Rights] relating to freedom of expression.”
The judicial review is expected to be heard next month.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Assembly member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Thomas O’Reilly has expressed his concern at the conditions being experienced by those prisoners being held in the segregated wing in Maghaberry. Mr O’Reilly’s remarks come after he was contacted by the families of some of those currently being held on the republican wing in the prison.
“In August 2003 Sinn Féin made it clear to the British government that the practice of forced integration which they were attempting to operate within Maghaberry was flawed and doomed to failure,” he said.
“Shortly after this the British government did introduce a segregated section within Maghaberry to house republican prisoners in the face of opposition from the Prison Officers Association.
“Unfortunately it appears that the regime being imposed on those being held in the segregated wing differs greatly from the other parts of the prison.
Mr O’Reilly said there was a “firm belief” that the men being held in Maghaberry are “pawns in a wider battle” between the prison administration, the British government and prison warders, who he blamed for resisting equal and fair treatment for prisoners.
“I have been given numerous accounts of persistent strip searching, petty regulations and difficulties accessing adequate education facilities.”
“There must be a realisation that all prisoners have the right to be treated in a humane fashion regardless of their political or religious affiliation and that conflict within the prison system is in nobody’s interest.”