Republican prisoners’ families were turned away from Maghaberry jail on Christmas Eve in an apparent reprisal by warders for a new agreement on oral searches.
Seventeen Republican prisoners who were due to have Christmas visits were told they would not go ahead at the last moment.
The prisoners’ families were told by warders standing at a road checkpoint on the outskirts of the jail that the Christmas Eve visits were cancelled as a bomb warning using code word had been received at the jail.
Only the republican prisoners were affected by the ostensible bomb warning. One prisoner’s wife said it was “heartbreaking” to watch as carload after carload of upset prisoners children were turned away from Maghaberry.
Earlier this month, some families of republican prisoners in the jail who have been refusing to open their mouths to a new search procedure finally got a visit with their loved ones.
Following intense meetings between the prisoners and others including Monica McWilliams (Chief Commissioner for Human Rights in Northern Ireland) and the ‘independent facilitators’ along with meetings by the prisoners’ families with Pauline McCabe (Prisoner Ombudsman) and Monica McWilliams, visits took place without the republican prisoners having to open their mouths during the search.