Irish Republican News · March 9, 2012
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Ford claims spirit of prison agreement adhered to
Ford claims spirit of prison agreement adhered to
damianmclaughlinnobeard.jpg

The Six County ‘Minister for Justice’ David Ford has clashed with a prisoner recently released from Maghaberry over the treatment of political prisoners and the ongoing ‘dirty protest’ at the jail.

Before being replaced by the hunger strike, the ‘no wash’ tactic was used by IRA and INLA prisoners in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when they first protested against British criminalisation policy.

The tactic is again being used in Maghaberry since May 2011 by an estimated 30 prisoners.

At issue is the prisoners’ call for scanning devices to replace demeaning strip-searches, as was previously agreed with the prison authorities.

Damien McLaughlin, who took part in the prisoners’ protest before his release earlier this year, has revealed the seriousness of the situation at Maghaberry.

The prisoners are chiefly protesting over the number of forced strip-searches taking place.

Mr McLaughlin said he underwent 24 strip-searches during his time behind bars.

“Strip searching is a form of humiliation,” he told the BBC. “There is no need for it. There’s technology to do it, the BOSS chair - body orifice security scanner.”

The device, capable of detecting any item which can be detected by a physical invasive body search, was agreed upon almost two years ago before the British reneged on the deal.

Mr McLaughlin told the BBC of the seriousness of the current prison protest.

“At the moment the boys are embarking on a protest where they’re mixing their urine with their faeces and they’re putting it out onto the landings, and that has been ongoing since 6 May last year.

“They’re living in their own waste at this present time.”

He also described the prison warders use of strip-searching against the prisoners.

“The problem is you’re being humiliated and degraded,” he said. They’re making you wiggle your tongue, stand on one foot, wiggle your toes, all sorts of degradation. When they forcibly strip you, they send in the riot squad.”

He said without an end to the practice, the protest would go on. And he said conditions at the jail were very bad.

“The smell would be one of the first things that would hit you.

“I was talking to one of the fellas recently who came in while I was in, and he said as soon as he came onto the wing, the fumes and the smell of the human waste hit him, it brought tears to his eyes. It’s really bad.

“There’s industrial cleaners going all day trying to clean it. The cells are rotten. There’s human waste and bits and pieces of food lying in corners of cells.

“There’s waste all round the doors. It’s really bad.”

Ford claims the agreement with the prisoners did not cover strip-searches for those entering or leaving the prison.

“It removed the need for full body searching for movements within the prison, it did not make any change at all to the movement entering and leaving the prison, those arrangements are the same for every prisoner in Maghaberry, every prisoner in Magilligan, and every prisoner in prisons across the United Kingdom.”

But mediators involved in brokering the agreement believe that if the spirit of the agreement had been entered into, the current situation would not exist.

Ford rejected any suggestion that the prison authorities had broken the spirit of the agreement.

“The spirit of the agreement has been breached by those prisoners who have not adhered to the agreement, who have made threats to prison officers, who have seen those threats posted on websites.

“But the spirit of the agreement has been adhered to by the prison service and by the department of justice.”

Mr McLaughlin again called for the August 2010 agreement to be implemented in full.

“We signed up to it in good faith. All routine strip searches were to cease, but the prison reneged on this.”

© 2012 Irish Republican News