Irish Republican News · January 10, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Row over treatment of ‘Continuity Sinn Fein’ group
Row over treatment of ‘Continuity Sinn Fein’ group

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The detention of a group of men linked to a small factional organisation has caused a controversy over their political status.

The men, recently arrested in a raid in Newry, are currently being held the criminal (non-political) section of Maghaberry jail. The seven men have been accused by the PSNI police of taking part in a meeting of the Continuity IRA.

The Continuity IRA is traditionally linked to Republican Sinn Fein (RSF), which was set up in 1986 by people opposed to Sinn Fein’s decision to take seats in the Dail.

Twelve were arrested in the raid before Christmas, and seven are still being held. They include veteran republican Patrick ‘Mooch’ Blair from Dundalk and Limerick man Joe ‘Tiny’ Lynch.

Lynch is a leader of the newly renamed ‘Continuity Sinn Fein’ which broke away from RSF in recent years, and was previously known as RSF-Limerick.

The men, who are being held with the main prison population, have described themselves as political prisoners. They saud they had been taking part in a high-level meeting of Continuity Sinn Fein. They claimed that the decision not to allow them onto the Roe 3 section of Maghaberry was made by just two members of a “splinter” CIRA group at the jail.

While other republican prisoners have urged that the seven be accorded political status, possibly on a different landing at the jail, a statement issued in the name of the Continuity IRA prisoners at Maghaberry and issued through RSF has strongly rejected their political status.

The CIRA prisoners said the men were “criminals masquerading as Republicans”.

“These individuals do not belong to the Continuity Irish Republican Army,” they said. “Their only goal is an MI5-led incursion, with the sole aim of destroying the Republican Movement”.

They said they would take “every action necessary to protect our status and our movement” from the men, some of whom they alleged were responsible for death threats “against well respectable veteran Republicans”.

‘NO ISOLATION’

Prisoners aligned to the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association, housed on the jail’s Roe Four landing, have said that prison chiefs should open up the jail’s Roe One and Two landings to accommodate republican prisoners held in other parts of the prison if they wish to be housed in Roe House.

They said they had “consistently condemned and resisted” the isolation policy which is being used against a number of republican prisoners.

“The isolation policy continues to be employed by the jail administration at the behest of British intelligence,” they said.

“This tactic involves the holding of political prisoners amongst a criminal population or in total isolation.

“These measures result in republican political prisoners being exposed to approaches from British intelligence agencies, and left open to attack by loyalist and criminal elements.

“Allowing the jail administration to isolate Rrpublican Prisoners, regardless of differences with others, only serves to embolden and encourage this MI5 lead strategy. What is more, it would be hypocritical and unethical for us to endorse, implicit or otherwise, the continued holding of these men on a criminal landing or in isolation.”

The situation has added to problems at the jail over the continuing failure to implement a deal worked out with the prison authorities more than four years ago.

Prisoners have accused authorities of reneging on the 2010 deal to relax controlled movement and end strip searches in the prison.

Concerns have also been raised about the continued detention of prisoners on the jail’s punishment block, even though no rules have been broken.

In a statement issued last week, the CIRA prisoners also said the 2010 deal should be put in place immediately.

“We would like to highlight that there is a precedent of consequences that followed the denial of political status,” it said. “In the past these consequences have had a high price for all sides, but when it comes to our identity as political prisoners no price is too high.”

© 2015 Irish Republican News