The Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association has warned of a systematic effort by the jail administration at Maghaberry to harass and intimidate the families of republican prisoners during visits.
Visitors are being subjected to “mouth searching” as well as the removal of clothing during the search process, they said. Some had been refused access to disabled parking, “despite the disabled car park space being booked during the already ridiculous visit-booking process”.
The last serious incident at the top-security jail took place in December, when a gift of a box of chocolates sparked a vicious attack which resulted in three republican prisoners being assaulted. One was hit with a baton and choked unconscious, while another was dragged from the room as his child watched.
In a Facebook post, the IRPWA said this “petty but vindictive” behaviour had continued. An attempt had been made to instigate an incident when a republican prisoner was threatened in front of his family, simply because his grandchildren had removed their coats and placed them on the table during the visit.
“Furthermore, on Valentines Day Republican Prisoners were informed that they could no longer hand chocolates to their visitors -- screws would do it instead!” they said.
“Republican prisoners have consistently voiced our objections to this behaviour. However, it is clear that this situation is deteriorating and the Maghaberry administration remains determined to continue attacking the families of republican prisoners. There is no greater indication of the depths of their bigotry and hatred.”
Sean Bresnahan of the 1916 Societies in Omagh called for progressives in the community to again lend their support to Irish political prisoners in the face of the conditions of their incarceration.
“As Irish republicans, we stand with the men and insist that their rights long-denied are returned to them forthwith. Strip-search, controlled movement and enforced isolation are barbaric practices with no place in a modern society,” he said.
“They are the instruments of choice employed by the oppressor in a vain attempt to criminalise the republican struggle. They will not succeed. These hateful policies must be challenged by all right-thinking people.”
He called for the August 2010 agreement, which was designed to resolve tensions in the jail, to be implemented in full.
“That Irishmen are subject to such hideous abuse in the year 2017 cannot be allowed to continue,” he said.
“Likewise, what is an issue of the utmost seriousness - that would never be tolerated anywhere else in the supposedly civilised world - can no longer be swept under the carpet by those with position in the community.”