Prisoners and families put at risk
Prisoners and families put at risk
A prison strike is putting the lives of prisoners in danger, writes Martin Mulholland.


The practice of `work to rule' adopted by prison officers could potentially result in a serious incident if not addressed immediately. Republican prisoners are currently enduring almost total lock up due to the practice adopted by the Prison Officers Association (POA). The action taken by the POA will undoubtedly leave republican prisoners and their families vulnerable to attack in visiting areas due to a lack of adequate staffing cover.

Republican prisoners believe that they and their families are being used as pawns in a larger game between the POA and the British government. It is no secret that the POA felt that they had had been sold down the river by the British governments decision to implement a policy of segregation.

POA representative Finlay Spratt did however state that although unhappy at the decision their job was to implement any policy that the British government deemed necessary. The POA must accept that they are government employees and that their political opinions should not influence their work.

There is a feeling amongst republican prisoners that the actions of the POA are intended to provoke a reaction similar to that of the loyalist inmates and their supporters on the outside.

Republican prisoners have stated that they will not be provoked by the actions of the POA into making a potentially serious situation any worse.

The republican prisoners have already endured weeks on protest at the denial of their basic human rights and any attempt to further erode these rights is intolerable.

We call on all agencies involved in the forming of the Steele report to assist in bringing this situation to a speedy conclusion.

It is our understanding that if the POA go ahead with their proposed strike on the 5th of November, the prison will be jointly run by the RUC/PSNI and the management of the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

Again this is an intolerable situation with the antipathy between republicans and the RUC/PSNI a matter of record.

We believe that the British government cannot let the political agenda of the POA dictate the pace of the reforms called for in the Steele report and we will resist the attempts of the POA to use republican prisoners and their families as political footballs.

In any dispute between the POA and the British government the basic human rights of all prisoners and their families must be protected.

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© 2003 Irish Republican News