Hunger strike fear at Maghaberry

Republican prisoners at Maghaberry Prison have warned they will launch a hunger strike next month unless their conditions are improved.

The warning came from Barry Toman, who was released from Maghaberry prison yesterday, having served three years of a six-year term for possession of explosives.

Speaking outside the prison Toman revealed that the 29 republicans being held in Maghaberry were only allowed out of their cells for two hours each day and were being forced to shave in the same sink as they wash their dishes.

“We are only allowed out of our cells two at a time,” he said. “We are only allowed out of the cells two hours a day and then we can either shower or exercise.

“We are not allowed to do both.

“The rest of the time we are locked up.”

The Lurgan man said the republicans were being punished after the British government granted segregation from unionist paramilitaries earlier this year.

Toman said republican republicans were starting to refuse co-operation with the prison regime and that their protest would be escalated in coming weeks unless living conditions were improved.

Prisoners’ group spokeswoman Marian Price confirmed that those linked to breakaway republican groups were intent on mounting a hunger strike unless conditions improved.

“The men had taken a decision to go on hunger strike from June 1 in protest at the regime in the jail,” she said.

“We managed to persuade them to postpone it for a short period while we try and negotiate with the prison authorities.

“The men insist the hunger strike will go ahead unless conditions are improved.”

A Republican Sinn Féin spokesperson said that raids, strip-searches and ill-treatment of prisoners had taken place this month despite efforts to negotiate a solution.

Warders were said to have worn boiler-suits and used dogs to force their way into cells and had been challenging prisoners to fights.

Prisoners have warned that warders may be attempting to raise tensions in order to win back lucrative overtime payments that have been cut.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News