Irish Republican News · July 16, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Prisoners ‘punished’ over segregation

Tyrone priest Monsignor Denis Faul has warned of a danger of a Republican hunger strike in Maghaberry prison because of poor prisoner conditions.

He said republicans who opt for the segregated section of the jail were being “punished”. Prison officials have blocked access by human rights group to the prison.

“It’s vindictive,” said Fr Faul. “It seems that the demand for separation is being punished in practice by excessive detention and lack of association and recreation, not to speak of education, in Roe House in comparison to the other houses of the prison,” he said.

Faul disliked by some republicans for his role in ending the 1981 hunger strike, said prisoners on the separated landings were locked up for as much as 22 hours per day. He pointed out that in the integrated wing of the prison, prisoners were free to leave their cells for up to 20 hours daily. Cells in the prison are 12ft by 5ft.

One of the most contentious issues is the sniffer dog which checks visitors for drugs.

“The procedure is highly suspect as the dog has sat at the legs of several persons who are above suspicion but who are strong republicans,” said Faul.

“Manipulation is suspected in order to punish these people from having open visits with their loved ones.” During family visits, if one family member is picked out by the dog, all are denied an open visit.

Faul further complained about on-going strip searches. “This is degrading behaviour and cannot be justified on grounds of security,” he said. “Some prisoners have had 12 frisk searches and one or two strip searches in one day.”

Faul also has hygiene concerns, as segregated prisoners eat their meals beside the toilet in the cell.

“There are canteens in other Houses of the prison where prisoners can eat together in a hygienic atmosphere,” Faul wrote.

There are approximately 30 prisoners on the Republican landing, largely Real IRA and Continuity IRA with a scattering of Provisional IRA.

The Good Friday Agreement integrated prisons in Northern Ireland, ending the previous situation where Republicans and Loyalists had separate blocks. However, a republican “dirty protest” and a series of clashes between prisoners led to the Steele Report two years ago, which recommended that loyalists and republicans be given separate landings.

Faul is meeting the North’s prisons’ ombudsman next week, and has written to him giving a number of causes for concern. He accuses the prison administration of a concerted attempt to overturn the Steele recommendations.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News