Irish Republican News · April 21, 2006
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Prisoners punished over Easter Lily

A republican prisoner has been refusing food and water after being thrown into the prison’s punishment block for wearing an Easter Lily.

The symbol of the 1916 rising is traditionally worn by at Easter time to remember Ireland’s war dead.

A second prisoner who wore an Easter lily, Paddy O’Mahoney, had his transfer to the punishment block delayed yesterday under threat of a judicial review.

Both men were confined to their cells at Maghaberry prison last Sunday after trying to enter the main prison wing while wearing Easter Lilies.

Belfast man Terry McCafferty refused food and water on Wednesday after warders sentenced him to several days in the prison’s punishment cell.

Known as the “Special Supervision Unit” by prison authorities and “the boards” by prisoners, the punishment unit is the only part of the high-security prison not covered by closed-circuit television.

The men were forced to go without food for two days after refusing to remove the lilies before entering the wing.

Through a lawyer, the men have attempted to contact the prison authorities, the prison governor and British officials, but failed to receive a formal response.

Paddy Murray of the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association blasted the decision to punish the men for wearing Easter Lilies.

“It’s unacceptable in this day and age. In Dublin, people wore Easter lilies to last weekend’s commemoration. Is the only place in the 32 counties that you can’t wear an Easter Lily Maghaberry jail?

“It is accepted that people can wear the poppy and the shamrock but not an Easter lily. Prison staff wear a poppy for almost a month, so where is the parity of esteem here? It is important that people know that this is going on and this is not something that finished with the blocks.

“There were 26 people on the wing with lilies but these two men were singled out for special treatment. It’s a segregated wing so there aren’t even any loyalists on it.”

A spokesperson for the prison service said the men were being punished for a “breach of standing order 13/11 for wearing an Easter Lily outside their cell”.

The Republican Prisoners Action Group (RPAG) pointed out that prisoners were allowed to wear the Easter Lily last year.

“It appears that the only loyalists the prisoners are likely to come into contact with are the screws themselves.

“It should also be pointed out that pro-British poppies are available from the prison shop in November. Apparently prisoners are only free to honour England’s dead and not Ireland’s dead. The Republican Prisoners’ Action Group (RPAG) deplores the partisan - and blatantly anti-Republican - actions of the Six County prison authorities in this regard.”

It was also reported that visitors to the jail who wore Easter Lilies were refused visits when they would not remove the Lily.

* A high-ranking Irish embassy official is to visit a seriously ill prisoner whose requests for a transfer back to Ireland have so far been denied.

John Neville, first secretary of the Irish embassy in London, has agreed to meet Louth man Aidan Hulme just days after the prisoner was forced off a four-day hunger strike.

Mr Hulme launched the hunger strike to raise awareness of his ongoing medical condition.

A picket will be held outside the Department of Justice at 94 St Stephen’s Green today between 5pm and 6pm, while other pickets are expected to be held in London and Chicago to coincide with the Dublin protest.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News