Republican prisoners at Maghaberry jail have said news of their ongoing protest is being censored by the mainstream media, pointing out that only one of Ireland’s main daily papers has carried details of the protest.
Bizarrely, a special broadcast on Radio Ulster from Magilligan Prison in County Derry about prison issues failed to make any reference to the prison protest.
Individuals who contacted the programme were denied the opportunity to have their views expressed on air, according to the Republican Prisoners Action Group.
Meanwhile, prisoners linked to the Provisional IRA have now joined the action, refusing to eat meals in their cells as of this week.
Prisoners embarked on the tactic last week over conditions in the Roe House segregated wing where severe restrictions are placed on the movement of republican prisoners.
The prisoners have also demanded increased educational access and association.
A spokesman for the Real IRA prisoners said: “The education programme is completely inadequate.
“People who want to further their studies have no access to resources.
“By serving meals in our cells the idea is to keep us locked up and so increase the level of intimidation and degradation. It is not something we are prepared to accept.
“The paedophiles, rapists and child killers are given access to more facilities, education and freedom of movement than political prisoners.”
Republican prisoners aligned to the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association, called for an end to controlled movement within the jail.
“No Northern Ireland Prison Service personnel have been injured, intimidated, threatened or attacked since we moved to Roe House on Sunday, March 7, 2004. Yet we are forced to endure punitive and draconian measures by which it takes five prison officers to move three prisoners, yet it only takes one prison officer to move two prisoners to the legal visits and back again.
“It also only takes two prison officers to supervise 16 prisoners in the gym and two prison officers to supervise 12 prisoners on the astroturf pitch.
“It has been left to those most opposed to the Steele report to implement its measures,” the prisoners said.
John Steele, a former head of the North’s Prison Service (NIPS), carried out a review of safety at Maghaberry. In September 2003, the British government formally accepted his report’s recommendations.
The statement said the prison authorities were wasting cash on implementing unnecessary measures.
“We have to eat all of our meals in our cells, which is degrading, unhygienic and unacceptable as there is a toilet within five feet and a sink for washing our person that’s also used for dishes.
“We also have to endure constant strip searches, which are often carried out in a degrading manner.
“On certain days of the week, we can be locked up for as long as 26-and-a-half hours at a time.
“The effects of excessive lockups is detrimental to long-term prisoners’ mental wellbeing. We therefore call on the NIPS and the Northern Ireland Office to address these issues before we have a situation that escalates into further turmoil,” the statement said.