Republican prisoners held in Maghaberry jail have concluded a 48-hour fast as part of an escalating protest for the restoration of political status and the implementation of five demands.
In a statement issued by the OC of the Continuity IRA prisoners in Maghaberry, the prisoners said they would continue their protest “until the NIO and British authorities realise that we won’t be beaten”.
The statement criticised the “disgraceful” attitude of the prison authorities in refusing to accept that their policy of criminalisation “will be resisted and therefore will fail”, while insisting that Oglaigh na hEireann could not be disbanded.
“Oglaigh na hEireann is not a ‘patent’ of any single political party,” the statement read. “It is of the people for the people. As long as there is still British interference on Irish soil; as long as a pro-Imperialist state exists in the 26-Counties to do Britain’s dirty work, there will always be those who will resist. Resistance is born out of oppression.
“Those of us imprisoned in Ireland and abroad have been so because of our ideological beliefs. Our belief in the Proclamation of the Republic, declaring “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland...” The belief that an alien government has no right to govern nor administer the affairs of the Irish people.
“The oppressive nature of the regime imposed on Republican prisoners in this camp was bound to breed resistance. It is the unfortunate belief of the British authorities that today’s Republican prisoners can be criminalised and brutalised unimpeded. This is a misconception. Although we may be small in numbers, we can guarantee that we will resist at all costs.”
The statement accepted that republican prisoners were better off than in the period prior to the 1981 hunger strikes, “but criminalisation whether visible or invisible must be resisted”.
“The fact that this establishment is intent on forcing us to accept policies of controlled movement, no free association for Republican prisoners, and forcing our families to do without visits for weeks on end.
“The fact that we are locked in cells for up to 22 hours, the fact that we are denied all handicraft facilities and limited education is all that is available. Education which clashes with association - as a result one or the other must be forfeited. This is an exact throwback to the years 1976-1981.”
“We hereby ask that all politicians, north and south; all clergymen and women; the people of Ireland and abroad, and all those who have suffered years of degradation at the hands of the British ‘monsters’ support us by supporting our demands. We ask you to write letters of support, denouncing the current policies in newspapers and to British politicians.”
Meanwhile, the prison service in the 26 Counties has banned Republican Sinn Féin’s monthly newspaper from Portlaoise jail.
Until earlier this week, the publication, Saoirse, had been widely available in the prison.
When a republican prisoner queried the ban, it was claimed that, because the paper was a political publication, it could influence prisoners who are entitled to vote in next year’s 26-County general election.
The 2007 poll will be the first time that prisoners will be allowed postal votes in elections.
Republican Sinn Féin chairman Joe Lynch called the ban a “backward step”.
He said: “The stated reason for this ban is a nonsense. Most newspapers are political and take a political viewpoint or indeed endorse political parties and even donate cash to parties. They may as well ban The Irish Times or the Daily Mail.”
Mr Lynch accused the prison service of a “crude attempt” at discriminating against republicans opposed to the Good Friday Agreement.
“It is as simple as that, and I am calling for an immediate lifting of this short-sighted ban on a legitimate party publication,” said Mr Lynch.