Five republican prisoners have been moved to solitary confinement in Maghaberry jail after protesting a court ruling on a ban on the wearing of Easter lily.

Last week, the High Court in Belfast refused to overturn a ban on the wearing of commemorative Easter lilies -- a symbol for Ireland’s war dead -- within Maghaberry jail.

There is no equivalent prohibition against the unionist commemorative emblem, the poppy.

Christopher Donaldson, who is being held in a segregated part of the prison with other republicans, challenged the prohibition on the lily being worn outside his cell.

His legal action was fuelled by disciplinary proceedings being taken against him for refusing to remove the lily on Easter Sunday last month.

Donaldson, a north Belfast man jailed for 12 years, wanted to be allowed to wear the lily outside of his cell for one day in the year.

His barrister, Dessie Hutton, rejected authorities’ claims that relaxing the rules on political emblems could provoke disorder or lead to the 17 republican prisoners taking “paramilitary control” of part of the prison.

“The prospect that a Maze-style paramilitary control could ever occur by virtue of these 17 prisoners is outlandish,’’ he said.

“And the suggestion that allowing them to wear an Easter lily one day a year could lead to that is even more outlandish.”

He said prisoners were entitled to wear Easter lilies within their cells in the same manner the poppy is worn. He also pointed out that, because the prisoners were segregated, they would not encounter anyone with differing political ideas.

But Justice Weatherup dismissed the application out of hand. Mr Donaldson’s legal team later said they might be prepared to challenge the outcome if he wanted to take it further.

Following the latest ruling five prisoners yesterday faced a prison adjudication process, with four ordered to spend three days in solitary confinement.

Another man, east Belfast republican Anton Craig was ordered to spend 14 days in solitary confinement.

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© 2008 Irish Republican News