Republican prisoners at Maghaberry jail have been punished for wearing Easter lilies in communal areas at the weekend.
Out of 28 prisoners being held in Roe House, the segregated wing of the County Antrim prison near Lisburn, 19 are to be “disciplined” for wearing the symbol of Ireland’s patriot dead.
Poppies and shamrocks are permitted within the prison but Easter lilies are banned because they are classed as “conflict emblems”.
Earlier this month Belfast man Christopher Donaldson, who is serving a 12-year sentence, failed to secure a judicial review to challenge the ban on the grounds that it interfered with his already restricted scope for political expression.
A judge upheld an earlier ruling in 2006 after a case taken by the north Belfast republican Terence McCafferty.
In December last year, just weeks after his release, McCafferty was again imprisoned after his release “licence” was described as being “revoked” by the British government.
His legal appeal was denied and he is now one of the prisoners now being punished for wearing a lily.
All the 19 prisoners have suffered loss of privileges and/or time in isolation in the prison’s punishment cells.
Meanwhile, a ‘blanket protest’ has taken place on the republican E3 wing of Portlaoise prison.
The symbolic action began at 8am on Tuesday morning, with two prisoners donning only blankets in protest against changes to the system of compassionate leave and temporary parole by the prison’s governor.
The wing holds prisoners aligned with the Continuity IRA as well as the INLA.
Compassionate leave for family funerals and other such events have been consistently denied, according to the prisoners.
They believe the move is due to recent upsurge in Republicanism in the North and was described as an attempt “to victimise the weakest link in Republicanism” and “to put pressure on external Republicans”.