The family of prominent County Armagh republican Colin Duffy have challenged a decision banning them from visiting him in jail.
Mr Duffy is the focus of a campaign for his release after being controversially arrested and charged with the shootings of two British soldiers at Massereene army base in Antrim in March of last year. Duffy has previously endured a campaign of persecution by the British Crown forces in the North and remains a leading opponent of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Martine and Paul Duffy, the Lurgan man’s wife and brother, said the prison service told them this week that they could not see him in Maghaberry prison.
Paul Duffy said no explanation had been given. He said his brother’s wife visits every week with his young children.
“If she isn’t allowed into the prison then the children who are already distressed are going to suffer,” he said.
“AII it takes is for the prison management to engage with the prisoners and this situation can be resolved.”
The Duffy’s legal representative Kevin Winters said the ban was “draconian”.
“What’s more, at the minutem it seems totally indeterminate. We have written to the governor asking for a reinstatement of visits. As yet we have not received a reply,” he said. “Should the situation carry on as it is then we have no alternative but to go before the courts to seek access regarding visits.”
Meanwhile, the IRPWA (Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association) said it welcomed “the recent acknowledgement by Provisional Sinn Fein as to the political status of the republican prisoners” as a result of the recent visit by a party delegation to the prison.
“This recognition is central in seeking the reintroduction of political status as the starting point to addressing wider prisoner concerns. The abuses in Maghaberry are political abuses and can only be resolved in a political context.”
In a statement, the group which is linked to the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, said Maghaberry prison was “part of the penal and policing apparatus” of the “obscenity that is the Six County statelet” and could not be detached to “facilitate political expediency or awkward decision making”.
“There can be no horse trading to secure short term resolutions. If the political mindset does not radically shift the prison authorities, as directed by their political authorities, will return to type.
“There is clearly a momentum gathering behind the republican prisoners. The frequency and size of public protests is steadily growing. We are mindful that state and party responses to this growth may well be aimed at negating this impact as opposed to genuinely seeking a resolution to the prisoner’s plight. Therefore it is essential that we are not deflected by minimalist efforts but keep ourselves focussed on maximum results.”
A public meeting is to be held in Conway Mill, Falls Road, on Saturday 29 May 2010. The meeting will be chaired by Maura McCrory, former leader of the Relatives Action Committee (RAC), which represented republican prisoners during the height of the conflict in the 1970s and 1980s. The panel will consist of prominent speakers as well as a family member of a prisoner
This meeting has been organized by the ‘Ex-PoWs Familys and Friends’ group. The aim of the meeting is to form a committee who will be tasked with moving on the campaign on behalf of prisoners, with the demand for the restoration of political status.