There have been calls for urgent efforts to be made to save the life of a republican prisoner on hunger strike at Maghaberry prison.
Liam Hannaway, who belongs to the little-known ‘Saor Uladh’ republican splinter group, has been on hunger strike for 41 days.
At this point in a hunger strike a person’s life is in serious danger. It is understood Hannaway has signed legal papers stating that he should not be revived if he slips into unconsciousness.
The west Belfast man is a second cousin of Gerry Adams and is reportedly to be seriously ill. He started his fast inside the notorious prison in protest after being jailed in its special segregation unit.
Carl Reilly from the Republican Network for Unity, said he had spoken to Hannaway’s father on Friday evening.
“We are entering a critical phase,” he said. “Liam was already being treated for coronary problems before he went on his hunger strike. The prison authorities and the Northern Ireland Office have been trying to play this situation down but now it has reached a serious turning point.”
Hannaway has sais he has been subjected to brutality in the special segregation unit, and had accused loyalists working in the kitchens of tampering with his food.
Hannaway has demanded a transfer to a part of the jail that holds republicans aligned to the breakaway IRA groups, but this was denied by prison authorities.
“The Northern Ireland Office and prison service claim there is intelligence from the police that Liam’s life would be under threat from rival republicans if he was transferred to their houses,” Reilly said.
“Republican Unity Network has spoken to all the major republican organisations with prisoners in Roe houses 3 and 4 in Maghaberry and all of them say there is absolutely no threat to Liam Hannaway.”
Prominent Derry republican Gary Donnelly was also confined to the SSU isolation units for a period and was also supposedly under death threat from unnamed republicans but has since returned to Roe house.
Hannaway’s supporters issued a statement last week that said he had been told by prison staff of a death threat to him. The statement said that an inquiry by Hannaway’s well-known republican family determined that there was no threat to his life and that other republican prisoners would welcome Liam “with open arms”.
“Despite this, in his first five weeks at Maghaberry, Liam was moved against his wishes, to the Special Supervision Unit -- a bleak and unfurnished isolation cell with no contact to the outside world. Liam was held in this isolation cell, on 24-hour-a-day lockdown, with no access to fresh air, for the next 16 months,” the statement said.
The supporters pointed out that another republican prisoner, John Kennaway, committed suicide while being held under similar circumstances in 2007.