The introduction of a change to the regime for conforming republican prisoners at Maghaberry jail has led to a series of violent assaults on the prisoners by warders, according to reports from inside the jail.
A number of republican prisoners were told on Friday a senior warder to “lock up” -- return to their cells -- at 7.15pm, well before the 8pm lock-up time agreed last year, according to the Republican Network for Unity.
When they failed to do so, 40 warders in riot gear from Maghaberry’s notorious “search team” entered the yard on the republican wing.
One prisoner from Derry, Phil O’Donnell, approached them attempting to inform them that their protest was peaceful, but was punched in the face. The prison riot squad then “rushed” the other prisoners and proceeded to beat and handcuff them, or restrain them in choke holds. A number were later forced to seek medical treatment.
“All were literally trailed back to their cells like animals,” said RNU representative Ciaran Cunningham. “Once again, we witness the loyalist POA [Prison Officers Association] enthusiastically brutalising our PoWs.
“The same screws have constantly undermined last year’s agreement whilst the Stormont Department of Justice fails to honour the 12th August Agreement.”
It is understood the prisoners have tonight [Tuesday night] endured a third night of assaults by the warders to force the men into their cells. Supporters of the prisoners have called on all of the republican groups to come out in support of those who are still suffering in jail for their role in the republican struggle.
“Today, Irish Republicans remember the sacrifice of Vols’ Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O’Hara, who died, on the 1981 Hunger-Strike. As they and their imprisoned comrades refused to be criminalised by Britain,” said Cunningham. “The Republican Network for Unity call on everyone, Republican or otherwise to rally behind Maghaberry’s Political Prisoners before someone loses their life.”
He cited the words of INLA Volunteer Patsy O’Hara, who died on hunger strike in 1981, 30 years ago this week:
“After we are gone, what will you say you were doing? Will you say you were with us in our struggle or were you conforming to the very system that drove us to our deaths?”
Supporters of the prisoners have said they will organise a protest outside Maghaberry jail on Sunday, 5th June.
Meanwhile, a Derry-based human rights group has written to the British government to express concern at the effective internment of veteran republican Marian Price last week.
Concern is mounting for the plight of Ms Price, who is being held in isolation at Maghaberry prison. The republican icon has previously endured post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her brutal treatment during her incarceration in an English jail in the 1970s.
In the letter, the Pat Finucane Centre urged British Direct Ruler Owen Paterson to reverse the decision to suspend Price’s release licence. Early last week, Ms Price appeared in court in Derry on unprecedented charges in regard to her involvement with a republican Easter commemoration, at which a member of the ‘Real IRA’ addressed the crowd.
They said: “At Derry Magistrates Court Judge Barney McElholm ruled that Ms Price could benefit from bail under certain conditions.
“In doing so he clearly indicated that no presumption of her guilt should be presumed until the matter had proceeded to trial. However, the revocation of Ms Price’s licence indicates a completely contrary presumption.
“The fact that the views of the Court could be usurped in such an arbitrary manner is deeply disturbing.
“It is a retrograde step and is reminiscent of the worst days of the conflict when the government showed scant regard for fundamental human rights standards.”