Prisoners confront criminalisation
Prisoners confront criminalisation

Republican prisoners were attacked at Maghaberry prison and dragged from their cells at the weekend after a protest action against the failure of the British government and prison authorities to implement an agreement on prisoners’ rights.

Supporters of the prisoners said a riot squad entered their smashed-up cells and attacked them before they were “trailed out” of their cells and along the landing.

Of the 27 prisoners held in the separated landing at Roe House, fifteen are now believed to be on protest with the remaining prisoners moved to cells at an upstairs landing.

Three prisoners, John Paul Wottoon, Mark McGuigan and Gerard McManus were stripped naked by the riot squad and are believed to have received injuries as they were dragged through debris.

The prisoners have now separated from the other prisoners not on protest, and are now on a different landing in cold, bare cells which are awash in sewage.

They have no access to dry clothing.

The protesting prisoners were officially been locked up under rule 7 (“emergency situation”) and were unable to make contact with their families until Monday, when news of the situation emerged.

The protest relates to the ongoing use of strip-searches by prison staff, contrary to the agreement reached last August.

On that occasion it was agreed that a “boss chair” -- an electronic scanning machine -- would be installed rather than manual body searches. However, the equipment has yet to be installed, and prisoners who refuse to be strip-searched for court appearances are routinely assaulted by the PSNI.


Prison warders were also accused of jeopardising a high-profile trial after removing legal documents from one of the protesting prisoners, County Armagh man Brendan McConville.

Mr McConville is on remand charged in connection with a Continuity IRA gun attack on the PSNI in March 2009.

Peter Corrigan of Kevin R Winters and Co solicitors said it was “unprecedented” and said he had made an urgent request for the Prisoner Ombudsman to investigate.

“This is a breach of client-solicitor confidentiality and could have a direct impact on my client’s right to a fair trial,” Mr Corrigan said.


Meanwhile, Gerry McGeough, a former member of the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle who was recently handed a 20-year sentence for an IRA attack in 1981, has been denied compassionate bail by a Belfast court.

Mr McGeough, who is appealing both the guilty verdict and sentence imposed, was refused temporary release for his son’s First Communion.

The prominent republican had sought a review after the British government’s Northern Ireland Office initially denied the request in a letter which stated: “Your habitual criminal behaviour does not instil confidence that you would refrain from further criminal activity if granted compassionate release at this time. The safety of the public is most important”.

Mr McGeough had protested as groundless the claim of criminal behaviour, as well as the suggestion that he was a threat to the public.

The letter also controversially stated that his release date would be in the year 2021. Under the terms of the Good Friday peace deal, if honoured by the British government, Mr McGeough must be released within two years.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News