Irish Republican News · August 13, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
‘Lock-on’ protest at Alliance Party HQ

A number of members of the Republican Network for Unity (RNU) group dramatically stormed the Alliance Party’s headquarters in south Belfast on Thursday morning in protest at party leader David Ford’s handling of the situation at Maghaberry jail.

Two protesters handcuffed themselves to furniture in the office and attached posters to the windows highlighting theongoing prison protest by republican prisoners held in Maghaberry.

The PSNI were called to the scene and three men were subsequently arrested. Two were dragged from inside the building before being arrested. A third man was arrested outside in the street after he attempted to block the path ofa police vehicle.

RNU spokesman Ciaran Cunningham said the group was seeking a meetingwith Ford. The controversial Alliance Party leader, who has campaigned on a liberal ticket, is maintaining a draconian regime at the North’s main prison following his appointment as Six-County ‘Minister for Justice’.

“Given the growing crisis in Maghaberry, RNU again demand that the agreement is implemented before the situation deepens,” Mr Cunningham said.

“We also demand an immediate meeting with Mr Ford before the protest escalates further.”

The prisoners have said Ford is still refusing to implement an agreement on prison conditions reached last August.

Last week, a group of prisoners at Maghaberry undertook a 48-hour fast to highlight the continuing dispute over invasive strip searches and the refusal of the authorities to allow visits, exercise time or the use of communal areas.

Outgoing mail is now also being stopped after prison authorities said mail from certain cells cannot be posted due to hygiene issues.

“Some of the prisoners have serious health problems,” said RNU spokesman Carl Reilly.

“However, at this point they feel it is the only way they can highlight the situation,” he said.

“Any attempt to find a solution to the current impasse has been rejected by the prison service, which speaks volumes about their long-term intentions.

“Last August, after the agreement was reached, there were no strip-searches carried out... for 30 days to allow a cooling of tensions.

“Throughout that time there was not a single breach of security.

“Prisoners who are being taken for medical visits and remain handcuffed to a prison guard the entire time are being told they must still be subjectedto a strip-search.

“So this is not about security but degrading prisoners, who despite this remain very much open to debate and reaching a compromise to bring this situation to an end.”

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