Irish Republican News · August 8, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
New protest at Maghaberry

A group of republican prisoners at Maghaberry have begun a 48 hour fast to protest the failure of the British/Stormont authorities to implement an agreement last August on conditions within the jail.

The prisoners engaged in the protest are aligned to the Republican Network for Unity and Republican Sinn Fein and are undertaking the fast as a way of highlighting the current situation at Maghaberry.

A second group of prisoners are maintaining their ‘no wash’ protest at the notorious jail in the style of the famous Long Kesh blanketmen of the 1970s. They issued a determined statement this week, insisting they will “not entertain anything short of our original demands which brought about the failed August agreement”, thanking their supporters but warning “of a long hard battle ahead”.

The use of strip-searches and the allowance of little or no time for the prisoners outside their cells has increased tensions at Maghaberry in recent months. There have been a number of planned or spontanous protests, occasionally resulting in violent clashes with warders.

Protests are also planned in Belfast and Derry to mark the first anniversary of the agreement with the British authorities on 12th August last year.

That agreement provided a degree of recognition for the prisoners’ political status as well as a workable compromise to end the protests over jail conditions. However, the prisoners have said it was subsequently ‘clawed back’ and reneged upon by the authorities.

The group of republican prisoners engaged in the no-wash protest issued the following statement on Thursday:

“Following the resumption of protest action at the start of May we explained in detail the reasons why we were forced into this action. It has been clear to us from the signing of the 12th August agreement that a “claw back” policy was in place by the gaol admin/NIO.

“Since our protest resumed we have met with the assessment team, who David Ford put in place immediately after the signing of the agreement to monitor its implementation. This group were to give reports to Ford at different periods on progress, or the lack of it from either party to the agreement.

“Their first report was produced in October 2010, two months after the signing of the agreement and 7 months before the resumption of our protest. This report dealt with issues that had arisen around the failures of the gaol admin/NIO to implement key areas of the agreement. It went on to make 6 recommendations to resolve these areas but failed to act, as had the prison service in countless damning reports in the past. These recommendations dealt with strip searching entering and leaving the prison and the area around controlled movement, both of these issues were dealt with in the August agreement.

“We have stated both to the assessment team and gaol admin long before protest action resumed that the implementation of these recommendations would defuse tensions around the failure of the gaol admin/NIO to implement the original August agreement and deal with the core issues that originally brought about protest in 2010 which ended in the signing of the 12th August agreement. Unfortunately Ford, the gaol admin/NIO failed to grasp the severity of the situation and failed to implement the August agreement in full or these recommendations.

“During the 9 months from the August 2010 agreement was signed and the resumption of our protest, the PoWs worked tirelessly to have these issues resolved, regularly debating and planning our road ahead. Only when we were left with no alternative we resumed protest action. We embarked on this stage of protest in the knowledge that a long battle lay ahead and our protest could last a lengthy period.

“The August agreement was supposed to be a foundation for all republican POWs to build on and bring about a wing conducive to our republican principles. The failure to implement this agreement has made it impossible for this foundation to take hold. When only one side to any agreement show the willingness required to make it work, it is doomed at a very early stage. These failures lie at the feet of David Ford and the gaol admin/NIO.

“We have reached stalemate. There is no agreement. There is nothing on the horizon to give us any confidence that Ford or the Brits are willing to deal with the issues, on the contrary Ford would rather use the media to give a fixed position rather than face up to the loyalist P.O.A [Prison Officers Association] and bigoted gaol admin. All this together proves that our original thoughts that this protest is now set to be a very lengthy battle.

“We will not entertain anything short of our original demands which brought about the failed August agreement. We therefore call on family and comrades at home and abroad to show support, for what is only the beginning of a long hard battle ahead and we thank you for all your continued support.

“Victory to the PoWs.”

It was signed by Colin Duffy, Sean McConville, Damien McLaughlin, Brian Cavlan, John Paul Wootton, Harry Fitzsimons, Joe Barr, Mark McGuigan, Kevin Barry Nolan, Brian Sheridan, Dominic Dynes, Gavin Coyle, Brendan McConville, Gerard McManus.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News