Republican prisoners at Maghaberry jail were placed under 24-hour lock-up on Easter Sunday for refusing to remove their Easter lilies, it has emerged.
A spokesman for the Family and Friends of Republican Prisoners Maghaberry Group said the prisoners were punished for wearing the lilies, traditionally worn at Easter to commemorate the 1916 Rising and all those who died for Ireland.
The prisoners were locked up on Easter Sunday, April 7 and visits were also cancelled.
The prisoners also lost their daily one-hour access to the exercise yard and five-minute phone call, leaving their family members concerned at the loss of contact.
“Once again, republican prisoners have been punished for wearing Ireland’s traditional symbol of remembrance,” Mandy Duffy, spokesman for the group, said.
“However, no punishment by Maghaberry will deter them from honouring those who died in pursuit of Irish freedom. We are reminded once again of the sectarian regime adopted by Maghaberry prison, a regime that punishes republican prisoners for being republicans.”
Two years ago, serious disturbances erupted at the prison over a refusal by warders to allow the wearing of the lily.
Sinn Féin Assembly member for West Belfast and member of the Assembly’s Justice Committee, Jennifer McCann, condemned the prison’s action.
“This is unacceptable and punitive action on behalf of the prison administration,” she said.
“The Easter lily commemorates Ireland’s patriot dead throughout the years and it is unacceptable that these prisoners should not be allowed to wear them.”