The family of interned political dissident Marian Price have hit out at the North’s prison authorities after warders refused to leave the room while the veteran republican underwent an invasive medical procedure.
Ms Price, who has been suffering from pneumonia, underwent an endoscopy and a lung wash so a camera could be inserted to examine her lungs.
Doctors asked prison guards to leave the treatment room in Belfast City Hospital where Price was heavily sedated for the procedure on Friday.
Her husband Jerry McGlinchey said: “They refused, saying they were under instruction from Hydebank that at least one prison officer stay with her during the medical procedure.
“The doctors stated it was unacceptable to have prison staff beside Marian but they were over-ruled.
“My wife is a seriously ill woman. She is not a security risk. She can hardly walk, let alone run off and escape.”
Ms Price was moved to Belfast City Hospital in June to be treated for severe depression after spending a year in solitary confinement in Maghaberry and Hydebank jails.
The former spokeswoman for a prisoners’ welfare group developed pneumonia and arthritis, and her health is deteriorating rapidly.
Mr McGlinchey said that on Friday, for the second consecutive day, his wife was hand-cuffed by prison staff against medical advice.
“Marian’s wrists are badly swollen from arthritis. The doctors have repeatedly told prison staff not to handcuff her but they insist on doing so.”
Marian’s husband claimed that on Thursday his wife was subjected to “oppressive security” when she went to Musgrave Park Hospital for tests for her arthritis.
“She was double handcuffed as two prison staff and four PSNI officers accompanied her to the examination. When she went to give a urine test, one prison officer actually insisted on going into the toilet with her,” Mr McGlinchey said.
“This is inhuman and degrading treatment. Nobody has to agree with my wife’s politics to see this is wrong.”
The British government last year ordered the summary re-imprisonment of Price, a political prisoner in the 1970s who has recently worked with the 32 County Sovereignty Committee.
It claimed a pardon given to Price in 1980, which would ensured her release, had been lost. Critics say the move is an cleared attempt to silence a vocal critic of the new political dispensation in the North of Ireland.
The abuses meted to her by the prison authorities since her internment have prompted a human rights campaign on her behalf.
Her plight will be raised this Sunday as part of a major civil rights march from Coalisland to Dungannon, County Tyrone.