A ‘vindictive’ campaign by prison authorities in the north of Ireland has denied republican prisoner Christine Connor medical treatment as a result of her opposition to strip-searches.
Since her incarceration last August, Ms Connor has been prevented from receiving outside medical treatment for gallstones on the grounds that she had refused the humiliating strip-search procedure.
On Tuesday December 9th, Ms Connor’s legal team applied to the Magistrates court for her temporary release to hospital on compassionate grounds. Her lawyer, Michael Madden, offered assurances that he himself would accompany her to the hospital and back again to Hydebank Women’s Prison.
However, the judge refused, citing unspecified ‘security concerns’. Mr Madden said Ms Connor is now suffering considerable pain as a result of prolonged medical neglect of her condition, and has not been getting painkillers.
“It’s a point of principle and she won’t consent to the strip search,” he said. “If someone had another medical emergency they will not say ‘We are not taking you out because you did not consent’.
Independent Lisburn councillor Angela Nelson said the stand taken by prison authorities was a “disgrace”.
“The loss of your liberty is your punishment. You should not be punished further while you are a prisoner,” she said. “Strip-searching is an antiquated system in 2013 when there are other means to scan a prisoner.”
Ms Connor is being held at the jail alongside County Tyrone republican Sharon Rafferty. Earlier this year Ms Rafferty was forcibly stripped to her underwear after refusing to cooperate while making being brought to a court appearance in Omagh.
Ciaran Cunningham of Republican Network for Unity said he now intends to contact human-rights organisations including the International Red Cross.
“It should be noted that Christine has also recently been threatened by the Hydebank administration with a loss of visitation rights, citing spurious suspicions of ‘security breaches’ as reason for punishment,” he said.
“RNU hope that these developments do not signal the beginning of vindictive practices in Hydebank, such as have been witnessed in Maghaberry in recent times.”