Republican prisoners in Maghaberry held a 48-hour hunger protest this week in support of a prisoner held in the jail’s punishment block for the past three years.
Tyrone man Gavin Coyle started a 72-hour fast at midnight on Sunday in protest at his continued detention in the prison’s isolation unit. Known as “the boards”, the unit functions as the jail’s punishment block where prisoners live under a harsh regime.
Since his arrest in April 2011, prison authorities have turned down Mr Coyle’s requests to be transferred to the jail’s Roe Four landing where prisoners aligned to the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association are currently held.
It is understood jail authorities have told him he is under threat from other prisoners on Roe Four - a claim both they and Mr Coyle dispute.
During his time in the punishment block, he has been deliberately isolated, while MI5 tried to recruit him as an informer several times,
Both Roe Four prisoners and those on Roe Three, who are aligned to the Republican Netowrk for Unity (RNU), joined together for a two-day fast in support.
Mandy Duffy from the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association said Gavin Coyle meets all the criteria previous agreed by British officials for transfer to the republican landing.
“Gavin Coyle’s enforced long-term isolation breaches Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that ‘no-one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’,” she said.
“Prolonged, enforced isolation is unjustifiable in any circumstances. It is unjustifiable whether it is imposed as a punishment, or for any other purpose.”
In a statement, prisoners aligned to the RNU warned the Maghaberry administration to heed the significance of their protest that they can “no longer presume that they can marginalise any section of prisoners without consequential protest action”.
eirigi’s Padraic Mac Coitir also called for the Omagh man to be immediately removed from solitary confinement.
“The prison authorities are clearly acting on MI5 instructions to hold this young man in total isolation as a means to applying unwarranted psychological pressure upon him to comply with MI5,” he said.
He warned htat the overall situation in Maghaberry was continuing to deteriorate. “Certainly, it appears that MI5 has a small number of personnel permanently attached to Maghaberry prison and evidence would support the view that those unaccountable personnel are able to dictate the implementation of certain policies and strategies throughout the gaol.
“As has repeatedly been the case in the Six Counties for several decades, whenever the dark hand of MI5 emerges, it inevitably signals conflict and tragedy.
“MI5’s malign presence needs to removed immediately from Maghaberry and young Gavin Coyle should be placed with the rest of the Republican prisoners within the gaol.”
HEART-OP PRISONER IS STRIP SEARCHED
Meanwhile, the family of a 49-year-old republican prisoner has said that he was was strip-searched hours after undergoing emergency heart surgery.
Thomas ‘Ta’ McWilliams, from Ardoyne in north Belfast, was sentenced this week in relation to a gun attack on the PSNI two years ago. A former Provisional IRA PoW, he had previously suffered two heart attacks.
On Monday, despite complaining about chest pains, he was locked in his cell for several hours. he was finally admitted to Craigavon Area Hospital when he underwent an operation to insert a stent, but he was then strip-searched on his return two days later, his partner said.