Irish Republican News · November 22, 2014
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Prisoners detained inside Maghaberry canteen


Republican prisoners at Maghaberry were locked into a canteen by prison staff on Thursday after renewed attempts to implement a four-year-old agreement appeared to break down.

A note posted on the internet said 55 political prisoners were detained in the canteen in the prison’s Roe House following “heavy searches”, including a rub-down search and a metal detector search.

The prisoner governor later put a note under the door of the canteen to warn of a “total lockdown” at the jail.

Prison authorities were accused of continuing to undermine renewed efforts to reduce tensions at the jail by disrupting the movements of prisoners on the republican wing. In a statement, the prisoners said the potential of a deal at the high security jail had been “sabotaged”.

It comes just days after the same prisoners offered to give “a fair wind” to the recently-completed independent review of the situation at Maghaberry.

The ‘stock take’, carried out by an independent assessment team appointed by justice minister David Ford, examined aspects of a deal struck in 2010 to relax strip searches and controlled movement in the prison.

The report found that the agreement has “been unable to realise its full potential, partly because of bedding in problems arising from the lack of trust between prison warders and republican prisoners and concern about staff safety.

It also said the stock-take has “created an opportunity to get things back on track”.

But jail authorities have now once again reneged on the deal. The prisoners said the review was “sabotaged by the DUP and the POA (Prison Officers Association).”

In a joint statement, republican prisoners said they had been told by the governor that from this week the two landings will now be treated as “separate units” and that a grill separating the landings will not be opened “until violence in the streets stop”.

The prisoners reserved their harshest criticism for hardline unionist Paul Givan, the Chair of Stormont’s Justice Committee, who they said had intervened with prison warders’ association to “oppose every progressive recommendation and change within the jail”.

“We have consistently warned of the malign influence of certain individuals in this jail with inextricable links to the DUP. Our protestations have fallen on deaf ears or have been overruled by darker forces. If those in power are genuine about moving forward to a conflict- free environment within this jail, they need to show that they are serious, for now this process is dead.”

In an earlier statement prisoners in the prison’s Roe Three and Four landings had given the review a cautious welcome, and said the 2010 deal offers “victory to no-one”. The prisoners had said they believed a “resolution of all outstanding issues is within all of our grasps”.

“This should not be held to ransom by the politically ambitious or reactionary elements who yearn for a time long past,” the prisoners said. “We are in the 21st century; prison conditions should reflect that. Therefore Republican Political Prisoners in Roe House are in full favour of a conflict-free environment.”

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