There have been further condemnations by politicians after a senior prison official died from a heart attack two weeks after he received a leg injury in an attack on his vehicle.
A former member of Britain’s Royal Navy, Adrian Ismay (pictured, left) died suddenly on Tuesday after suffering chest pains at his home in east Belfast. The veteran prison guard had worked at both the H-Blocks of Long Kesh and at Maghaberry jail, and had been working as a trainer within the North’s prison system. British officials said he had died in the course of duty.
On March 4, a device planted by the new IRA exploded underneath his vehicle in east Belfast (pictured, right). After receiving treatment for shrapnel wounds, he had been released from hospital and had been “optimistic for the future”, according to Justice Minister David Ford. A statement made by the organisation to a Belfast newsroom last week said Ismay had been targeted because of his role in training the riot squad at Maghaberry Prison. They blamed Ford and prisons chief Sue McAllister for the attack.
Tensions at the prison reached critical levels following a decision by Stormont officials to renege on a 2010 deal to end strip-searches and controlled movement within the prison. The often violent practice of forcibly searching prisoners after stripping them of their clothes has been repeatedly condemned by human rights groups.
A High Court judgement this week found that the prison’s policy of recording and retaining video of the forced strip searches is a breach of the prisoner’s human rights. However, the practice has continued unchecked despite repeated promises to end it.
Prisoners have warned that protests will continue for as long as the strip-search regime remains in place. Last weekend, visits were cancelled and a communications blackout imposed during a lockdown of prisoners in their cells that lasted three days.
It later emerged that a recent arrival at Maghaberry, Derry republican Tony Taylor, had been subjected to a violent strip-search following his internment at the jail.
“Screws barged into his cell and told him to strip, when he refused he was dragged to the reception and subjected to a forced strip-search and beating before being dragged back to his cell,” according to the Cogus support group.
“This situation is much more dangerous considering Tony is being refused food and his medication. This is an extremely dangerous situation and the negligence shown by the Maghaberry administration may seriously damage his health.”
It was also announced this week that compassionate parole for nationalists would be refused as a result of what officials said was an increased threat to warders. One prison warder said: “I never thought it would get back to this level of fear. It’s as if we have gone back 20 years.”