Sugden’s concern for officers as Maghaberry nightmare deepens
Sugden’s concern for officers as Maghaberry nightmare deepens


The Stormont Executive has been condemned for inaction amid a mounting crisis at Maghaberry jail which has seen yet another death at the jail and yet another violent attack by warders against a republican prisoner.

The death of a 34 year-old remand prisoner this week follows the suicides of two prisoners in the past month. The cause of the latest death is still unknown and a post mortem is being carried out.

It brings to six the total number of deaths at the County Antrim prison in the past 12 months, four of whom were suicides, as well as one mentally ill prisoner who horrifically blinded himself while warders chose not to intervene.

It comes as a republican prisoner on Roe 4 wing was violently assaulted by a prison official while on a legal visit.

Sean McVeigh and another republican prisoner were brought off the Republican landing to attend legal visits when Mr McVeigh was unexpectedly placed in a holding cell. After requesting to speak to a senior officer (SO) about his isolation, one arrived only to immediately grab, drag and assaulted him. An alarm was hit and Mr McVeigh was quickly manhandled into another holding cell by a force of 20 warders.

This was an orchestrated attempt to raise tensions, and the second such assault in two weeks, according to the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association.

“Staff in Maghaberry are deliberately attempting to raise tensions with Republicans as to have conflict with Republican Prisoners would certainly deflect from the failings within Maghaberry,” they said.

Justice Minister Claire Sugden has been coming under strong pressure to take action against the prison authorities, but so far has failed to meaningfully respond to the abuses directed against republican prisoners or the deaths among the general prison population.

She acknowledged that reports from prisoner watchdogs had been damning, but has not advanced a new policy other than to call for improved conditions for prison officers.

“Recent events have highlighted the challenges that prison officers face as they deal with people in custody,” she said. “I firmly believe that better support for officers will lead to better support for prisoners.”

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© 2016 Irish Republican News