Fears for republican held with criminals


Protests are being organised on behalf of a republican prisoner who is being kept in isolation among the general criminal cohort at Maghaberry jail.

Luke O’Neill, who is being held awaiting charges of carrying out an attack on a PSNI patrol, is thought to be a potential target of loyalists at the jail.

This week he was denied a judicial review of a decision to refuse him access to the republican wing of the prison, despite a judge describing the situation as “troubling”.

Mr O’Neill, from Lurgan in County Armagh, has been subject to abusive language and threats from other prisoners in the criminal wing. The 23-year old is unable to leave his cell and remains in self-imposed isolation.

O’Neill’s legal team argued that the Prison Service has been dismissive of O’Neill’s concerns regarding his safety.

They highlighted an incident on October 2 when a malfunction resulted in the doors being unlocked. During this time, drug dealers were chanting and shouting verbal abuse at him and one prisoner made an aggressive attempt to enter his cell.

In the High Court, Justice Colton said that while he acknowledged O’Neill’s situation was “troubling”, he pointed out there had not yet been a violent attack against Mr O’Neill.

The judge said: “I do not consider that there is sufficient evidence to satisfy the threshold that the applicant has suffered, or will suffer ill treatment.”

Refusing the judicial review, the judge expressed hope that the authorities at Maghaberry “will continue to monitor the applicant closely”.

Protests against Mr O’Neill’s isolation are being organised for Derry and Belfast by the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association. They described the ruling as “a very worrying development” and said his family would be “reeling”.

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