Republican prisoners have condemned the authorities in Maghaberry prison over a new clampdown on educational and historical materials at the jail.
The latest incident involves the memoir of former IRA diretor of operations, ‘My Life in the IRA’ by Mick Ryan. The history book was released earlier this month and presents a Volunteers’ account of the IRA border campaign of the 1950s. However, the book was refused to prisoner Connor Highes and then banned by the prison authorities, ostensibly on account of the cover image which appears on the book. A spokesperson for prisoner support group Cogus said Hughes had been told it was due to the “outline of an old 50s rifle” on the cover.
Other items which have recently been banned include the DVD of the historical documentary ‘66 days’ on the 1981 hunger strike. It was prohibited just days before it was broadcast on the BBC.
The Cogus spokesperson described the move as “sectarian” and “alludes to an agenda that is both anti-Irish and anti-nationalist.
They said: “This prohibition outlines a deeper agenda in which the prison administration still harbours a closed mindset that refuses to acknowledge any narrative but their own regarding the hunger strike of 1981, and furthermore shows the lengths that the administration wil go to censor a different narrative”.
Meanwhile, a Cork County councillor has been branded “anti-British” by unionists following his motion that the local authority oppose the extradition of Irish prisoners to the North of Ireland due to the practice of full-body strip searching at Maghaberry prison.
The former Sinn Fein councillor had a motion passed by Cork County Council opposing the brutal practice last month. The motion has been criticised in the North with Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister saying it is “cloaked in a diatribe of anti-British rhetoric”. Democratic Unionist Party MP Jeffrey Donaldson claimed the motion was an excuse for “anti-British sentiment”.
A committee of the Dublin parliament and a number of human rights groups have also raised concerns about the practice of strip-searching at Maghaberry. Mr McCarthy said it is a violation of the European Human Rights Convention.
He said his concerns are not about nationality, but human rights and fears the situation will worsen once Britain exits the EU.
“This is not anti-British, it’s a human rights issue. My wife is English. My mother is English and all one side of my family is British,” he told the Cork Evening Echo.
“Yes, I’m an Irish republican. Yes, I’m a former Sinn Fein councillor and a former prisoner myself but I’m also a politician and this issue is purely about human rights. If it was any other group of prisoners that were receiving the same kind of treatment as republican prisoners, I’d be speaking out as well,” he added.
Mr McCarthy has called for staff at Maghaberry to use search technology instead of subjecting prisoners to full body strip searches, which he has described as cruel. “The technology is there,” he said.