A hunger protest by republican prisoners ended today after Palestinian prisoner Dr Issam Hijjawi was transferred to Roe House, the section of Maghaberry jail where political prisoners are housed.
Dr Hijjawi, who has medical issues including a heart condition and back problems, had been locked up in isolation in squalid conditions using the coronavirus as an excuse.
Friends and family of Dr Issam Hijjawi in Scotland said they had been “desperately concerned” for the welfare of the hunger striking Palestinian activist, who was interned by remand following his arrest in an MI5 entrapment plot earlier this month.
The strikes by republican prisoners at Maghaberry, Portlaoise and Hydebank, were held in solidary with Dr Hijjawi’s own fast.
They have all now ended, according to the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association. In a statement, the IRPWA praised the “courage and comradeship” of all the hunger strikers.
“The female Republican Prisoners of Hydebank and our comrades in Portlaoise who hungered in solidarity with Dr Issam Hijjawi rightly deserve full recognition,” they said.
“Their unwavering support to one another is a true beacon of unity. The hunger strike and acts of solidarity by like minded Republicans is a true testament to the strength and vitality of the national liberation struggle.”
Hundreds had gathered for a white-line protest in Belfast on Saturday before moving on to a solidarity 24-hour fast camp outside Maghaberry prison.
However, clashes broke out between the protestors and a large number of confrontational PSNI riot police who had maintained an intimidating presence at the site. Flares were lit and missiles were thrown during brief disturbances, and four protestors were arrested, including the chairperson of Saoradh in Derry.
Nevertheless, the 24 hour fast continued, as did a camp event organised in parallel outside Kilmainham jail in Dublin, which was attended by former Dublin Mayor Christy Burke. Events were also organised by Saoradh on Saturday in Derry and in Tralee, County Kerry. Other republican groups, the Irish Republican Socialist party and Republican Sinn Fein, organised protests in solidarity.
But there was relief today among the families of the hunger striking protestors after the end of the fast was confirmed.
Seanan Hayden, the daughter of Derry prisoner Gary Hayden, said her father had been in ‘high spirits’, but that it been a very worrying time.
“We know when our loved ones phone us, they are in high spirits and, as is typical of them, they convince us of how well they’re doing. This does not stop us worrying.”