Monday 19th June Republican POW's began a protest
action in Maghaberry, this is the first in a series
of protests planned by Republican POW's in the gaol.
POW's are making clear that they will not accept
the sub standard conditions on the segregated wing,
they will not be criminalised nor will they be intimidated
or coerced by the petty restrictions being imposed
by prison screws to make the day to day life in
the gaol for POW's more difficult.
Status has been denied to Republican POW's since
the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement
and as a result conditions both for POW's and their
families and visitors have worsened considerably.
The Republican Prisoners Action Group (RPAG) was
formed to highlight the conditions faced by POW's
and we have met with the Human Rights Commission
who accepted that our concerns were justified. Monsignor
Faul, at our request also visited the gaol and spoke
with the OC, he issued a report strongly criticising
the regime and the conditions in which POW's are
forced to exist. The British Inspectorate for Prisons
issued a Report in October 2005 that was also critical
of a number of practices within the Segregated Regime
in Maghaberry and yet the Prison Service have done
nothing to adequately address these concerns.
RPAG contributed a submission to the consultation
process for the Separated Regime Review conducted
by the Prison Service. In their 'Summary of Responses
to Consultation of the Review of the Separated Regime'
the Prison Service clearly indicated that they had
identified the sources of concern of those who had
contributed, however they failed to address any
of these issues in a productive way. The main issues
of contention of those who contributed were:
2. The passive drugs dog
3. The daily regime
4. Controlled movement.
relation to searching prisoners it was reported
that the number of rub down searches would be reduced,
however the report also referred to plans to build
a facility for 'private searches' ie. Strip searches
that will be sited within access of the circle areas
in Bush and Roe Houses (the Segregated wings).
The use of the passive drugs dog is not to be changed
in any way that will benefit prisoners or facilitate
the maintaining of regular family visits. Minor
changes have been made that do not alter the present
system in any recognisable way and the issue of
prison staff abusing their control of the dog to
prevent visits to POW's in the segregated wing and
to put POW's in punishment cells on their return
from Leave have not been addressed at all.
Instead of altering what is a sub-standard daily
regime that requires POW's to choose between exercise
and education and enforces 18hour and 22hour lock-up
on alternate days the prison service have plans
to implement a Two-Tier regime. This is entirely
unacceptable to Republican POW's who are not seeking
to earn privileges from the Northern Ireland Prison
Service but are demanding their rights as Political
The review indicates that Controlled movement will
not be changed and insists that it is necessary,
the RPAG strongly refute this assertion. Controlled
movement is excessively restrictive and prevents
any free association between POW's.
POW's are not prepared to accept these conditions
and feel that the RPAG have exhausted all avenues
on their behalf to no avail. The RPAG call on the
public to give their support to the POW's at this
time. The Hunger Strikers sacrificed themselves
to improve conditions for those POW's who came after
them and to ensure that Political Status was available
to POW's as of RIGHT. No one can be justified in
signing away the Rights of others, however that
is what happened in the Good Friday Agreement, and
POW's are now in a position where they must begin
the fight for Political Status again.
POW's have formulated five demands and call for
these to be addressed immediately.
2. FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
3. RIGHT TO FULL TIME EDUCATION
4. SEPARATE VISITING FACILITY
5. RIGHT TO ORGANISE OUR OWN LANDINGS
British Government, the Prison Service, the media
and local politicians have all been well aware of
these issues for some time and have done nothing
to address them. The POW's have been left with no
choice but to engage in protest within the gaol
and this protest will no doubt intensify if these
issues are not addressed and their demands are not
POW's are relying on the Irish people to stand with
them in their fight to improve conditions and ultimately
to win back Political Status. The Irish people have
never failed POW's in the past and we have faith
that they will not fail them now.