campaign to bring about the separation of republican
and loyalist prisoners in recent years led to the
publication of the Steele Review in September. However,
loyalist inmates were of the opinion that while republicans
were well served by Steele's recommendation, the POA
were dragging its heels on its full implementation
because of a dispute with the NIO on the issue of
security grants for their members' homes. These were
officially approved on Friday, January 16, and vary
in size, to a maximum of £20,000.
the evening of Wednesday, January 14, barricades were
erected by around 35 loyalists. Various areas within
Bann House were torched. The full extent of a wrecking
spree was reported next day. Some eighteen POA members
needed hospital treatment for burns and smoke inhalation
during the overnight confrontations. It is noteworthy
that there were no reports of loyalist prisoners being
injured, then, or since.
near Lisburn, once again hit the headlines. Taxpayers
and journalists were expressing outrage. Expensive
facilities had been destroyed. The jail's POA spokesperson
angrily declared: "These people have gone on
a rampage of wanton destruction. They have destroyed
fridges, cookers, microwave ovens, food serving units,
and two snooker tables provided for their own recreational
purposes. They have completely gutted by fire an office
with all its equipment. They have smashed up table
tennis units and even televisions".
same night British Army technical officers were called
to the jail to deal with a suspect device. By mid-day
Thursday the PSNI's Chief Constable issued a statement
that linked the discovery of pipe bombs and associated
materials, in Belfast, to the riot. Next day, Friday,
witnessed Belfast traffic being brought to a virtual
standstill due to bomb warnings, which turned out
to be hoaxes. The media and authorities placed the
blame at the door of the UDA, an overtly sectarian
body that ominously is now "reviewing" its
a communication received by this writer, republican
prisoners outline their responses to the 'Compact
Proposals for Segregated Prisoners'. They express
the wish that public attention is drawn to their concerns
regarding future conditions at the gaol.
state that, following actions by republicans, which
included a protracted "no-wash" protest,
the prison authorities "agreed reluctantly"
to provide a Republican Wing, set apart from those
occupied by criminals and 'pro-British paramilitaries'
". This decision was taken in line with the government-sponsored
Steele Review. Subsequently, the prison service announced
its intentions to launch a new regime for the Republican
Wing, entitled, 'Compact for Separated Prisoners'.
the republican prisoners' view there is always a tendency
by the British authorities to act in bad faith following
concessions made in consequence of protest actions.
They therefore look upon the proposed regime with
caution. On closer inspection it would appear that
their collective concerns are well founded.
the heart of the compact document lies the prison
authorities' intention to deny normal everyday activities
such as education, recreation, physical exercise,
canteen facilities and regular association. The prisoners
also claim, "even religious practice to prisoners
on Republican wings", can be denied, which many
would consider as totally outlandish, if true.
denial of these rights, which the authorities hasten
to assert are privileges, is, the prisoners claim,
to be accompanied by daily cell and full body searches.
While the former might be viewed as understandable
and even a necessary routine, the latter is both very
upsetting and most degrading for those subjected to
such. The prisoners' communication expressed the opinion
that these proposals amount to no less than punitive
sanctions against those Republicans who choose to
reside in the safety of their own wing. It should
be borne in mind that before Steele, republican prisoners
were heavily outnumbered on landings, and were subjected
to frequent, often very serious physical assaults.
These sparked the protests, both inside the jails,
and on the streets, amid intense 'behind-the-scenes'
lobbying of leading clerics, politicians, journalists,
statutory bodies, the NIO, and prominent civil rights
veterans, et al.
equal concern to prisoners, as well as human rights
and civil liberties' groups, is the prison service's
intention to enforce a rehabilitation scheme under
the title "The Home-Leave Resettlement Boards",
as a pre-condition to successful parole applications.
This is not a voluntary scheme, as its operation will
require prisoners to undergo formal risk assessment,
which will rely upon input from the PSNI. The Probation
Service and clinical psychologists will also be engaged
to look for evidence that the prisoner has been "addressing
his offending behaviour while in gaol". Such
plans can only be viewed as yet another attempt to
criminalise all republican prisoners and their political
ideology, which was attempted also in 1976, leading
to years of isolation "on the blanket" and
a "dirty protest". These endured until after
seven Provisionals and three Derry republican-socialists,
Kevin Lynch, Dungiven, Patsy O'Hara and Michael Devine,
both from the city, breathed their last, after protracted
and agonising hunger strikes.
claims that these proposals amount to a new "criminalisation
plan", go hand in hand with the fact that this
programme is currently mandatory for criminals and
sex offenders, so from the point of view of republican
militants, "is no less than a calculated insult
to political prisoners who know full well they do
not need to be rehabilitated from anything."
republican inmates, in Maghaberry and elsewhere, are
highly conscious of past prison struggles. In response
to current NIO thinking and planning, they vigorously
assert, "In keeping with our integrity as Irish
republicans, the well-being of future PoWs, not to
mention the sacrifices of past PoWs on our behalf,
we reject the 'Compact and Separated Prisoners' document".
a result, it has been revealed that at least members
of one faction of 'Oglaigh Na h-Éireann', that
known as the Real IRA, have instructed its 'Volunteers',
not to sign any document in relation to the "Compact
Proposals". Prisoners, their relatives and others
concerned with what is taking place within the jails,
are coming to a realisation that this "Compact"
could yet become another spur that will dig deep into
the fabric of whole communities, as in 1976-80, and
throughout many months in '81. It would be in everyone's
interest if the NIO were to have a major re-think,
for this "Compact" could well lead to the
digging of untimely graves for yet more prison martyrs.
In such a future situation, who could give peace a
onus is now on the authorities, both British and Irish,
primarily the NIO and Prison Service, to create dialogue
whereby arrangements can be produced which will avoid
history tragically repeating itself. Even the 'Iron
Lady', Thatcher, was convinced, eventually, on the
errors of her ways, but alas, only after a very high
cost in terms of human lives, both inside, and outside
Long Kesh [HMP The Maze]. Republican prisoners see
these latest proposals as an attempt to "criminalise"
them, by using back-door methods. That is how they
view current official plans, and who amongst us would
be so foolish as to think that this re-packaging of
an old and disastrous British policy, will not be
as if we had not enough on our minds upon which to
concentrate, we now have latter-day plans for the
deportation of 'disruptive' prisoners - No - not this
time to the West Indies or Tasmania, but "across
government officials, as well as those in the NIO,
must have selected for bedtime reading, texts relating
to an age-old topic, "How best to deal with Irish
rebels? The plan is to " expel" remand and
sentenced prisoners here, and if the term 'disruptive'
might suggest a mere minority, they will have to think
again due to the recent flaming riot at Bann House.
new powers are contained in the Justice (Northern
Ireland) Bill which is currently being debated at
Westminster. The local October Fifth Association,
comprised of 1968 civil rights veterans and supporters,
are of the opinion that when this is passed into law
any resistance by prisoners to this punitive regime
could result in their removal from jails here. This
would be a major economic and psychological blow to
the loved ones of prisoners and their friends in particular.
European and international conventions strongly recommend
that prisoners should always be located within, or
near their own communities.
partial advances of the Steele recommendations in
September have led to a degree of complacency on the
part of families and campaigners, which may now be
short-lived. The recent campaign for political status,
no doubt will be re-launched, as all concerned with
such now face, what many view as a new and sinister
Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill, Clause 13, Transfer
of Prisoners, reads:
If it appears to the Secretary of State that:
a person remanded in custody in N. Ireland in
connection with an
a person serving a sentence of imprisonment in
should be transferred to England and Wales, in
the interests of maintaining
security or good order in any prison in N. Ireland,
the Secretary of State
may make an order for his transfer to England
and Wales, there to be
remanded in custody pending his trial or, as the
case may be, to serve the
whole or any part of the remainder of his sentence,
and for his removal to
an appropriate institution there."
notes it does not use the word , 'she', so is one
to understand that females will be exempt?
local civil rights' veterans group is but one organisation
that has expressed grave concerns. The Celtic League
has already written to the N. Ireland Secretary, Paul
Murphy, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Dublin,
and diverse agencies. One of these is the European
Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment and Punishment (CPT), urging
them to apply pressure, as a matter of some urgency.
Celtic League, for many years has been highly influential
on numerous fronts. It has branches in six Celtic
countries of the western British Isles and Brittany.
It works to promote co-operation between these countries
and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural
and environmental matters. It targets human rights
abuse and monitors all military activity within these
CPT is based in the Council of Europe complex in Strasbourg,
France. The League urges the CPT to tackle this issue
"without delay" and "to enquire into
the circumstances surrounding these proposals which
seem to be motivated more by political expediency
than concern for the security or well being of the
prisoners or their families."
concludes, "Enforced movement of prison inmates
between jurisdictions is something that our organisation
has spoken out strongly about in the past. It is not
only morally questionable, it is a clear breach of
European Model Prison Rules which place a great emphasis
on the need for prison inmates to be held in close
proximity to their family, but also their community".
The League brands the policy as "flawed"
and calls for a rethink by officialdom.
The October Fifth Association, a network of 1968 civil
rights' veterans and supporters can be contacted via
Its forum, and others can be located on the Irish
Anti-Partition League's web site via www.ia-pl.org
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