Derry-based October Fifth Association, which is composed
of 1968 civil rights veterans and supporters, has
expressed grave concern that the Northern Ireland
Prisons Service is continuing to house Republicans
alongside convicted members of loyalist death squads.
The group has been publicly active on the issue of
prisoners' rights, and the need for segregation, over
this past few years.
honorary secretary, Mr. Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh
expressed "outrage" at the fact that a young
republican prisoner, from Strabane, was attacked in
Hydebank Young Offenders Centre on December 7th. The
attack involved six other inmates at the centre, which
is located outsider Belfast.
Co. Tyrone prisoner is known to be 17 year-old Joseph
Barr. Mr. O Dochartaigh, an author and historian,
claims that "the youth was in his cell when the
loyalist youths attempted to hang him; luckily they
were disturbed before any serious damage was done".
O Dochartaigh, a co-founder of the civil rights association
(NICRA) in 1967, stated, "It is publicly known
that another body, the Irish Republican Prisoners'
Welfare Association, have consistently called for
James Barr's transfer to the republican wing in Maghaberry
where he will be safe from attack. However, the association
has been told that this is against the European convention
of human rights for children because of his age. This
is an insane situation where someone's life is put
on the line, whereas the original drafters of the
EU legislation had the protection of children in mind.
Has this to be spelt out to the NIO and Prison Service,
or have we to await another coffin being carried beyond
the walls, lookout towers and barbed wire, before
continued, "We had believed that this had all
been sorted out in September, after a long campaign
for separation apparently was successful. Many prominent
clergy, politicians, human rights and civil liberties
groups expended much effort and time in pursuit of
a safer environment for all prisoners, political or
otherwise. The Northern Ireland Prison Service knows
full well the implications of leaving a single republican
prisoner surrounded by hostile loyalists and criminals
and we call on them to provide security for Joseph
Barr until he leaves the institution.
Ó Dochartaigh, however, welcomed the fact that
Joseph Barr turns 18 at the end of December, but added,
"so any procrastination on his transfer could
be viewed as a reckless act of omission or dare one
harbour the notion, as a deliberate attempt to endanger
his life further."
civil rights veterans' group is also concerned for
the welfare of female prisoners. Its hon. Secretary
said: "All concerned with what is happening in
the jails should be wary of attempts to move two women
prisoners from Maghaberry to Hydebank. The two republican
women have stated their intention of staying put and
we demand they receive adequate protection and amenities
rather than the 23 hour lock up they are currently
forced to endure."
angry Mr. Ó Dochartaigh told journalists yesterday,
"As a civil rights group we are concerned at
the plight of all prisoners, and wish our views to
be known because many fine people across the Six Counties
have, like us, believed that separation had been granted
in the form of the Steel Report a few months ago.
We believe that it would be a pity if after a protracted
prison struggle, a 'no wash' protest, has concluded,
another is embarked upon for the same basic principles
that the government have, supposedly, already conceded."
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