Secretary of Sate for Northern Ireland
appears that the growing alarm which many in Ireland
and in Irish America feel about the Prison Service's
policy of integrating republican prisoners with loyalist
ones is still not felt by your office. These republican
prisoners have repeatedly been attacked by their loyalist
counterparts which has led to their current resistance.
Their "dirty protest" which has now continued
for weeks will not go away by itself, but will, more
than likely, escalate into a malaise which no authority
will be able to control.
do we know this? I was actively involved in the attempt
to resolve the prison conflict in the late 70's and
early 80's which led to the hunger strike, ten deaths
and strife in the streets. I only hope that you become
convinced that we are heading towards a similar and
possibly more desperate situation now. Please use
your influence to begin talks with prisoners' representatives
and prisoners' families so as to avoid a catastrophe.
Segregation of prisoners in Maghaberry and other gaols
will lessen the tension and provide for an atmosphere
in which negotiation and cooperation might flourish.
The alternative is too deadly to ponder.
will use my own influence, in the Irish-American organizations
I belong to, to support what we consider a logical
and progressive change in policy. I only hope that
in the weeks or months to come, I will not be standing
outside the prison gates once again, more than twenty
years after the H-blocks crisis, asking the Northern
Ireland Office to use its common sense, fearful that
it is already too late.
George Thomas McLaughlin
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