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Segregation for republican prisoners
George Thomas McLaughlin • 13 August 2003


Mr. Paul Murphy
Secretary of Sate for Northern Ireland
Block B
Castle Buildings
Belfast BT43STGTN

Dear Mr. Murphy,

It 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.

How 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.

I 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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