Prisoners’ protest ends

August 17, 2010

By Brónagh Murphy

The dispute between Republican prisoners and authorities in Maghaberry jail ended on Thursday following mediation talks.

The mediation had been ongoing for some time in a bid to resolve the protest which began on Easter Sunday when prisoners barricaded themselves into the jail’s canteen.  The prisoners were protesting against excessive strip-searching and controlled movement.

Measures have been agreed on strip-searching and movement as well as setting up a prisoners’ forum to channel complaints and requests.

It was also agreed that random strip-searching will no longer take place and a metal detecting body scanner will now be used.  Strip-searches will only be carried out if it is believed a prisoner is concealing something.

Justice Minister David Ford says he is pleased that agreement has been reached and he thanked the facilitators for their efforts.

Father welcomes end of dispute

I want to thank the Examiner for their honest coverage of the recent dispute in Maghaberry prison and to say that such publicity was of great help in bringing the dispute to a good end.  I also thank everyone who helped in any way from the various political parties to trade unionists to churchmen, and send my personal thanks to all those who sent their good wishes and other forms of help to Turloch or to myself, and they are many.

Personally I am delighted that it is over and that the men now find their conditions dramatically improved.  It might sound comical but on Friday morning Turloch rang me to tell me that he was after eating two slices of toast, the first toast he had seen, smelled or tasted for over four months!  The men can now assemble together in the yard or the recreation room and are out of their cells from 8am to 8pm, instead of one hour per day.  They will have better access to education and exercise and generally their lot will be improved greatly.  Strip searching is ended and will be replaced by electronic scanning.  Visits are going ahead again as normal.

There is another very serious issue around prisoners in the case of Michael Campbell who has been held in atrocious conditions in Lithuania for almost three years.  Not only are the conditions terrible, but his family are not allowed to visit him and when he appears in court they can’t see him then either.  There is a need for people to get behind him and lobby on his behalf.  His brother, Liam, is also in Maghaberry facing extradition to Lithuania, having been facing extradition through the Dublin courts only to be grabbed by the PSNI on the same charges.  These are both married men with families who need our support.  It has nothing to do with politics, it’s a question of justice and decent treatment, just as the Maghaberry dispute was.

Jim McAllister