“..things are what they are and will be what they will be”

The number of people protesting over the conditions republican prisoners face in Magheraberry is growing. Newry Republican has a blog that gives an impression of the crowds that attended Sunday’s rally at the prison. The Pensive Quill covers the speech made by Harry Fitzsimmons‘ sister Maureen at that protest (also on YouTube).

More photographs demonstrating the size of the protest appear on the Friends of Colin Duffy website.

Sinn Féin previously announced a visit to the prison but as yet have made no statement on their findings.

Again Newry Republican provides a statement from Concerned Families and Friends of Maghaberry POWs which notes most/many of the campaign objectives:

• We demand the immediate removal of Harry Fitzsimmons from the isolation unit and his return to the main wing with the rest of his friends.

• We demand immediate medical attention for Harry and express our concern at the manner in which he was removed from his cell and beaten by screws.

• We demand the immediate reinstatement of the humane and safe living conditions within the prison regime which were implemented following the tragic hunger strikes of 1981.

• We demand the immediate end to controlled movement which is being used by the screws to isolate and intimidate prisoners.

• We demand the immediate end of degrading and humiliating strip searches.

• We demand the end of the free rein given to the POA in reversing the gains of 1981 and their determination to implement a regime based on brutality and sectarian bigotry.

• We demand an answer from the Minister for Justice: who ordered the beating of Harry Fitzsimmons and who will be held responsible for it? The Justice Minister or the sectarian cavemen of the POA?

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  • joeCanuck

    What is the POA? Prison Officers Association?

  • Mark McGregor

    Thats right.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Certainly the POA give every indication of being sectarian cavemen.
    But they are one step up the evolutionary scale from the pond life that is dissident republicanism.

  • halfer

    I believe that a dependence on ‘labelling’ to bolster the argument suggests a real weakness in ones position.

  • al

    These men are locked up for 23 hours a day… that’s because they’re in prison.

    they don’t get washed every day… neither do I.

    they haven’t shaved in over 7 weeks… 3 years for me.

    they get assaulted and beaten on a regular basis… doubt that.

    they endure degrading stripsearches… again it’s prison.

    the water and heating has been switched off… my heating is off (it’s May)

    their cells are soaked with urine… bit like my room after a heavy Friday night.

    All joking aside it’s incredible the support these people still get. These propaganda blogs are clearly working.

  • Lionel Hutz

    The question is how do we deal with this?

    Does ignoring it add depth to the conspriacies?

    Does investigating the claims add legitimacy to the claims?

    Its a tricky one, but with the POA being universally considered a disgrace, and conditions in MAghaberry constantly criticised, my guess is a complete investigation into the conditions of all prisoners?

    That would avoid the MOPE reaction whilst being seen to “do” something about conditions. Standing idle doesn’t seem to be working.

  • Alias

    Err, how about reporting it to the Northern Ireland Prisoner Ombudsman, Pauline McCabe? Or am I missing something?

  • joeCanuck

    I have suggested that on the other thread but nobody responded. I wonder why? It seems such an obvious action.

  • Cynic

    I am glad they feel oppressed and the more of their friends the courts send in there the more company they will have. And wont that be a good thing for everyone.

  • Cynic

    Because they created the conditions by smashing up the sanitary fittings and sinks forcing the water supply to be cut off.

    Its like putting a pig in a paddock. Its amazing the mess it can make in a week

  • Cynic


    The Duffy website was so sad. To borrow a phrase from a slightly different context, politics for ugly people (in TK Max jeans). I also love the tactics of parading in two long single file columns with a banner to make the numbers look more on the photos, shot at an angle so its hard to see that the column is as hollow as their arguments.

  • Rory Carr

    Halfer makes exactly the point that first struck me as I read the statement from Concerned Families and Friends of Maghaberry POWs . Using derogatory and emotive terms such as “screws” and “sectarian cavemen” to describe the prison officers does nothing to inspire confidence in the veracity of this organisation’s claims and in further ratcheting up tensions by the use of such language places the motivation of this group into question.

    Nevertheless, concerns as to the treatment of prisoners remains and it is a pity that such concerns are being diluted by the intemperate language of such a group purportedly formed to help address them.

  • TheHorse

    What a start to this new era of embracing the future and learning from the errors of past. The new Justice Minister insulting the victims of Bloody Sunday, then rubber stamping a prison regime akin to the Guantanamo bay detention centre. Then the proposals to ban freedom of association and public assembly whats next, making it compulsory to vote. The most sickening thing is Sinn Fein’s turning a blind eye to the treatment of Harry Fitzsimmons after throwing him to the wolves, people remember why Harry Fitzsimmons ended up in Maghaberry today, abandoned by the very people who’s orders and interests he was acting on.

  • al

    @TheHorse; I thought Harry Fitzsimmons was in prison for abducting and assaulting a man? He is to blame and he has to live with the consequences. Maybe if they were to stop throwing tantrums they would have more comfortable surroundings.

  • TheHorse

    Maybe Sinn Fein could ask him and his family what their grievances are but Im sure they already know. Those who roll the snowballs for others to throw and then wash their hands of any involvement come to mind.

  • old school

    The names of prison officers involved in brutalising Republicans will be delivered to thousands of homes in the coming days.
    They will come via the 32CSM’s free monthly Beir Bua.

  • old school

    Mark, your articles are very good and informative, but I suggest you would have more interest and debate if you had less cryptic titles.
    Only for the photo alongside I wouldn’t have read your article. I never click on cryptic titles.

  • halfer

    think you misread my intention Rory.

    My comments were intended for FJH.

  • jim

    harry was fond of dishing out the bateins when he was in a gang.now the tables are turned he cant hack it.dont think he should have been on the wing in the first place

  • Bubbler

    Under the European Convention of Human Rights (made domestic law through the Human Rights Act) the State is responsible for protecting people from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, both from the state and from private individuals. Moreover, it is responsible for investigating alleged incidents of torture – no matter who the person is. Basically, it doesn’t matter what you think of dissidents, Sinn Fein or whoever – they are human beings, they have rights, and the government is responsible for making sure their rights are protected. The law cannot be applied selectively – no matter much you think someone is a ‘scumbag’ – and what you should be more concerned with is the government’s lack of concern or urgency in investigating. It’s illegal and it’s reprehensible.

  • Reader

    old school: They will come via the 32CSM’s free monthly Beir Bua.
    Maybe they could work their way through the troubles and name all the unconvicted people they are sure were involved in wrongdoing.
    Of course, I doubt that 32CSM regard sectarian massacres as wrongdoing.

  • kells

    Charlie Watson,UVF man was an ex screw.Nutted by the ‘RA.

  • Mark McGregor

    To the smart arse –

    You may have thought it clever to put a comment on this site that could have landed it in serious legal difficulties.

    If you thought you were doing it to somehow promote the cause of Republican prisoners let me explain this to you –

    Your response was promptly deleted and as a result I, as the only person that covers issues regarding dissenting republicans and prisoners on this site promise you the next post I write on this issue, no matter how valid, will be ready to go and then deleted – consigned to a dustbin.

    You want to feck about on someone else’s patch, you just ensured something you care about gets less coverage than it should. Arsehole.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think theres a lot of common ground on this thread.
    We all want to see dissident prisoners enjoy good treatment in Maghaberry.
    And Id go further……I really wish a lot more of them were enjoying these facilities.

  • darragh derry

    Mark I take it that it was my letter about the screws in Maghaberry being named, as it hasn’t been published.

    I’m very sorry and didnt think for one minute that I could’ve landed your site into trouble as thousands of homes in and around Derry got these leaflets delivered through their doors tonight, that definatly was not my intention as I’m a great daily follower of your site and wouldnt like any trouble to come your way.

    Naively I thought that it was now common knowledge that hadn’t started or emanated from your site first, I thought it was ok. In hindsight now I realize I was stupid in doing so and I sincerly apoligise for my stupidity…

    Yours Darragh

  • hodgie

    she’s not really interested, it’s a hot potato for her and she isn’t for getting involved in anything she considers “political”: pauline just wants to work the bureaucracy and investigate complaints made to her, make her recommendations and then forget it.

  • hodgie

    anybody who has spent time in prison knows them terms are lenient in describing screws and their behaviour. the profession of being a screw attracts bullies and sadists in a similar manner to the way the priesthood attracts paedophiles:

    not one single screw has ever been made to face the law over brutality inflicted on a prisoner. now that is emotive and derogatory!

  • OldSod

    Out of curiosity, what are conditions like for those the dissidents abduct or take action against?
    Were a police officer (or indeed anybody else who has fallen foul of dissidents) to surrender to dissident republicans when ambushed, would he or she be allowed to surrender, be treated as a POW or political prisoner, provided sanitary conditions, access to a lawyer and medical treatment? Or is it more realistic to expect to be tortured (maybe given a kangaroo court trial if “lucky”) then shot in a rural location and have their body dumped?
    For the record, I believe that the reports about dissident prisoner treatment are based on lies. I have had the privilege to witness two incidents between police and suspected dissidents (just in the right place at the right time). I can assure you that what I saw and what the dissidents claimed later to have happened were a million miles apart. They just made a whole load of stuff up about how they were treated and what police did. That convinced me that these dissidents were just a bunch of liars.

  • Clanky

    If the demands were slightly less ridiculous they may be taken more seriously. When you start resorting to name calling and obviously outrageous lies you loose the right to any sort of political voice.

    If these people had dropped the screws tag and dropped the stupid nonsense about the Justice Minister ordering beatings they might not look like a bunch of half assed thugs trying to stir trouble.

  • Brian MacAodh

    G Bay isn’t that bad.

    So what did this fella do to get in there? Beat somebody up?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Ive always had a problem with the word “screws”. At least two Republican museums have a “screws cap” on exhibition (and several other references to “screws” ) and I think using the jargon of the criminal actually undermines the “political” nature of the alleged or real (delete as applicable) offence.
    Its not just semantic.
    Words like “screws” should be left to car thieves, burglars and muggers.
    People trying to claim political status (arguably justified depending on your view) in the 1970s and 1980s……or in a totally unjustified way in the 21st century might ask themselves if they are doing themselves any favours with the jargon.
    I think “goon” is probably offensive while conjuring up a Colditz image rather than the “criminal” image that the POWS (real) and imagined by dissident apologists that the word “screws” conjures up.

  • Bubbler

    Right. I think everyone is missing the point.

    Our society is built upon the rule of law. People who break the law are arrested, tried, and imprisoned. Those policies and conditions must be fair and decent. It’s part of what makes us a democratic society.

    That means we’re not running a ‘tit-for-tat’ operation. Just because is accused (or convicted) of terrorist offenses does not take away their humanity, like it or not. Thus comments on ‘what are the conditions for the people they abducted’ aren’t relevant. They were tried for those crimes in a court of law and found guilty. Now they’re serving their time. Their conditions must be humane, according to the law, and, I thought, our society’s moral conscience.

    A very apt quote contributed to Gandhi (among others): “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”

  • OldSod

    The problem with this protest is the hypocritical and propaganda driven nature of it. After my own observations, you would have a hard time convincing me that these dissidents are telling the truth. It is in their interests to manufacture a crisis, in fact it is imperative that they generate sympathy for their cause, because without it, they are not going to get any stronger. These folk are part of ruthless terrorist gangs, so they are going to play hardball, expect prison officers to be targeted next (if not already) as part of their escalation. Next it will be the judges who put them in prison. The goal of this protest is to dehumanise the prison officers (screws) like they have done with police, then create a “crisis” in which to escalate the violence.
    If they make allegations of abuse often enough, some people will believe them (even without impartial evidence), then when a PO is murdered, it will appear to some people as legitimate retribution.
    The same happened with the police, who before 3-4 years ago were not targeting the dissidents anymore, as they were seen as a spent force. The dissidents create a few alerts, target a few police, then the police start stopping and searching known dissidents, searching their homes,… voila: the dissidents have created a “crisis” in which they are being harassed and targeted because of their political beliefs,… indeed this is what they wanted all along, a “causus belli” to legitimise their armed violence against police officers.
    It reminds me of comments attributed to Hitler, “if the Jews did not exist, we would have had to invent them”.

  • Mick Fealty

    Apology accepted. It is important to understand that we are all circumscribed in what we can say, not by politics, but by the law itself.

    You cannot safely presume that if you have got away with it elsewhere that it won’t catch up with your sooner or later.

    Things that are said on the web tend to stay on the web in one form or another.

  • Brian MacAodh

    (It reminds me of comments attributed to Hitler, “if the Jews did not exist, we would have had to invent them”.)

    Considering there has been more books on him than any other human who ever walked and not one researcher has ever come across that quote, I think it’s safe to say it was made up. Besides, it just doesn’t make sense…he didn’t exaggerate the threat of Jewry because in his mind it was all true.

    Regardless, i see your point. This crisis is manufactored and 99.9% of people could care less. If you don’t want to be locked up in a cell for 23 hours, don’t try to plant carbombs or kill police officers when they are investigating car thefts

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well theres the irony of watching the sister of a “dissident” calling the PSNI when she has a little fender bender in the car park of a shopping centre.
    I suppose the prospect of compo for “whiplash” trumps any principle about these “collaborators”.
    We are adept at guaging the mood of taxi drivers, co workers, neighbours etc before we commit ourselves to expressing an opinion (initially coded) on the dissident republicans and lets face it nobody gives a tinkers curse about them.