Justice Minister is ‘cross’ community when it comes to republican prisoners

A SF delegation recently visited Magheraberry to investigate complaints from Republican Prisoners which have resulted in growing protests on the streets.

SF MLA Raymond McCartney reported a very positive engagement:

“A range of issues were raised by the prisoners. They included complaints about a number of punitive actions such as the use of strip searching as harassment of both prisoners and their visitors and a range of other conditions-related issues that were very familiar to the former prisoners on the delegation,” said Mr McCartney.

“It was clear that with the right political will that all of these issues could be resolved. The delegation discussed all of this with the ten prisoners we met and assured them their concerns would be conveyed to the prison administration, the Prison service and to the Justice Minister,”

“The delegation also met with Liam Hannaway whose health has become a matter of concern. Liam outlined his concerns, all of which centred on prison conditions and procedures. It was the firm belief of the delegation that all of these issues could be satisfactorily dealt with by the governor,”

The delegation had requested to meet with Harry Fitzsimmons, a prisoner being held in isolation, but this did not happen due to a misunderstanding.

Hannaway remains on hunger strike, I assume this is what SF mean by ‘health has become a matter of concern’.

They continued:

“After our 3 hour meeting with the prisoners, the delegation met with the governor again to outline their concerns and suggestions. In the coming period Sinn Fein will meet with the director general of the prison service, with representatives of the prison administration as well as the Minister for Justice, David Ford, regarding our deep concerns about the current situation for prisoners and their families in Maghaberry,”

However a few days later Justice Minister David Ford visited the same prison

Today’s visit allowed me to see first-hand the work taking place at Maghaberry and to discuss with Prison Service staff the challenges of providing for a complex mix of prisoners. Our prisons are in need of reform but much good work is taking place already.

He made no effort to visit prisoners. And as noted on the Pensive Quill:

According to one source the British official was escorted along the republican wing by around 20 screws. The wing had been cleaned in advance of his visit and he was invited to inspect an empty and undamaged cell where he was most unlikely to hear any complaints. Republican prisoners banging on the door – in the time honoured fashion of the blanket men anytime a British official ventured onto their wings – were ignored as the Minister for Justice strutted with the unjust. He left the prison without speaking to those who have complained most about it, conversing only with those against whom the complaints have been made.

As Ford was on his way into the jail accompanied by a number of officials and a sizeable PSNI presence, the father of a republican prisoner was on his way out having just visited his son. Jim McAllister noticed David Ford entering the prison by a different door. If Ford noticed Jim McAllister he made no attempt to speak with him; as indifferent to prisoners’ families as he was to the prisoners it would seem.

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  • joeCanuck

    We had a debate here a couple of weeks ago about the prisoners’ protests and the danger inherent in listening to only one side of the story. We still haven’t actually heard one from side but Ford seems happy to only hear one side. Foolish man; where do you find someone with the courage of a Mo Mowlam?

  • Cynic

    They are locked up for a reason you know. What do you expect? tea and crumpets with the Minister perhaps?

  • Danny

    If they’re innocent then let them out, otherwise they can shut the hell up. You’re in there for a reason, get over yourselves. Go to Bagram then see if you’re still complaining over your lukewarm tea and your toast without the crust cut off for you.

  • Mark McGregor

    Love this idea, so ‘British’ prisons are compared to Bagram [sic] not best practice?

  • al

    Is David Ford supposed to know Jim McAllister? Also were Republican prisoners really interested in talking to a ‘servant of her majesty’? Doubt it.

  • I’m confused, are the Shinners acting as go betweens for the men of violence once more?

  • TheHorse

    The point is there is increasing worry by an multiplying section of the public about the conditions a targeted group of prisoners are being subjected to that are not imposed on other prisoners in Maghaberry Prison. David Ford played to the gallery, acted out a worn out tactic of giving the impression of concern but completly disregarding and ignoring the source of the concern. That gallery being the Unionist population

  • hodgie

    preach inclusivity and dialogue for 40 years from the wilderness before finally getting a taste of power then face your first crisis which requires dialogue to settle.

    ford took to power like a duck to water.

  • joeCanuck

    I know that these people have been convicted and will deservedly have to do their sentences. Probably have to be subject to surveillance too when they get released, which will be proper.
    But they need to be treated with respect and dignity like any prisoner as long as they also respect their jailers. Incarceration is penalty enough. There doesn’t seem to be a lot to do to bring the protests to an end, especially the unwanted segregation of the hunger striker, Hannaway.

  • jim

    look joe.you know fxxk all ,most of these people are on remand,,,interned in other words . think u should get in touch with the birmingham6 r gerry conlon.

  • joeCanuck

    Jim,
    I know well the cases of wrongful conviction, deliberate stitch up in some cases.
    If, as you say, these are remand prisoners, then it is totally unacceptable in my mind that they should be subjected to the conditions complained about. Remand prisoners should have much less restrictions than convicted people. My remarks were about those I believed to have been convicted. I admit that the case on both sides has not been well reported.

  • Granni Trixie

    Joe: I have nothing against MO infact I feel compassion but she did behave strangely at times.Now that we know about the ticking time bomb of her tumor it clarifies all that. Many would contest her approach esp. as regards going into debate with loyalist prisoners was the best idea.

    We ought to give due attendion to issues bubbling up from the jails (a) learning lessons from the past
    (b) because we ought to be fair to prisoners like anyone However we do not want to give in to blackmail either – so ther are tensions.

  • Clanky

    I think David Ford got it right here.

    Let SF speak to the prisoners and hear their side of the story, Ford listen to the prison officers and hear their side and then the 2 get together afterwards along with the prison authorities and come up with a solution to the whole mess. Tea and buns with the prisoners would not have helped, apart from the fact that if they were busy banging on the doors of their cells as he walked down the wing, how likely would they have been to enter into a constructive debate with him.

  • Can’t remember

    Granni Trixie tasting the power now. Running down Mo Mowlam ever so nicely tut tut.David Fords stance will bolster Naomi Long in East Belfast.Well done to the now powerful Alliance. Joe stick with it your attitude is the right one.

  • Can’t remember

    I think David Ford showed true grit the he allowed himself to be escorted in there.Or was it true brit.

  • Granni Trixie

    When MO visited NI before she was SOS and when she was I always liked her but found her strange, a view bolstered when I read her own account of times in NI in the book she wrote. So my view of her has nothing whatsoever to do with the context of some Alliance successes.

  • jim

    in boot hill

  • jim

    sure werent SF in are they not servants of her majesty

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Any breaches of the law by prison officals should be queitly and efficently investigated regardless of (not because of ) the desperate attempy by disser prisoners and their propagandists to garner support for a futile campaign of violence rejected by all the people of Ireland in 1998.

    If there is a hunger strike by the dissers or offshoots of the dissers or offshoots of offshoots of the dissers whether or not it is actually caused by the behaviour of the dissers themselves threatening each other – as in the case of the current one – one horrible reality will be brought home to those supporitng those who give their life for their cause – it will have virtually no political traction with those on the outside. People will think it is sad and unnecessary but that will be it and the message that the dissers received when they stood for election and were humiliated will simply be horribly reinforced.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Jim McAllister might be a household name in his own household and a regular on republican (sic) websites but the last time I say him (Quays Shopping Centre in Newry since youse are curious) i hardly recognised him myself.
    Sinn Féin meeting prisoners delegations is obviously a big coup for the prisoners but frankly SF would be better not to give them any credibility.

  • Guevaras Ghost

    Seems that people never seem to learn from past mistakes….if this protest continues it will, like in the past gather momentum and support in nationalist districts , then bang a hunger striker dies and its back to square one.