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’.
“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.