Dirty protest endangers prison staff…

There is genuine fear in government circles that another ‘dirty protest’ involving dissident republicans in Maghaberry Prison could lead to attacks on prison officers and prison staff.

Twenty seven inmates in Roe House wrecked their cells in the past weeks as they continue to demand more freedom of movement and an end to strip searching.

Prisoners are searched before and after visits and sometimes randomly at the week-end. Only three prisoners in Roe House are allowed to congregate on a landing at a time over seen by five prison officers.

The fact that more than half a dozen  prison officers have been identified as possible targets is giving rise to genuine worries regarding the intentions of breakaway republicans. Such a development could escalate events inside and out of the gaol.

According to insiders many dissident republicans are refusing to shave or cut their hair.

Justice Minister David Ford obliquely recalled the historical background of IRA protesting and the ultimate hunger strike and deaths in the Assembly on Tuesday when was asked about what is going on in Maghaberry prison.

It is also said that urine is regularly  poured  out from under the doors of prisoners’ cells. Back channels are being deployed to try and halt any escalation of the prison protest.

Gerry Adams is in a channel communicating with the dissident republicans.

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  • joeCanuck

    This needs to be nipped in the bud asap before public sympathy starts leaching to the prisoners.
    The regime does appear to be punitive (I say this only in the apparent total lack of information coming from the authorities).
    Someone said on another thread that the restrictions are also applied to remand prisoners. If true, that is really intolerable for people deemed to be innocent until convicted.

  • paul magowan

    I had the misfortune of being placed on remand in a Scottish prison for a number of weeks. I was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing.

    I was stripped naked after every visit and had to piss in a pot if I needed to go during the night, keeping it in the cell with my two cell mates (and their pisspots) until the next morning.

    Sometimes one of them would crap on a newspaper in the middle of the cell floor then throw it out the window for the paedophiles to clean up the next day.

    Our cell was searched fairly regularly and the PO’s would steal our fags for the fun of it.

    None of this made me feel the need to start a dirty protest.

    Fuck the dissident prisoners.

  • al

    Unless there is reason to beleive that prisoners are communicating information of use to terrorists then the restrictions should be lefted however the potential risk to prison guards and the police from outside members of these Republican groups is too great at present.

    Prisoners on remand should be housed alsewhere and the problem is solved.

    These restrictions have been implemented for a reason not just to piss off republicans as some seem to think.

  • Years ago, as part of a training course, I was shown around Wormwood Scrubs Prison in London. There are three things that still stand out in my mind:

    The apparent peace and ‘friendliness’ of the Lifers wing, smiles all round, ‘homely’ touches to the cells…

    The look and sound of the keys, lots of them, held on chains. Almost a phallic symbol of sorts. Or so I thought…

    And the barely suppressed aggression of the Remand wing. People held in prison, even though innocent until proven guilty. In some cases it’s obviously necessary, but it’s volatile and even someone walking through the block could feel it.

    Republicans have every right to demand prisoners rights, but the ‘dirty protest’ no longer impresses anyone, and harming a prison officer would alienate far more than it would impress.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    “There is genuine fear in government circles ”

    Are we talking Stormo or Norn Iron Office here?

    ..in the context of strip searching and all that it entails not sure the terminology below is appropriate

    ” Back channels are being deployed to try and halt any escalation of the prison protest”

  • I’ve seen the inside of the Long Kesh/Maze prison complex (fortunately it was after it had closed). A prison is a prison. It is hard to imagine that you could not be taken over by that feeling of confinement as you are brought, under guard, through the endless gates and airlocks. Even if you are religious, the church in Long Kesh has crossed built into the heavily barred windows. The exercise yards are designed so that soft landscaping (trees, hills etc on the horizon) is obscured. You only see the sky or the hard edges of the drab modern architecture of the prison buildings.
    If David Ford wants to look at the lessons of the republican protest over political status, he should look at the longer term view of what happened. The post-hunger strike changes to the regime in the prisons facilitated extensive education programmes among the prisoners. Political republicanism didn’t emerge from the cages of Long Kesh in the early 1970s, it came from the educated prisoners who emerged in the 1980s and 1990s who underwrote SFs political strategy rather than returning to facilitate the IRA’s military campaign. Arguably, the debates about future republican strategy that could be held in the prison could never have occured in the outside world.
    Blinkered treatment of the prisoners in Maghaberry, particularly remand prisoners, will feed into the cycle of violence, not end it. Past experience has shown that even the quasi-political status begrudingly and belatedly accorded by previous prison regimes turned out to be beneficial. Admittedly that was purely by accident rather than by design. In this case, it could happen by design. What will it cost? Well, it probably won’t cost the lives of prisoners, prison officers or anyone else, so that should make it the obvious choice.

  • Glencoppagagh

    ‘it came from the educated prisoners who emerged in the 1980s and 1990s who underwrote SFs political strategy rather than returning to facilitate the IRA’s military campaign’

    But will freshly educated dissidents not expect state-funded sinecures like their provisional predecessors?

  • coconnor

    Take a look at the Norwegian approach to prisons.

    http://www.metafilter.com/92287/Norways-modern-prisons

  • Fact is the prisoners in Roe House are political prisoners who subscribe to the 1916 Proclamation. As such, they should be given the same conditions as political prisoners in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh had from the 1981 hunger-strikes….

    In spite of, the current political process and the claims and myths which surround it. The men in Maghaberry are being treated harshly, as are their families on visits etc.

    The prison Administration, NIO and Stormont Politicans know only too well that the ongoing protest inside has the huge potential to spill out onto the streets.

  • Oracle

    John O’Neill

    “Political republicanism didn’t emerge from the cages of Long Kesh in the early 1970s, it came from the educated prisoners who emerged in the 1980s and 1990s”

    Did you throw this one out there for a laugh John, either you just did a couple of lines of Coke or you’re half way through a forty ouncer of Bush.

    The individuals who are chiefly if not completely the architects of the political republicanism adopted and followed by Sinn Fein are:

    John Hume – Never served jail time
    Fr Alec Reid – Never served jail time
    Mitchell McLoughlin – Never served jail time
    Albert Reynolds – Never served jail time
    Richard McAuley – Not in jail during 80s or 90s
    Gerry Adams – Did a few months in the early 70s
    Martin McGuinness – Did a few months in the early 70s
    Tom Hartley – Did a few months in the Crum
    Jim Gibney – Did a year and a half in the early 70s
    Ted Howell – Not in jail during 80s and 90s

    Really does make your propagandist assertion about the political driving force coming from the “educated prisoners of the 80s and 90s” look extremely naïve or a sinister spin.. which one is it John?

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    1916 proclamation lol — only 94 years old then. Newsflash AR the world has moved on and that includes Ireland north and south, who overwhelmingly support the GFA.

    These people are in prison for a reason — we’re not talking thieving from Tesco here — if you deliberately set out to murder people you can’t expect tea and sympathy when you’re inevitably caught.
    As Paul Magowan graphically illustrated in his 12.31am above, prison isn’t fun nor is it meant to be.

    Would these men really be treated any differently if they were doing time in England, Scotland or Dublin?

    People have moved on — the world doesn’t give a rat’s ass about armed republicanism or indeed NI at all any more — sympathy isn’t going to be forthcoming. Best thing for this lot to do is take the blinkers off, serve their time and do something useful with their lives.

  • oracle

    No answer John

  • jim

    educated…………………………they learnt how to know the sasauge rolls were to small

  • With respect chara, the GFA failed when the St. Andrew’s and Hillsborough Agreements were implemented in its place..but sure don’t let the truth get in the way eh?

    Regards the 1916 Proclamation it’s a timeless and extremely progressive idealogical document which aimed and continues to aim towards an Ireland which every citizen can accept!

    As for the lads in Maghaberry, I recall the same type of politically immature comments made during the 1970’s about political prisoners in the H-Block’s of Long Kesh. And as we all know, Volunteer. Bobby Sands became an MP and the rest is history!

    The only person with blinkers on is U Gerry Lvs Castro!

  • None of this made me feel the need to start a dirty protest.

    Fuck the dissident prisoners.

    Paul,

    I suppose some people are prepared to suck shit and put up with living in intolerable conditions others are not.

    It is not why these men are imprison which is under debate, but how they are being treated and the consequences of that for the rest of us who live in the UK and Ireland.

    If some wish to entomb these men in a 19th Century cell like O’Donovan Rossa experienced, or make their lives so intolerable the see no choice but to emulate Bobby Sands, then they are going the right way about it. Although it might be more useful to pause; and ask how that helps anyone.

    In my judgement such punitive behaviour by the State will simply act as a recruiting sergeant for the organisations these men belong to. Which in turn will mean more young men and women wasting the best years of their lives in jail or worse, let alone the suffering of their victims.

    What the prisoners are asking for is nothing new or extra, there is no five demands so far, which would make compromise difficult for both sides to row back to. Surly it is better to act now before the situation in the jail reaches that stage.

    What is required is a reinstatement of the humane conditions which were implemented in the Maze following the tragic hunger strikes of 1981, where human rights and entitlements are safeguarded.

    Pipakin mentioned going on a lifers wing in England, the reason the tension was less there than on other wings is because more humane conditions were in place. In this day and age it is impossible to control long term prisoners with ‘hard time,’ the more so if they are young men or women who believe they are political prisoners. If you attempt to they will rebel, the history of the long war screams that back at us..

    One would have hoped the British government and the prison service would have learnt something from the catastrophic eruptions in the Maze prison in the late 1970s and early 80s. After years of rebellion and violence both in and outside the prison, an unofficial agreement was reached which resulted in the prison finding a manageable degree of equilibrium, in which officers did their jobs in a civilised way, bar the odd exceptions and the republican [and loyalist] prisoners made the best of their predicament.

    By the way, there is no soft time, just hard time and time.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    AR — if the GFA ‘failed’, how come the overwhelming majority of the electorate (the exception being TUV supporters) voted for it’s continued implementation a few weeks ago? If you’re really so confident in the GFA’s ‘failure’, then why not encourage candidates to stand against it rather than trying to excuse a murder campaign?

    ‘Bobby Sands became an MP and the rest is history!’

    Errr yes it is — Sands died entirely needlessly and the provo campaign continued entirely pointlessly, subsequently resulting in decommisioning, SF signing up to partition and settling down in a UK assembly.

    And that was the dismal result for a provo campaign which in terms of efficiency, numbers and public support was well ahead of today’s ‘dissidents’. So how exactly is a ‘new’ armed campaign going to improve on that?

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Mick would you say that the prison conditions in Dublin would be in any way better than Maghaberry? And if so why?

  • G Lvs C..if the GFA didn’t fail then why the need 4 the SAA & HA?? While I respect the recent poll result, it was a British not an Irish election and within the context of a partitioned state!

    Could U point out 2 me, where exactly I excused ‘a murder campaign’? Was the five killings by the RUC/SAS in North Armagh in 1982 not murder?

    Volunteer. Sands died to prove to the entire world that those incarcerated because of the conflict between Ireland and Britain were political prisoners…He achieved that and more! The only pointless part of the 1980/1981 hunger-strikes was the total ignorance and bigotry displayed by the British government chara.

    Yeas, PSF did agree to the continuation of partition and partaking in a British sponsored Assembly…That’s not my issue but theirs, their the ones who have to live with that decison not me.

    Those U describe as ‘dissidents’ may well not have the larger numbers which the Provies had/have but let’s be honest here….

    ….Those who wanna pursue a ‘new armed campaign’ would probably say….its the quality of the Volunteers not the quanity??

    Although in saying that, I’m just a mere political activist who strongly believes in the above Proclamation and ensuring that it is fully realised unlike the present diluted settlement!

  • Sorry – was away all day. I was talking about the hundreds of people who came out of jail in the 1980s and 1990s and backed the peace process rather than a military campaign.

  • Sorry – that was maybe too short an answer, Oracle. My point was that, in many respects the grassroots within the republican movement looked to the people who were directly involved for guidance. They didn’t take their direction from the people you listed like sheep, a lot of them had done their sums and came to the conclusion that the direction was right. They were the people who propped up the political direction within the nationalist/republican community. I think you can argue that alright. Its not claiming them as architects of the SF political strategy, more that it had a ready-made generation of commissars.
    Either way, my point was really that if, post-1981, a continuous conflict had existed within the prisons between the prisoners and the prison regime, no-one would have got anywhere.
    It’s easy (and understandable) that a lot of people want to take a high moral stance on prisoners, on the basis that they are in prison for a reason. But that doesn’t solve problems.

  • Oracle

    Fair enough John, I don’t agree with your analysis of the process but I accept your honesty of belief and your decency to answer

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    AR the net result of the GFA and it’s offshoots is that the two sides have reached a compromise which most in NI are happy to endorse, and did so in overwhelming numbers at the last election.

    Whether you regard the election as legitimate or not is irrelevant — you have the right to disagree with partition, just as many Scots disagree with being ruled from Westminster. You do not however have the right to resort to violence just because you aren’t in agreement with the majority.

    From your reaction to my mention of a ‘murder campaign’, I’m assuming you wouldn’t condone any murderous acts by the RM? If so this is to be applauded.

    ‘Volunteer Sands’ as you refer to him was imprisoned for attempting to blow up a furniture shop. How exactly was this a political act?
    He starved himself to death entirely unneccesarily, achieving absolutely nothing other than arguably a decent electoral mandate for SF.

    ”its the quality of the Volunteers not the quanity??”

    AR this may come as a shock, but the vast majority of Irish people do not regard murder, terrorising communities or getting locked up for years as ‘quality’ — it’s stupidity, not to mention an abject failure to learn the lessons of even the most recent history.

    PIRA never came close to driving the British out, despite their best efforts. I have yet to hear anyone explain how the ‘new armed struggle’ can succeed where they failed. Care to explain?

  • I don’t know Oracle, I think that was how the republican constituency (for want of a better term) was prepared for the peace process. How much of that was by accident, how much by design is a matter for debate/personal preference/the bookies (delete as applicable).

  • Almost unbelievably I have a certain sympathy with a bit of what Mickhall says.

    I have no time for the dissidents being regarded as political prisoners and I see entirely the need for searches etc. However, conditions in the UK’s prisons are sometimes far from ideal as the frankly pretty dreadful conditions Paul Magowan mentioned illustrates. The conditions in which remand prisoners are kept do seem to be something approaching a national scandal and we must remember that some like Mr. Magowan are exonerated. That means that he, an innocent man, was incarcerated in those conditions despite being innocent: there but for the Grace of God go we all.

    I have known a number of police officers and prison officers and all have been decent people. None of them have ever suggested that prison is a particularly nice place and none of them have been enthusiastic proponents of making prison worse for the inmates. Indeed most have suggested that the deprivation of liberty is a very serious punishment and having a toilet and a TV does not make gaol a holiday camp.

    There is, however, a big but here. The republican prisoners have damaged their own toilets etc. As such they cannot expect the facilities to suddenly get better: clearly the opposite is going to happen at least in the short term. If they actively make their situation worse then they have the primary responsibility for the situation being worse.

    Finally the other but is that we have to remember that the dissident republicans are there for serious crimes. None may be there for murder but it is pretty clear that many of them would like to murder people. Society needs to be protected from these individuals for a prolonged period. If they had their way they would not be making their victims lives uncomfortable or boring: they would be ending their victims lives.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Well said Turgon.

  • Argosjohn

    I” have known a number of police officers and prison officers and all have been decent people.”

    Better known and reviled as screws. This kind of appeal – some of my best mates are Jewish but Hitler had a point – does not hold. The screws are hardened Loyalists and part of a war machine.
    It is good that the prisoners are at least getting some attention. Though it may be true they are living in the past etc and that the moment has passed them, some of them are more honourable than the Sinn Feiners listed above.

    Republicanism works on exploitation, using useful idiots. Fancy where Sinn Fein would be now if they’d hung up their CIA supplied weapons a lot earlier.

  • Bad, or unfair treatment of prisoners breeds confrontation between prisoners and prison officers, it cannot be otherwise. I do not believe for one moment the average Maghaberry prison officer gets up in the morning and thinks great, I am off to spend my day abusing republican prisoners.

    We know that is not the case because when a sensible prison regime was finally introduced in the Maze post Hunger Strikes, both republican prisoners and prison staff were able to coalesce in a civilised manner. Of course in a closed environment like a prison, human nature being what it is, there were always going to be hiccups and confrontations. But the point is with good will on both sides these were never allowed to escalate.

    Gerry

    The main reason conditions are better in the South is because prisoners welfare has never been the tinderbox it is in the North, so opinion does not become so polarised and so it is less likely to explode. Although it is fair to say at times in the past republicans have been treating appallingly in southern prisons.

    This may not be the answer you want or even be logical, but it is a fact and is why it is imperative the situation in Maghaberry is not allowed to fester and escalate.

  • jim

    o donovan/rossa didnt have a tv n a games consol in his cell.

  • Jim

    The point I was trying to raise by mentioning O’Donovan Rossa was mistreatment of republican prisoners can be an extremely emotive thing

  • any outward displays of public sympathy to that rabble should also result in getting locked up.

    And a jail being described as punitive – in other news night is rumoured to be following day.

  • Liberal Unionist

    Such is the nature of the job unfortunatly. If PO’s are under threat then the PSNI should be criticised for not using more robust methods to bring these offenders before the courts.
    There should be and cannot be any negotiations with these criminals.
    Segregating these criminals, for that is what they are, started us on this slippery slop which will end once again in prisoners having the run of the jails.
    The staff at Megahberry most shoulder a lot of the blame however as they are guilty in allowing this to take place but are symptomatic of a larger problem. That prison staff are much to touchy feely with these criminals.
    They are in prison to be punished and should be treated accoardingly.
    If they chose to starve themselves to death or cover their cells in their own filth a doubt few in decent society could care less, I for one welcome it as if successful in their fast they will cease to be a burden on the tax payer.

  • tacapall

    As in all prisons there is an unwritten understanding between prisoners and prison staff because of the sheer weight of numbers, prisoners will always out number staff. The reality is in every prison in Britain it is the prisoners not the staff who control the smooth running of prisons, so its in the best interests of everyone to facilitate conditions which suit both parties. What is happening in Maghaberry is intentional confrontation by the prison staff that they will never win, all prisons have budgets and Maghaberry is no different than any other, eventually the powers that be who are in control of the purse strings will step in and restore that unwritten understanding between prisoners and prison staff.

  • Sean O Brien

    Prisoners no matter where they are held or for what they are held are not in jail to be punished but as a punishment. Irish history…which the British never learn from…..shows that if you repress Republicans in jail they will resist….it has always been so.
    The conditions gained in the 80,s and 90,s need to be restored…not because some prison officers may be attacked ……and there is no evidence to support that contention but it makes emotive reading……but because its the right thing to do. And as we learned almost 30 years ago that despite all the protestations of the British that conditions would not change, they will. Do it now.

  • Tacapall

    Mr Hannaway has ended his hunger strike, so I think the status quo is probably being renewed…