The No Wash protest in the Long Kesh during the late 70s and early 80s never really created an impact outside groups already sympathetic to republican prisoners. No matter how hard families, committees and republicans tried the prison struggle did not influence broader public consciousness until well into the 2nd Hunger Strike.
So it is hardly surprising very few are aware of an ongoing no-wash protest and battle over human waste being carried out by republican prisoners in the reincarnated Long Kesh as prisoners fight a similar regime.
The prisoners are locked up 23 hours per day and have no access to canteen or education facilities. For the hour that they are allowed out of their cells they are strip searched, their movements are controlled by 3 prison officers to each prisoner, they have to shower and are allowed one 5 minute phone call home to family members. This is totally unacceptable.
As a direct consequence of this the prisoners have reacted and have been on protest for a number of months partaking in what can only be described as a “Dirty Protest” in which their bodily waste has been dumped on the floors of their cells and on the landings.
The prison authorities have responded by sealing the bottom of the cell doors with rubber strips to prevent this waste leaking onto the landings and to keep the waste in the cells with the prisoners.
This waste is now accumulating and in a number of cells is 1 to 2 inches deep on the floor. It is in these horrific conditions that the prisoners are forced to eat every meal.
In one of the first acknowledments of this ongoing situation from the Prison Service they claimed their officers have been occasionally sprayed with bodily waste (but they are admitting this protest is taking place after months of silence):
The landings of Roe House have been awash with urine and faeces for weeks now, but in recent days republicans have taken to |depositing their bodily waste |into plastic bottles and using them to squirt their faeces at officers.
In a statement, it said: “Republican separated prisoners have been pouring urine, sometimes mixed with excrement, onto the landings from their cells.
“The Prison Service is aware of a number of incidents of members of staff having this thrown at them when they opened, or walked past, a cell.
Eamonn McCann is amongst the first to recognise there could be a broader human rights issue requiring support from outside republicanism:
If the Maghaberry [sic] prisoners weren’t “dissident Republicans” there might be a louder outcry about the prison regime they are being subjected to.