- Created: Sunday, 29 May 2016 15:21
- Written by Cinaed De Canntun
The Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group based in London is a non-aligned pressure group. Over the years we have picketed the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Irish Embassy to highlight the violence and human rights abuses meted out by the Northern Irish Prison Service (NIPS) and its counterpart in the Free State.
NIPS uses segregation as a means of punishment which has led to dirty protests to demand the removal of prisoners into the Republican wing of Maghaberry. Prisoners have faced 23-hour lock down, and restrictions on food and medical care, punishments similar to those used in the 1980s. Political prisoners such as Colin Duffy have been pinned onto to the ground and forcibly had prison uniform put on them
NIPS has defaulted on the August 2010 agreement to end strip searching and controlled movement within the prison. Republican prisoners still face violent strip searches when going to court, or to meet their solicitors or families.
A number of prisoners have experienced medical neglect. For several months’ Republican prisoner Carl Reilly has been suffering with extreme back pain; he can barely walk. He has been refused medical attention by the NIPS because he refuses to be strip-searched.
There are a number of female POWs. Christine O’Connor was re-incarcerated in January 2016, having been released on an electronic tag. Following harassment by the security firm G4S, who responsible for the tagging, she asked for it to be removed and was sent back to jail. Recently we have seen Dee Fernell gaoled for reading a statement and quoting Maire Drumm at an Easter Commemoration.
Some prisoners face internment by default in the form of lengthy remand prior to trial. Dónal Ó Coisdealbha was arrested in May 2015 and is locked up in Portloaise; he will not face trial until 2018.
Finally, let me highlight the plight of the Craigavon Two - John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville - who were wrongly convicted of the killing of a policeman and have spent seven years imprisoned as the result of this miscarriage of justice.
History has shown that Irish political prisoners do not abandon their principles even when faced by imperialist violence - from Terence MacSweeney to the brave men and women who fought and died in prison in the 1970s and 1980s. Today Britain's cruel attitude towards political prisoners has not really changed.
Free all political prisoners!
Cinaed de Canntun
Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group