Tonight the Pensive Quill carries a statement from republican prisoners in Maghaberry who have recently embarked upon a protest.
Over one year has passed since republican prisoners commenced a protest to end strip searching and controlled movement in Maghaberry. The protest ended on the 12th August 2010 after a facilitated agreement was reached between prisoners and gaol admin/NIO which was supposed to have ended strip searching and “phased out” controlled movement within the landings of republican prisoners. As with previous agreements between republican prisoners and the British, the British immediately began to claw back on their position and in the case of this agreement even introduced new and more degrading measures. As a group of non-conforming republican prisoners, we fought against these measures and have worked tirelessly to have the 12th August agreement implemented. To achieve change we have to resist. To challenge such a regime comes at a cost.
Since the signing of the August agreement over 60 forced strip searches has taken place and the phased ending of controlled movement hasn’t materialised. By this stage, May 2011, we should have unfettered access to our two landings with cell doors remaining open all day. Instead, ten screws have to be in place before movement begins, with a maximum of six out on landings at any one time. A “forum” involving prisoner representatives and gaol admin was put in place as part of the agreement to sort areas of contention, meeting on a monthly basis, but as non-conforming prisoners, we refuse to take part in this “talking shop” whilst forced strip searching and controlled movement remain in place. Other areas that need to be addressed are too numerous to go into detail but one example is that when a republican is arrested, he can expect to spend up to 28 days in an interrogation centre, then if charged, he’s brought to Maghaberry where he can expect to be held on landings with loyalists and drug dealers for weeks (in some cases months) before being transferred to the republican landings. This is only one of many disgraceful issues that have been allowed to continue unchallenged for too long. We will not stand idly by as comrades suffer.
In recent months, we have released two separate documents relating to the agreement of August 2010 and conditions within Maghaberry. In both documents we called publicly for unity between all prisoners, stating that we believed unity was our
strength and would benefit us all if we moved forward collectively. We asked the other groups of prisoners and anyone outside with influence and aligned to them to help to achieve this unity.
Unfortunately several months have passed and we have received no response from either. We are conscious of the fact that a significant number of POWs who agreed with our analysis and actions required to obtain our objectives were fully supportive of us but withheld that support. We now believe that most of those now have the confidence to vocally show that support and indeed join us in our struggle. We openly and genuinely welcome those comrades and any others who share our view regarding gaol struggle.
Our objective is to establish a republican wing with republican principles at its core. As republicans we will do whatever it takes to achieve this. This will necessitate the ending of strip searching and controlled movement per the agreement of August 2010. We cannot and will not allow or facilitate any attempt to criminalise republican prisoners any longer. We ask families, comrades and republicans at home and abroad for renewed support as we enter protest action to secure our rights as republicans. Strip searching remains! Controlled movement remains! Our determination to end them also remains!
Protest action has commenced at 10pm, Friday 6th May 2011.
Kevin Barry Nolan
John Paul Wootton