Sean Bresnahan, chairperson of the Thomas Ashe 1916 Society Omagh, hits out at proposals to end political segregation in Maghaberry.
In response to the motion before the British Assembly at Stormont by Doug Beattie of the Ulster Unionist Party, that the current system of separating republican prisoners from criminals at Maghaberry Gaol be brought to an end, the Thomas Ashe Society Omagh call for its complete rejection.
35 years on from the H-Block Hunger strikes, it seems that Britain and her local proxies have learned nothing – including, it would seem, those who rose to power on the backs of the Hunger strikers but now uphold the same occupation system that drove them to their deaths. Their feeble effort to introduce a mere amendment, as opposed to rejecting this reactionary policy shift outright, should be noted by all progressives. It does not disguise that they are now on the side of those who seek the oppression of political prisoners in Maghaberry.
We call not only for the rejection of the hypocritical scheming of Doug Beattie – himself a former servant of Britain’s criminal war machine – but likewise for an end to the repressive policies operated at Maghaberry by a reactionary prison regime, under the direction of British Intelligence, whose intent is the torture of republicans in its custody. Strip-search, controlled movement and lockdown are waged without relent in a direct challenge to their status as political prisoners, to their right to a dignified existence in accord with that status.
Republican prisoners are – and always have been – a product of the British occupation of Ireland, which remains ongoing. With that in mind, we demand that the rights of political prisoners in Maghaberry, as elsewhere, be upheld forthwith. We consider the long-overdue implementation of the August 2010 agreement, unilaterally shelved by the prison administration, as the means to resolve conditions within the gaol, providing a suitable environment for all as previously negotiated and agreed. This should proceed without delay.
Many contend we can judge society by the manner it treats the imprisoned. But should we apply that to our own society the conclusion would be inescapable: like Maghaberry, it is unfit for purpose. Maghaberry, then, is an indictment of modern Ireland and can no longer be swept under the carpet. Human rights must be universal and apply to all. Change, systemic and without excuse, must be the order of the day.
The Thomas Ashe Society demand that same change and extend solidarity to all republican political prisoners. We call on civil society in Ireland to join us in our demands and ensure a situation for too long ignored be given the attention it merits.