Cumann na Saoirse Náisiúnta

National Irish Freedom Committee

Irish political prisoners brutalized

Sandy Boyer, co-host of Radio Free Eireann on WBAI in New York City and a veteran organizer for Irish political prisoners, reports on a group of political prisoners in Northern Ireland who are being brutally mistreated in detention.

POLITICAL PRISONERS in Northern Ireland are under a brutal and sustained attack. They are being beaten, strip-searched and held in solitary confinement. Many of the guards in Maghaberry prison where they are held are bigots who see Irish Republicans and Catholics the same way Ku Klux Klan members see African Americans.

Harry Fitzsimmons' partner has described one of the beatings:

Harry was dragged from his cell, battered, bruised, kicked and stamped on his chest by several screws [guards]. They danced on his chest...He was able to ring home right afterward to our 16-year old daughter. He was breathless and could barely talk or breathe. He had no doctor, and no water. Harry was dragged into SSU (isolation) where he had his clothes cut off his body. He was handcuffed and chained to a bed. We've had no word from him since.

The prisoners are locked in their cells 23 hours a day. There is nothing in the cell but a mattress. Prisoners are given 15 minutes to eat. Sometimes they get no meal at all.

Prisoners have gone up to 36 hours without eating. The prison administration has destroyed the plumbing in many of the cells.

The prisoners are forced to urinate and defecate into buckets. The only place to empty them is out the windows or under the cell doors. The guards often sweep the waste that is emptied under the doors back into the cells, creating a serious risk of disease and infection.

The prisoners are subjected to frequent humiliating strip searches. One man was searched 31 times in just six months. Prisoners report that they are searched on the way to family or legal visits even when they have had no contact with anyone else. They are also searched when they are being moved from one part of the prison to another, even though they are under constant video surveillance. Family members are also being strip searched when they come for a visit. When someone refuses to be searched they can be taken to a police station and searched there.

Support for the prisoners is building throughout Northern Ireland. Hundreds of people have protested outside the prison and in the streets of cities and towns. The Concerned Families and Friends of the Maghaberry Prisoners recently held a packed public meeting in Belfast to launch a campaign for the prisoners.

Gerard Hodgins, a former hunger striker, told the participants:

We, as a group, came together and pledged to hit the streets, to agitate and campaign until the prisoners in Maghaberry get a proper and humane regime. We are of all political colors and no political colors; we are equally and unanimously and maturely committed to assisting the men in Maghaberry challenge and defeat the inhuman and degrading conditions being imposed upon them.

The prisoners and their supporters are demanding an end to the beatings and strip searches, the right to associate freely within the prison and to organize their own education and recreation, and, perhaps most important, recognition as political prisoners.

The prisoners are so-called "dissident republicans" who are continuing to fight British rule in Ireland. Socialists do not need to agree with their politics or actions to support their right to decent and humane treatment.

 

June 15, 2010

 

Courtesy of

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