Statement from Republican POWs, Maghaberry jail


March 23, 2011

We the Republican POWs currently incarcerated in Maghaberry jail, Co Antrim would like to update the general public on our struggle for political status. From the Stormont Agreement in 1998, we have endured conditions such as 23-hour and sometimes 24-hour lockup, physical assaults, degrading strip searches and the denial of our basic human rights.

We have made attempts to tackle those problems using dialogue. We quickly discovered that the Brits had no interest in dealing with our concerns. This left us with only one option: protest.

For almost five months we endured even worse than before, which resulted in a dirty protest. Eventually with the support of our friends, family and comrades our voice was heard and an agreement was reached. This agreement on August 12, 2010 included the abolition of controlled movement through a phased basis; the induction of free association and the end of strip-searching: ie

Phase 1: No random strip-searching will take place on the way to domestic and legal visits and video link from SSU;
Phase 2: No rub-down searching internally within the Republican wing;
Phase 3: The prison will introduce a new search facility for Republican prisoners which will remove the requirement for routine strip-searching, all Republican prisoners are required to go through a ‘BOSS’ chair.

Phase 1 was to be introduced straight away with phase 2 to follow in December 2010 and finally phase 3 was to be complete in early 2011.

So far we have seen a relaxation of controlled movement with only six men allowed out on the landing at any given time instead of the previous number of three. Free association has been established with Republican prisoners allowed out from 8.30am – 8.00pm in the yard.

However this is not enough. We are now three months past the due date for Phase 2 and upcoming for Phase 3 and still no movement for an end to controlled movement or strip-searching.

Strip-searching is still ongoing with the practice of forced strip-searching and physical assaults on Republican prisoners. We have raised these matters with the facilitation group on a number of occasions over several months, our patience has run out over these matters. The BOSS chair is in place which removes the requirement for degrading strip-searching, but still the screws are forcibly strip-searching Republican POWs.

We decided to refuse to comply with these degrading strip searches any more. We will not stand by and let the screws renege on the agreement, we want this agreement introduced in full or we will be forced to take further action.

Thirty years ago this year our comrades in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh resisted such criminalisation which resulted in the deaths of ten young brave men. Many others suffered unspeakable horror in their fight for political status. We ask the public, our comrades and supporters to remember them and ensure that this will not happen again.

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