Issues Affecting Republican Prisoners Cannot Be Ignored 05/11/2015
The recent report concerning Maghaberry Prison fully vindicates the long held position of Republican Prisoners and IRPWA spokespersons that Maghaberry Prison and those responsible for running it need to be confined to the dustbin of history.
While the report clearly highlights the failings of the regime and rightly points the finger at its staff and those within its leadership, it falls short in calling for the heads of those ultimately responsible.
We in the IRPWA hold no such reservations. We point the finger at those at the heart of the prison service headquarters whose policies led to such a damning report. David Ford, the so called Justice Minister at Stormont, is equally responsible as are all those constitutional politicians sitting in Stormont who were fully informed of the issues yet failed to ensure that real and radical change was brought about.
Indeed, this report is a damning indictment of Britain’s policies in the Six Counties, enacted through its administrative government at Stormont. Sinn Féin and the SDLP in particular, need to stop the pretence that Stormont is working and delivering for the people in this part of occupied Ireland and accept that it is a failed entity. To persist in this charade is to give cover to Britain’s failed policies.
Where this report fails, is in its vague and limited analysis in regards to Republican Roe House. Its authors prefer to cast some sort of culpability for the crisis in Maghaberry at the door of Republican Prisoners by referring to the mere existence of the ‘separated regime’ as in some way responsible. The following quotes are taken directly from the report:
“The demands of the separated units are undermining the work of the whole prison
S48 Concern: The separated units are not managed on the same basis as the rest of the prison. They provide only a containment function but continue to consume a disproportionate amount of staff and management resources to the detriment of the majority of the population.
Prisoners in Roe House continued to submit a large number of formal complaints, which had paralysed the system.
A number of judicial reviews had originated from separated prisoners and were taking up a significant amount of management time.
Staffing levels in the units were prioritised over any other area in the prison and the regime was maintained regardless of what happened in the rest of the prison. This meant that staffing was reduced in other houses, leading to further curtailments.
Recommendation: If it is necessary to continue to manage the separated units in line with different criteria from the rest of the prison, their location, management and resources should be removed from the rest of the prison in order to prevent their significant adverse impact on the prison population as a whole.”
One can clearly see from reading the above paragraphs that no attempt was made to reveal the real issues behind why Republicans in Roe House needed or required such ‘demands’, ‘staffing’ and ‘management resources’.
- No mention of the core issues of controlled movement, strip searching and the isolation of Republican Prisoners.
- No mention of the issues at the heart of the complaints and judicial reviews initiated by Republican Prisoners.
- No mention of the failure to implement the 2010 August Agreement and a litany of recommendations from various bodies dating back years, including those of successive Prisoner Ombudsmen.
- No mention of the fact that the International Committee of the Red Cross had to be called in to Roe House following the failure to implement the Stocktake Report and who remain regular visitors to the Republican wing.
- No mention of the malign influence of MI5 and the staff and management who work directly for them as mentioned in the report by CAJ entitled: The policing you don’t see.
The issues at the heart of the conflict within Republican Roe House require resolution and cannot be ignored. Republican Prisoners have identified what those issues are and how their vision of a conflict free environment within the prison can be created. The political will needs to exist to achieve this. Sadly, this report missed the opportunity to identify those issues and seriously pressurise those into creating the necessary change.
Whatever the future may bring to Maghaberry Prison following on from this report, one can rest assured that Maghaberry will always be in the headlines until the issues identified by Republican Prisoners have been resolved and Britain desists from its current prison policies which like those it implemented in the past are doomed to failure.