“A response to your open letter to Pat Ramsey” 18/12/14
To those in Roe House,
It was with interest, indeed some regret that I read your open letter dated December 15, 2014.
This is due to the fact that I, as you concede, have been working for some time to end the on-going atmosphere of conflict in Maghaberry.
Perhaps in the first instance you will allow me to welcome your recognition of my efforts to date. Allow me also to welcome the fact that the letter clearly states: “There has never been any threat, veiled or otherwise, levelled against the SET or its staff by Republican prisoners.”
It is my belief that violence is never justified. I would hope that any threat of violence, implied or overt, against whomever, should be lifted immediately. This would allow for a more speedy resolution of the conflict both inside and outside the walls of Maghaberry.
In your letter you stated that a campaign to erode your rights and return us to serious conflict is being fronted by the DUP. If you may forgive my honesty, it was within the walls of Maghaberry that I heard several most serious sentiments, indeed the most serious of sentiments, regarding a return to conflict. Therefore I would ask, indeed I have asked and will continue to ask, that all those with influence, urge all involved to move toward considered, measured and peaceful resolutions.
The letter makes reference to a “regurgitation of disinformation” by myself in the Stormont debate on Prison Service Staff Safety of November 25. At no point did I state that SET staff were under threat, I simply stated that such threats, no matter who they are levelled at are “unjustifiable.” Further to that I added “what happened to David Black was entirely unjustified.” This is not a comment I will or can withdraw.
I would ask you to accept that any staff working within the current prison regime could not help but feel the prevailing tensions. Maghaberry staff travel to work each day thinking of the fate meted out to David Black, therefore, as their representatives confirmed to me, all staff feel under the same implied threat.
I will say again: violence, or the threat of, will achieve nothing. Indeed I believe it does your cause a great harm. The large number of prematurely filled graves across this island stands as testimony to that.
During the discussion I did state: “There is a window of opportunity here, and the challenges will be up to those republican elements in the prison now to come up to the mark. My understanding, and the understanding of independent assessors, is that they are behind the principles of the fine points that the independent assessors have made. That is ensuring that the prison is freer: free from violence, free from fear and free from intimidation.”
Therefore the relevant question is, what actions have been taken since the November 25 debate to move toward such a situation? This is the aspect of the debate we should focus and refocus on. It is also worth noting that the SDLP were the only party who introduced the Stocktake Report into the debate.
Further, the issue of the health care within the Northern Irish Prison System, is a matter I have addressed with the prison governor, the wider prison authorities and the Justice Minister, David Forde directly.
Your criticism of the healthcare provided in those instances outlined in your letter, are certainly matters I have taken on board. No one has worked harder or more tirelessly than I to address the failings in the care given to those you mentioned. I do not do this for political gain, I do so only because I believe it to be right and humane.
It is something that I will continue to do without ever, as you accuse in your letter, resorting to “peddling myths, half-truths and propaganda.” Finally I would like to stress that I will always be happy to discuss issues as they arise, be they inside or outside of the prison walls. Laurence McClenaghan (on behalf of Pat Ramsey).
The IRPWA offers our sincere apologizes to Pat Ramsey for not publishing this response sooner. We can confirm that the response reached our inbox on the 18/12/14, after having been forwarded to us from one of our members.