Statement from Republican Prisoners Roe 4 Maghaberry 17/11/15
For the past week, subsequent to the release of the HMIP/CJINI report which critically condemned Maghaberry Prison, much has been said by politicians and commentators in and out of the media. Central to this has been those involved in the running of the prison attempting to sanitise and gloss over a highly damning report through claims such as “It was a snapshot of a particular time”. It must foremost be noted, that just as there are certain aspects of the report that have been significantly false and misleading, the lack of proportionate critique from ‘Nationalism’ i.e. Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Catholic Church is equally noteworthy. This absence is somewhat surprising given that all three groups have had representatives inside the Jail on countless occasions; all of whom experienced the serious issues raised in the latest critical report.
Brendan McGuigan of the CJINI, although cautiously critical of the regime endured by prisoners has, nonetheless acquiesced in giving a ‘soft landing’ to Sue McAllister and David Ford. Whereas in reference to Republican Roe House, he ludicrously claims resources used there detrimentally affect the rest of the prison to cater for their “unrestricted regime”. However, the regime to which he refers is a regime which is more restrictive than that on any landing in Maghaberry and even more restrictive than that the high security unit at Belmarsh Prison; a point specifically referenced in Anne Owers’ Prison Review Team (PRT) report in 2011. Indeed, this very theme has been repeatedly highlighted in his own reports. This unjustifiable regime has been imposed on Republican Prisoners by a politically motivated and security led jail administration. It is this administration which has diverted resources to bolster their own nefarious agenda to maintain a facade of practicability. As regards the controlled movement policy; a large proportion of the extra capital this absorbs does not improve the lives of Republican Prisoners, it goes straight into the pockets of POA jail staff through ‘overtime’. Brendan McGuigan has once again failed to fundamentally address this core issue.
It is by no accident that after a couple of disastrous media interviews by David Ford upon the reports immediate release and a disappearing act by Sue McAllister, that both those people came out later in the day and alternately, in a choreographed manner, began to drop his name and title as someone who would give both of them political cover. Brendan McGuigan, although fully aware of this, remained circumspect but refused to criticise either. When Republican Prisoners met with Brendan McGuigan and Nick Hardwick jointly during their inspection it was clear that he not only lacked interest in Republican Prisoner conditions but that he was not comfortable with Nick Hardwick speaking to Republican Prisoners alone. Within three or four minutes of their meeting, Brendan McGuigan stated that “we need to go” and abruptly left the Republican landings, taking Nick Hardwick with him. It is blatantly obvious to Republican Prisoners and others, that had it not been for the presence of Nick Hardwick and his team, the report would have been a lot less damning; a matter that became more obvious when watching Brendan McGuigan looking every part the politically appointed civil servant he is when giving cover to his masters, by design or via admission, during later interviews without Nick Hardwick by his side.
Republican Prisoners have also noted with some curiosity, the recent statements of the new number one governor, Phil Wragg, regarding a new regime for Republican Prisoners. These statements come against the backdrop of increasing restrictions and vindictiveness within the jail, including the mistreatment of families while visiting, by jail staff. An example of such petty vindictiveness was recently observed with the denial of music to a Republican Prisoner during his wedding in the prison chapel by security governor, Brian Armour. Undoubtedly Wragg, the Englishman, fancies himself as a maestro on prison security; having dealt with Muslim prisoners in Belmarsh high security unit. It seems he believes that he will apply his previous experience against Republican Prisoners. However, Republican Prisoners take this opportunity to remind him that the resistance of Irish Men in British captivity is a centuries old tradition and English men with delusions of grandeur and misguided notions of breaking the back of Political Prisoners should look to that as a guide. Our position remains unchanged: Republican Prisoners are a threat to no one and we will not be found wanting when it comes to assisting and establishing a conflict free environment.
17th November 2015