Statement from Roe 4 Republican Prisoners 8/3/15
Prisoner Ombudsman and Prison Oversight Bodies are Paper Tigers.
From its inception in 2005, Republican Political Prisoners in Roe House have been zealously engaging the office of the Prisoner Ombudsman in an effort to resolve serious issues of concern. We have found that the Prisoner Ombudsman is at times weak and is used by the Jail administration as a façade of accountability. We have regularly used its complaints systems, as well as multiple meetings with former Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe and the current Prisoner Ombudsman Tom McGonigle, with a view to resolving all on-going issues. In the last quarter alone, the complaints which we have registered number in the hundreds.
During the recent attack on a Republican prisoner by the Jail’s Riot Squad and the subsequent lock-down, the ombudsman was being kept up to speed (during and after the events) via phone calls. He was also made aware that medical treatments, along with legal and social visits, were being withheld. Despite this, it took several days for him to arrive at the Jail and in spite of having viewed video and physical evidence of the events confirming the account of Republican prisoners; he has yet to contradict the blatant lies issued by David Ford and Sue McAllister. For the Prisoner Ombudsman to cite Prison Rule 79 (part VIII) or Terms of Reference for Complaints as a means to avoid its responsibility can only be seen as submitting to these bodies, and cannot be viewed as having any degree of impartiality or independence.
Pauline McCabe released a report, nearing the end of her tenure, in May 2013, in which she made a number of recommendations. The Jail administration largely ignored the substantive recommendations within her detailed report. After further multiple complaints, and meetings with ourselves relating to this, Tom McGonigle compiled and released his report, recommending the Stocktake in June 2014, in order to re-engage the implementation process of, and remove ambiguity from, the August 2010 Agreement.
What as come of the recommendations and of the reports? In short, the Jail administration had dismissed the views and intent of those substantive recommendations regarding Republican Roe House; ignored the recommendations which do not suits its agenda; and twisted others to give the impression of fairness. Prevarication and unaccountability are the order of the day.
Security Governor Brian Armour stated, when confronted with the Ombudsman’s recommendation on controlled movement, that the Prisoner Ombudsman “was not qualified” to make that recommendation. Further recommendations have been repeatedly ignored or rejected by the Jail, including recently, those related to 35 complaints regarding persistent sleep deprivation, and continuous ‘alarm tests’, by night guards. This aggravating issue has been challenged ad nauseam during both Pauline McCabe and Tom McGonigle’s time in office, whilst the Jail persists with its sleep deprivation policy, and other methods of psychological torture unabated.
During meetings with Tom McGonigle he has, like so many others, largely agreed with our analysis; he even went so far as to state: “…there is political interference by the DUP”, and that, “…the situation is political”. David Ford, and a spokeswoman for the Ombudsman’s office, further declared that there are Staff working within the gaol that are directly answering to the NIO and the Secretary of State (Irish News 17-02-15) and not to the Jail Administration. Contextually, these are euphemisms for MI5. Neither could answer as to whether they had oversight of such staff. Such recognition of MI5 interference should certainly have led to the Ombudsman’s office issuing a public statement of outrage, yet Tom McGonigle seems indifferent. As a consequence, Republican prisoners in Roe House are being persecuted by faceless ‘staff’. The presence of these unaccountable NIO/MI5 personnel, and their malign influence, has been ignored by the Ombudsman’s office for far too long.
The conduct, and lack of grit, shown by Tom McGonigle and others involved in the complaints, assessment and facilitation process within the Jail, will only serve to embolden those who are determined to provoke conflict. The prolongation of instability within the Jail is the only definite result of evasive and political responses from bodies who are supposed to be independent and averse to political interference.
Republican Political Prisoners
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