News Letter

Loyalists Form Alliance Over Jail Conditions

By Alan Erwin
Tuesday 1st June 2004

RIVAL loyalist paramilitary representatives have forged a new alliance over conditions inside a high-security Northern Ireland jail, it emerged last night.

Groups working for UDA and UVF men held in segregated blocks at Maghaberry, near Lisburn, Co Antrim, joined forces in a bid to put pressure on the authorities.

Non-violent tactics which could involve legal action, mass road blocks and other protests are believed to be under consideration.

Sources insisted the UDAlinked Prisoners Aid Networking Group meeting with the UVF-aligned Post Conflict Prisoners Support Group was extremely significant.

The talks at an undisclosed location in west Belfast centred on loyalist anger at excessive strip searches they allege inmates separated under a £7 million security programme at Maghaberry are enduring.

The Government agreed to put loyalists and republicans in different cell blocks amid safety fears as both sides protested for change.

But a joint statement issued last night said: "The Prisoners Aid Networking Group for Northern Ireland and the Post Conflict Prisoners Support Group, who represent loyalist prisoners on the separated conditions, met yesterday to discuss the worsening conditions inside Maghaberry Prison.

"Both groups agreed to embark on a joint peaceful strategy to highlight and achieve a humane regime based on equality."

Prison authorities have stressed that body searches conducted inside the jail are a necessary part of maintaining security.

But the loyalists claim they are not getting a fair deal.

"Strip searches and the conditions that separated prisoners are experiencing are inhumane, it's wrong and a breech of both human rights and equality legislation," a loyalist source said.

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