Ulster Herald

Maghaberry jail conditions compare to Guantanamo Bay

A NEW prisoners welfare group has likened the conditions endured by four Strabane men imprisoned at Maghaberry jail to that of those incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay.

One of the group, a former female Republican prisoner in the jail, Diane McGlinchey - released six weeks ago - said conditions compare to that of the US led jail, with the security likened to Fort Knox.

Just five months after segregation at the jail was introduced, where £19 million was spent on two wings - one for Loyalists, another for Republicans- prisoners are again protesting that their basic human rights are being denied.
Diane, a member of the newly formed Strabane branch of the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association, said there are only the most basic of facilities on the wings.

'The money has been spent on security, there are cameras everywhere and panic buttons. If there is any type of incident and that includes verbal, the panic button is hit and the wing is sealed down. It's like Guatanamo Bay.

Republican prisoners, she said, are subjected to 23 and a half hour lock up. When they are allowed out they can either shower or exercise, but not both.
'Prisoners have had to endure almost total lockdown, lack of recreation, lack of education, little or no association and constant, aggressive and demanding strip searches. One prisoner was stopped and strip searched 13 times in one day.
'Prisoner's mail is constantly delayed for weeks at a time and the incidences of harassment of visitors are increasing to levels not seen since segregation was conceded.'

Diane claims that the Northern Ireland Prison Service is treating basic facilities as privileges, using them as a stick to make Republicans fall into line. She further claims that the prison authority is attempting to reverse the recommendations of its Compact for Segregated Prisoners, drawn up by NIPS.

She said the group is in no doubt that the prison authority is trying to create a crisis in the segregated blocks to justify its initial opposition to it.

'It is an extremely dangerous road for them to travel,' she warned.
'These men are determined to resist this degradation as are republicans on the outside. We would call on NIPS, the POA and the NIO to see sense before these minor matters become too major to resolve.'

Lorna Devine, has two brothers currently in Maghaberry. Charges against John Brady have been dropped but, because he was on licence at the time, he remains in prison.

His brother Ben is accused of having documents likely to be of use to terrorists.
She said: 'In the last few weeks, Republicans prisoners have refused to take visits because a dog has been present at the visit and the prisoners are not prepared to take closed visits.

'If a visitor or prisoner makes a complaint about the dog, then the visit is stopped or the riot squad is called in.

'If I am visiting one of my brothers I am not allowed to speak to my other brother who could be just feet away at another table.
'If I do, I am told to move on or the visit is called off.

'The prisoners are not looking for a situation like that of the Kesh (Long Kesh prison), they are just looking for their basic human rights.'

Meanwhile, Diane adds: 'The morale among the prisoners is high and they remain defiant but it is shocking that we have returned to a situation where the men have been not washing and shaving in protest to have basic human rights afforded to them.'

Other Strabane prisoners on the wing include Eugene McNulty and Sean Diver, charged in relation to the explosives find at a flat in Lisnafin earlier this year.

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