On November 21st 2012, Republican Prisoners of Roe 4 announced an end to our dirty protest in opposition to forced strip searching and controlled movement within Maghaberry Gaol. We launched a “unilateral initiative” designed to provide the space required to find an acceptable resolution to the issues affecting Republican Prisoners and in doing so created an opportunity for the prison administration to introduce the necessary measures required to fully implement the August 2010 agreement. We stated that our initiative was genuine and should be viewed as a sincere attempt to create the conditions in which a conflict free environment can flourish whereby all are treated with respect, and dignity is guaranteed. We believe that we have been upstanding in our efforts as Republicans to maintain this. However, over the course of the last 4 months it has become increasingly evident that those in power inside and outside this prison are intent on bringing this process to its knees. Obvious and deliberate attempts to impose their own agendas and destabilise potential progress are constant. We called for a “dialectical process of engagement” aimed at resolving all existing issues but have instead been met with an apparent refusal to work together towards a mutually acceptable conclusion. Any communication that has taken place has proven to be under graded and without substance. The Gaol administration’s lack of willingness to engage with this process in a way that is genuine and effective only further poisons the atmosphere and re-creates the conflict fuelled environment that existed in the past. This is a situation that no-one wishes to re-establish but it should be made clear that Republican Prisoners will remain unflinching in our efforts to create acceptable and humane living conditions within this prison compound.
In the period since the announcement of our initiative, there has been no effort by the administration to move forward in terms of creating normality and aiding a solution to the issues that exist. In response to the call for the ending of the degrading and brutal forced strip-searches of Republican POWs we have been met with silence and subterfuge. Those in power have embarked on a time wasting exercise in the guise of applying for a licence and trialling of an x-ray machine. This is both unnecessary and absolutely unacceptable – a fact that has been explicitly and consistently made clear to everyone involved, including all political parties, NIPS, facilitators and David Ford’s representatives in the assessment team. Talk of trialling or bringing in X-ray machines is not necessary or acceptable. There already exists technology acceptable and sufficient that, in conjunction with acceptable searching techniques already in place absolutely caters for the security needs of the prison. The facilitators and David Ford’s own assessment team pointed to this as a solution. We believe that this is still the basis for a solution.
Daily life on the Republican wing is constantly overshadowed by problems cultivated as a result of the regime that is currently imposed, a regime that is not in line with that envisaged in the August 2010 Agreement. The culture of controlled movement is a problem that has been recognised by many independent reports into prison conditions, including the Anne Owers report which stated that the regime on the Republican separated unit is “unnecessarily restrictive”. Recommendations were made through the prisoners’ ombudsman office and accepted by the Gaol administration; however changes have never materialised, an all too common occurrence. Republican POWs believe that the structure of any social institution should be devoid totally of violence or force but each day we are faced with the DST (riot squad) operating as landing staff (on Roe 4 only), a group of bullies who are grounded on tactics which are moulded through force and brutality, a trait demonstrated on many occasions in attempts to dehumanise and demoralise Republican POWs; as they enforce their draconian measures upon us at the behest of their faceless, unaccountable superiors.
Recent reports and investigations into the everyday running of Maghaberry have confirmed that securocratic elements, including a built in mechanism, designed by and incorporating MI5 is in operation throughout the compound; creating blockages and stumbling blocks for change and progress. The most recent example was when four Republican Prisoners were dragged from their cells/beds by DST (riot squad) and forcibly transferred to another cell on a different landing. After stating that they were not resisting the prisoners were forced to the floor, where up to 8 members of the DST (riot squad) imposed “secure” arm locks and unnecessarily aggressive techniques to fulfill their barbaric orders. These actions prove to be in stark contrast to those envisaged by the Republican POWs when we embarked on our recent initiative and the deliberate re-current practice of non-engagement in regards to these issues is nothing less than a signpost to the failed procedures of the past. These “officers” work as a militia on behalf of the British State, their very existence on this wing is an instrument of brute-force intimidation……designed to break the spirit of the Republican Prisoners, a spirit that cannot be broken.
We stand in the face of all that is thrust upon us, we remain committed to the process of change; we will do whatever is necessary to move forward and we will constantly assess our position and alter out tactics/strategies if necessary. It is our belief that the August 2010 Agreement is the basis for the change that is required. However the prison administration must now move in a more progressive direction.
Republican POWs are realistic and we are conscious of the growing numbers at Maghaberry as a result of internment by remand currently in practice across the occupied 6 counties. The Republican wing is full at present and there are no available cells. Republican POWs who have been isolated for periods of up to two years and who continue to be incarcerated on the CSU landing; on dirty protest and in lock down for 23 hours per day must be transferred to Roe House. The days of innuendo and false promises are over. We will not stand idly by while Republicans enter this prison and are forced to live in the cauldron of hate and hostility currently imposed upon them. Prison chiefs now need to act. They need to step up to the plate and deal with these important unavoidable issues head on and create the space required to allow all Republican POWs to avail of the separated facilities we are entitled to.
Republican Prisoners, Roe 4, Maghaberry