When we were enduring the rigours of the blanket protest there were few who did not know what was going on. There was not a lot to be done or in some cases not sought to be done. But society never had the comfort blanket of ignorance about what was going on behind its penal walls. It knew full well what it paid its vile screws to do: don a uniform and wilfully maltreat those who refused to wear any such thing.
Why Dolgun reminded me of the Harry Fitzsimmons situation is because in his current circumstances there seems to be him and the reader. And there is little enough to be read. The Irish News alone seems to be championing the cause of human rights for prisoners. And even then it is on the basis of limited information. Why in this modern age have television cameras not been rolling in his cell? There is an attempt being made by prison management to entomb Harry Fitzsimmons in a sound proof environment, where it alone hears and ignores him. It is chipping away, unchecked, at the advances made by prisoners in the wake of the sustained protests and hunger strikes of three decades ago.
His partner Paula outlining something of what Harry Fitzsimmons underwent stated:
Last Thursday, Harry was dragged from his cell, battered, bruised, kicked, and stamped on his chest by several screws. They danced on his chest. He was able to ring home right afterward to our 16-year old daughter. He was breathless and could barely talk or breathe. He had no doctor, and no water. Harry was dragged into SSU (isolation) where he had his clothes cut off his body. He was handcuffed and chained to a bed. We've had no word from him since.
The Prison Service, lying through it teeth as it has always done in matters of prison staff brutality, has denied that Harry Fitzsimmons or any other prisoner had been beaten. Those of us who spent time on the wrong side of the walls and either witnessed or endured so much brutality and beatings have no recollection of the Prison Service ever admitting to it.
A jail chaplain informed his family that he could provide little news other than that Harry Fitzsimmons was being singled out in the SSU for special attention. His family was then denied a visit with him. Even more alarming was a claim by his solicitor that there was nothing he could do to reach the imprisoned man. The solicitor informed Paula that prison management was denying phone calls, family or legal visits. In a bid to counter this, the solicitor moved to take out a judicial review.
Is this 2010? Can prison management with its long history of abuse be given such power over someone in its custody? What has been furthered other than political careers if after 40 years of campaigning this is happening in the ‘penal dustbin’ at the centre of policing and justice?
Lillian Fitzsimmons, a sister of the imprisoned man, flagging up the vindictive nature of the prison regime pointed out that:
Harry was in Portlaoise before being moved to Maghaberry and had no problems. It shows this has nothing to do with security. If the regime in the South works without having to resort to such serious abuses of human rights then why can’t Maghaberry be the same?
It is not the same because power resides where it always has. The power of Finchley has never diminished. It extends to the North and courses through the repressive capillaries of British state malpractice. As micro Minister for Justice, ‘Lord Charles’ Ford makes not one iota of difference. His is the voice of those at his back – Whitehall.
Meanwhile, justice, as it always has in the North’s prisons, continues to caress the faces of republican prisoners – with its boot.