Struggle for Political Recognition Will Continue

Tonight The Pensive Quill carries an update on the situation in Maghaberry by former blanketman, Alec McCrory

Struggle for Political Recognition Will Continue

The current situation in Magabherry requires urgent attention if further trouble is to be avoided. This is no idle threat, quite the opposite; it is a statement of fact based on the clear refusal of the prison administration not to honour their commitments under the terms of last year’s settlement. The independent facilitators, the prisoners and their families, all understood that routine strip searching would be ended in favour of a more humane procedure based upon the use of new technologies.

Electronic scanning devices, similar to those used in Portloaise, were accepted as alternatives to the age old practice of full body strip searching. The agreement states:

NIPS will introduce a new search facility and revised search policy for separated prisoners. The new facility will be located within the Bush and Roe complex and subject to CCTV and audio coverage. It will incorporate a combination of the latest technologies which will remove the requirement for routine full-body searching of separated prisoners within the prison.

It is now clear the above is subject to conflicting interpretations leading to a breakdown in relations between the prisoners and the prison authorities. However, it is the strong contention of all the prisoners that there is no misunderstanding on this central issue. As far as they are concerned the agreement delivers an end to routine strip searching except in two cases:
  • a) where a scanning device identifies something of an illegal nature on or secreted within a prisoner and:
  • b) a search which is intelligence lead.
Even in both these cases the agreement states that a full body strip search must be “carried out in a manner which is both sensitive and dignified.” Republican prisoners agreed to both exceptions to facilitate agreement. During a number of conversations with the facilitators we sought clarification on this and, on each occasion, they said they concur with the prisoners' view on the matter.

Maghaberry is now at a critical juncture. Six months have passed since the agreement was reached with little or no progress being made on the core issues of strip searching and controlled movement. Sadly, for reasons that are not entirely clear, the “prisoner’s collective” which successfully negotiated the settlement has dissolved into cliques to the detriment of all.

The NIPS response to this has been to seize the opportunity to slow down the process of change to a snail’s pace, thus creating even greater discord amongst the prisoners. Like any predator, the system stalks its prey, ready to strike at the first sign of weakness. Clearly, the system is attempting to hollow out the agreement believing the prisoners have neither the strength nor the will to do anything about it. History shows that political prisoners, however few in number, should not be underestimated.

In the case of the six non-conforming prisoners their resolve and determination to see the agreement implemented in full is undoubted. They steadfastly refuse to accept a degrading strip search which they insist contravenes last August's agreement. Nor will they submit to a humiliating oral inspection, night checks, or any other procedures designed to undermine their integrity and self respect. As political prisoners they will not cooperate with a regime that attempts to rob them of their dignity. Therefore, the struggle for political recognition will continue until its successful conclusion.

Alex McCrory is a former Blanketman


  1. Alec,

    good piece. These issues are as ever causes of concern. There is simply not enough of this information in the public domain. Even worse, maybe there is and the public don't care. Experience - always a great teacher - has taught us that the screws given half a chance will hammer prisoners into the ground.

  2. Bullies will always be bullies especially when there is noone to keep them in check ,the majority of people who don a screws uniform are that type of person, throw in a big mix of bigot and a blind eye and the result is degrading and inhuman treatment of prisioners,I am afraid that unless this sorted out sooner rather than later, then the only option left to the comrades of those prisioners on the outside,is to start hitting back, and then its here we go again, sound familiar.

  3. Marty,

    few things anger me more than screws beating prisoners. Many screws are natural bullies. They even bully each other. One of the bleakest outcomes of the jail experience is that so many prisoners aped the screws and are now bullies themselves in the outside world. But the one useful purpose served by prisons is that they keep screws off the streets.

  4. LOL Anthony to true a cara mind you I can think of a few places where those bastions of decency and rehabilitation could be better used what about cleaning out the sewers it would make them feel right at home with the rats.

  5. I was sent this the other day and thought it appropriate to share it with everyone.

    The Derrry Sovereignty Movement posted and would like it distaributed as widely as possible.

    Derry 32CSM and have given permission to have it published.

    POW torture in Maghaberry –Letter from D.D Mc Laughlin-Emotive, upsetting &graphic Hello everyone. I’m just back from the court. I was twice subjected to forced strip searches today. That was my tenth forced strip in the last twelve weeks . I’m also out t...o court next Tuesday so that will be another two. Today I was brought to the reception where the search team were waiting and forced into a 3ft x 3ft cubicle by two of them where I refused to strip. They laughed at me and said “He’s ready for it!” I was then brought to a holding cell and kept in there for about 50 minutes with a governor coming in twice to tell me their so called prison rules. (He could talk all day, I wasn’t for stripping and won’t be at any stage while I’m incarcerated in this place) All the while outside the cell the riot squad are getting ready. Suddenly the Cell door bursts open and in they come in full riot gear, Helmets, shields, body protection, the works. They ram the shield into my face, 2 of them grab my arms, another grabs my head, I’m forced to the ground - Arms forced up my back, 2 knees forced into my head to hold it down , 2 knees in the back of my legs… Then another one of them starts to force off my shoes, socks and trousers off. I’m then moved into a forced position so that my boxers are ripped down and my frontal private parts can be seen by them. I’m then forced back into a position where my boxers are completely forced off me and a hand held metal detector is ran over my backside. At this stage, it’s hard to breathe with their gloves covering my face and mouth. I’m still being held by four of them on the floor, my private parts exposed… Naked! Lying there! They then grab my boxers and jeans and force them up, hurting me .. leaving my private parts still exposed – They then move me into another awkward position to take my t shirt off… I think my arms are about to break in two ! It’s agony at this stage.. My wrists are just numb... Being twisted the whole time this is going on.. My shirt is now off.. I’m lying now with both my arms are forced up my back towards the roof while the riot squad run out of the cell.. My arms just drop to the floor.. I try my best to get onto my feet using my elbows , trousers hanging off me, boxers still below my private parts.. I’m aching all over ! I try to get dressed as the riot squad stand smirking at me. I just stare back at them. I think of the other things they have done to me in the past.. Forced strips, cut my clothes off, broke my nose, stood on me, forced me into squat positions, forced my mouth open by trying to break my wrist… I could go on! Well, that’s me on the way to court! As soon as I get to Laganside ( where I’m already an hour late because of the forced strip ) I’m brought straight to the court, cuffed, and haven’t seen my solicitor.. Adjourned again ! That’s me down now to a 6ft x 6ft cell to wait for a few hours.Then I’m brought back to the gaol where I go through the whole strip search ordeal again. Sitting in my cell now – My wrists, knees, ankles, neck, back, head, shoulders are aching.. One image going through my head is the faces of my friends who were waiting patiently for me to come back.. Colly, Harry, Brendy, Gerard, Kevin … It’s hard to explain the look on their faces but I can tell you that it’s one of the worst feelings in gaol seeing one of your friends coming back from a forced strip search, seeing them in pain ! I would take all of their forced strip searches rather than see them in this agony.. pain .. and I know they would do the same for me. That’s friendship that won’t be broken ! Well, slan for now, another Republican forcibly strip searched. D.D McLaughlin, POW, Maghaberry gaol

  6. Alec,
    It was only a matter of time before this issue raised its very ugly head again.
    Sadly, what is taking place inside the prison is the direct result of the negative ambience deliberately created by politicans and many former prisoners, now determined that no-one will deviate from the status quo.
    The criminalisation policy has been allowed to bed in. People have been conditioned into believing the propaganda, that those who are now imprisoned are deviant and should be treated as such.
    Over a hundred years of prison struggle and we are back to this, what a legacy!

  7. I showed this post Helen to a few ex pows and one said that the bastards should be nutted, well its an understandable opinion, but personally if the powers to be are going to allow such degrading and inhuman treatment be meted out to republican prisioners, then rather than bite the dogs tail imo those who own the dog should be held accountable, treating people in such a disgracefull manner does not deter those inclined to use force,if anything it makes them more determined,and increases support among the nationalist population,which is the complete opposite effect of these disgusting actions ,

  8. Very good article, Alex.

    What depressed me the most were the words;

    'Sadly, for reasons that are not entirely clear, the “prisoner’s collective” which successfully negotiated the settlement has dissolved into cliques to the detriment of all.'

    It seems there are forces at work sowing division in the gaol and outside.

    The main focus of Republicans must centre on not allwoing these divisions to occur.

  9. Helen,
    This story is similiar to a lot of stories which I have been reading through recently.
    Thirty ago women were experiencing this lewd and degrading treatment in Armagh prison, as were the men in the H Blocks.
    Father Raymond Murray the prison Chaplin wrote at the time,
    'This degrading practice offends the dignity of the human person, which is enshrined in all international codes of human rights.'
    I'm sure Father Murray would reiterate those same sentiments in relation to the prisoners in Maghaberry, why then are our local 'mainstream republican' politicans and activitists not reiterating the same thing?

  10. If I may deviate away from this thread just to let all know;
    Rosemary Nelson murdered 15th March 1999
    Rachel Corrie murdered 16th march 2003.
    On 13th March 2011 at 7pm at the Atrium, Conway mill Belfast.
    We will remember Rosemary and Rachel and women who have fought for justice through the years.
    Speakers;Bernadette Mc Aliskey-Tom Dale,

  11. Wonder how a certain Ass Gov from the Malone road,would like to be force stripped,and made to make his way,to his second home in the glens of Antrim. Willie

  12. Does anybody have a copy of a statement which came out from Maghaberry last week claiming to be from the other prisoners? It might be useful to have it too in the interests of balance and debate.

  13. Jim,

    Been trying to post the document up, but appears to be too long. It can be found here though:

    How much of this information is getting out to the general public? How many column inches are devoted to it in the Andytout or The Irish News? The prison conditions would most likely be an embarrassment to SF (especially now with all these new found votes in the south) and given that they are actively encouraging people to inform and thus lead to imprisonment of these republicans it'd be an issue they are actively contributing to.

  14. I think Jim is referring to a statement which appeared on the IR.NET forum recently. I trust he is not suggesting my contribution is unbalanced.

  15. Thanks, MartyDownUnder, but that's not the statement I am looking for; the rest of the republican prisoners in Roe House, Maghaberry, issued a statement and I can't get my hands on it. It gave another perspective, a very different one, on the issue of what is happening in there.
    When I find, and somebody must have an address for it or a copy, it I'll stick it up.

  16. Alec, no, I am making no such suggestion as your post is completely in line with the ststement issued by 6 prisoners and the letter or letters issued by individuals of those 6.
    There are about 24 other prisoners, though, and I think it is important that we know what they are saying too.

  17. Jim, I've found the statement didn't realize there has sadly been a split within the prison. Fail to understand what good can come of it as they've a hard enough time getting the message out and dealing with the prison regime. Again the statement is too long to post here and rather than break it up it can be found by searching for
    Maghaberry Republican Prisoners collective statement 22/2/11

  18. The political prisoners should never lose faith or heart in the Irish people. I remember the early days of The Blanket, with only ten to twenty people showing up at protests and meetings, and mostly they were our relatives. It takes time to gather people as one. And as for the screws, I have always advocated that there is only one way of dealing with such vermin, and it's certainly not verbal.

  19. MartyDownUnder,
    Thank you, and I have found it too. I only allude to it to show that there are problems within Roe that are far from as simple as 'non conforming' or , by implication 'conforming'.

  20. The notice I posted here was sent to me by someone who wanted me to know what Gerry McGeough may be facing now that he is in Maghaberry? No prisoner, regardless of the offense or political association, should be treated in this manner.

    As we all know, the republican wing of the prison is riddled with British operatives whose job is to cause dissent among the republican prisoners and it looks like they are succeeding. Something else I find troubling is that some organizations, supporting the ipows, add fuel to the fire with their “selective support.” In my opinion, support of ipows should be all inclusive regardless of political association. I also feel that there is no excuse for all this in-fighting among the ipows and they need to stand united with each other. If they don’t they are only playing into the hands of the Brits and psf. The wake up call here should be the fact that Adams won in the south and life moves on regardless of what is happening in or out of prison in the north. The GFA has turned into a very sad state of affairs and all this in-fighting (in and out of prison) will not help to move the cause forward. Adams and company have all secured their positions in life and they are leaving all of the good people in their wake.

    I do not wish to appear rude, but until all these republican groups/organizations come to the reality that they ALL need one another and need to work together in order to achieve their common goal of a reunited Ireland; they are all just 'pissing in the wind'. Sorry.

  21. FYI: Gerry McGeough will be sentenced on March 18th.

  22. Helen,

    'As we all know, the republican wing of the prison is riddled with British operatives whose job is to cause dissent among the republican prisoners and it looks like they are succeeding.'

    What does this mean? I presume the operatives you refer to are prisoners? If so it is a very strong statement likely to provoke strong opposition.

    When you say 'as we all know' it is the first I knew of it.

  23. Helen,
    Lack of unity amongst Republicans certainly adds to the theory that there is no serious viable or comprehensive alternative to Sinn Fein.
    I'm not sure I quite grasp what is going on in the prison.
    I'm also not sure about the British operatives theory?
    I just know these republican prisoners are very deserving of our support and it would be very helpful if we could be told how to go channel our condemnation and support.

  24. Helen

    Would you explain wht you mean by the following, As we all know, the republican wing of the prison is riddled with British operatives."?

    If you're referring to the prisoners then what do you base this scurrilous remark on?

  25. Anthony, Alex, Fionnuala:

    If that is how my post came across about the prisoners, I apologize. That was not my intention.

    All I can say is this is what I have been told by a few very reliable sources. I can't prove it, but I do trust the people who told me that.

    My concern is, if there have been informers and plants throughout the history of the republican movement, than why not in prisons too? I am not accusing anyone and I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone either.

    I'm just concerned that if there is to be a 'viable' alternative to PSF" going forward, as Fionnuala pointed out, than how will that be achieved with all the in-fighting that goes on not only there but here in the USA as well?

  26. Helen

    apology accepted, however, you should be careful who you listen to and where you repeat such unfounded stories.

  27. Helen,
    I never thought you intended any offence.
    However, we all need to be very cautious especially in relation to the prisoners.
    Maybe taken some of my own advice about caution, considering i'm only out of the 'sin bin' yet again.

  28. Alec and Fionnuala: