POW Torture in Maghaberry

Today the Pensive Quill carries a letter from Maghaberry Prisoner Damien Mc Laughlin

POW Torture in Maghaberry
Emotive, upsetting & graphic
Early February, 2011

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 to 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

Write to Damien:

Damien McLaughlin
Roe House 3+4, Upper Ballinderry Road
Lisburn, Co. Antrim
North of Ireland
BT 28 2PT


  1. The prison service is the only job in the world where you start at the bottom and work your way down.

  2. I,m 54 years of age and still I,m reading of the torture of Republican POW,s.
    Feel quite sick after reading that.....sick and very angry.

  3. Damian,
    This is absolutely despicable but then you know that already.
    I remember getting a beating by police in Town Hall Street, they wanted to have me strip searched because we were caught exchanging letters in the dock. Thankfully it never came to that, I did get charged with assault though, not that I cared.
    There is something incredibly low about a person who can abuse a person's vulnerablity.

  4. Imagine making your living doing that to people? Bunch of sick thugs. I've read about what happened to dozens of prison guards there in the late 70's during the blanket protest. Can't help but wonder if it'll happen again.

  5. It's one of the very few jobs where the uniform is not sold in the toy section of Christmas catalogues. No wean ever wants to grow up to be one.

  6. in this day and age there is absolutely no reason for strip searching. With the technology available there has to be a better way. The only reason I can think its still in use is to degrade and humiliate.

  7. Is there a Prison Chaplaincy in place that these guys can have access to?

  8. Ryan,
    Strip searching is a vile and degrading practice, it was virtually unheard of in the early 70's, although there were a few incidents.
    It goes hand and hand with the policy of criminalisation which became part of the British strategy to smash the IRA in 76.
    It was rife in Armagh and the H Blocks during the 80s.
    Thankfully, although I was imprisoned twice I never had to endure anything like that.
    I was spared it that day in Town Hall St because they thought I had swallowed the letters.
    I think it must be the most humiliating and degrading thing that one being can inflict on another.

  9. a graphic account of a brutal degrading procedure for which there is no justification whatsoever.

    The settlement last year saw the introduction of an x-ray chair and other scanners which are being used in Roe House presently. What need is there for an old fashioned full body search with these new technologies available?

    The answer is obvious, it is used to degrade and humiliate, as well as, to impose the will of the system on individual prisoners.

  10. Alec,

    it is just a rerun of the old mirror search during the blanket. It served no function other than to degrade.

  11. Seán Mór

    In those two lines you highlight all we need to know about this job. Forced strip searching, a despicable practice carried out by despicable people.

    If prisoners refuse to be strip searched, there are other ways 'a civilised society' could use to deal with this issue.

  12. Seán Mór,

    ‘It's one of the very few jobs where the uniform is not sold in the toy section of Christmas catalogues. No wean ever wants to grow up to be one.’

    I repeated this comment to a friend yesterday while out walking the dogs. He found it hilarious and so true.