The Price of Curtains

Is it curtains for Marian Price? Not if the DUP’s Maurice Morrow gets his way. The female republican prisoner currently held in an isolated wing in Maghaberry Prison, until her arrival a male institution, recently had her cell made over. It makes a change from it being turned over as cells often are during punitive searches. Morrow was outraged and described the move as shocking:

the extent of outlay which has gone into accommodating Marian Price is simply insulting ... What is so special about prison inmates that they must be provided with luxuries such as a flat screen TV, with Digibox and DVD player, computer, bookcase, pictures, a coffee table and numerous soft furnishings? It sounds like she is living in a hotel suite as opposed to a prison cell.

Unlike his former party leader Morrow has obviously not spent a day in jail. There are few hotels where the hotelier directs his staff to routinely strip and beat the guests.

So what was the massive expenditure that has so shocked Morrow? A pretty insubstantial amount it appears, not something that would break even the useless banks of this country.  If newspaper reports are right the grand sum of £2,257, was used to provide curtains, a TV, DVD, a duvet set, a lamp, mat and cushions, and a computer for Marian Price. Covered by the cost were a picnic table, summer seat and 18 flower plants for the jail exercise yard.

Less than two and a half thousand sterling spent on an isolated prisoner has enraged Morrow yet his party has fiddled considerably more substantial amounts as was evidenced by the expenses row not too many years back. The £30,000 claimed in expenses for food alone by his party leader and his wife between 2004 and 2008 would refurbish a prison wing never mind a cell.

Morrow, who received his information from the North’s Department of Justice after he had made a written request, was probably alerted to this supposedly terrible squandering of the public purse by some screw, unhappy that the curtains were not used to hang Price. Added to this was a sense of deprivation that the picnic table did not function as a makeshift gallows which our fiscally concerned screw would have had the pleasure of kicking away to hasten the drop.

At least Justice Minister David Ford, long the bane of an enlightened and humane regime, was not allowing the figures his department released to Morrow to be put to use adorning a troglodyte agenda.

Glen House in Maghaberry Prison has been set aside as a dedicated facility for female prisoners and has been refurbished to provide Ms McGlinchey (Price) with a regime and environment which is, as far as possible, consistent with that available to female prisoners in Ash House, Hydebank Wood. The facilities will benefit any other female separated prisoners committed to custody.

Despite the public roasting his party took for its cavalier attitude to public finances during its expenses extravaganza Morrow has protested that ‘the extent of outlay which has gone into accommodating Marian Price is simply insulting ... this overt expenditure will come as an absolute shock to the public ...’

To the public that he inhabits perhaps. On Tuesday last we had a glimpse of that unhappy lot when a party clown, the bible-thumping, boob-fearing Alderman, Alan Graham had a go at the singer Rihanna, demanding that she cover up on his land. The DUP would know quite a lot about cover ups so he must have felt on steady ground.

If there is one silver lining on this cloud it lies in Morrow’s comments that ‘basic human rights and conditions are mandatory within prisons.’ A sign that the housetraining once recommended by David Trimble for republicans has been applied with some skill to unionists?  Bless his red, white and blue socks for moving on from 1690 when things like human rights must have had a distinctly Martian ring to them. Maybe now he will insist on this logic been extended to the male section of Maghaberry Prison where ill treatment is the rule rather than the exception.

Verdict on the ‘hang and flog them’ lobby? Lindy McDowell in the Belfast Telegraph got it in one: ‘The anger seems more about the prisoner than the prison upgrade. More about Price than the price.’



  1. Is it possible that this highlighting of 'conditions' also deminishes the protest potential? All those modern cozy items deflects from the fact that the woman shouldn't be there.

    It also confuses people as to why prisoners/convicts have to complain about. Does it not?

  2. Larry

    It is easy for most people to consider something as innocuous a 'curtains' as a comfort of home as that might be their only experience with them but they play a more significant purpose in prisons; at night in prisons, cell blocks and cell windows are awash with floodlighting and spotlamps for security reasons. Being kept in a cell illuminated with 24hour hour lighting (internal or external) would amount to a breach of Article 3 ECHR. So the curtains are as much to protect the Government from being found guilty of an act of 'Torture or inhuman or degrading treatment'.

    Curtains also reduce/remove an echo from a room, --which could exagerate any existing sense of isolation and loneliness --the sense isolation and loneliness has caused people from all walks of life, young and old, to commit suicide and not just prisoners in MP's circumstances.


  3. Larry

    PS. As a female prisoner in a male prison the interior of MP's cell maybe visible from cells opposite to hers or from an excercise yeard --or simply prison officers in watch towers with binoculars.

  4. Tiarna

    Well said pointing out the not so obvious.
    I doubt what they class as luxury items would make her interment any better.
    If the brits have their way it will be "curtains" for her for a long time.

    Larry tends to see only the male point of view.

  5. Tiarna

    don't disagree with any of your points.

    Tain Bo


  6. Larry,

    I don't see how having curtains takes away from brutality, strip searching and other practices. Here is a prisoner held in prolonged solitary confinement. Improvements in the conditions are being opposed by the DUP who prefer a harsher regime for prisoners. I think what is happening to Marian is a disgraceful attempt to wreck her morale. Why don't they allow her to exercise with the republican male prisoners so that the burden of lonliness is at least lifted?

  7. Morrow should submit to a controlled test in conditions identical to Marian's for one month before making silly comments.


    Points well made vis-a-vis the expenses scandal. Marian Price is a more principled human being than all of the politicans.

  8. Alec,

    it is the sheer brass neck of Morrow. I think Lindy McDowell got it right. It is all about Marian. These people must be delighted that they can target the individual prisoner in the sure knoweldge if need be McGuinnness will shout murderer or traitor at her. Those determined to assault prisoners are being given a free run. Why did we ever listen to these people at any time in our lives?

  9. His targeting of Marian is selective indeed. Another prisoner, Gavin Coyle, is being held on the broads for months now due to an unsubstantiated threat against him from an, as yet, unnamed group. His human rights are being assualted daily and Morrow has nothing to say about it. Of course, all republican prisoners would be treated in this manner were the DUP to have its way.

  10. A.M.
    i'm not wishing to detract from the issues. just not sure that curtains are actually an issue.

    not getting into the sexism debate, should the male prisoners have them and why not already....bunkum.

    Surely there are facilities for female prisoners? Is norn iron a female crime free zone? Are you advocating mixed sex jails now?

    On a personal level i've suggested before, prison conditions sound ok to the general public and [ if i'm correct ] MP read a statement in a graveyard with a masked dissident holding the page, it's an uphill struggle to mobilise the public in her favour. Human rights suggest she should be at home, but agitating is not popular just now.

    Saw marty mi6 tonight, vincent brown produced a library contradicting his 1974 claims. To be honest the lot of the candidates looked 'stiff'. Except Dana, she just looked daft, pretending she could write. FG are nasty. The rest useless.

  11. Alec,

    is anybody highlighting the case of Gavin Coyle?

  12. Larry,

    Curtains are not the issue but the attitude towards prisoners.

    I think all prisoners have curtains, they were probably talking about changing them as part of a makeover.

    There is a jail for female prisoners but they have decided to place Marian in a male jail.
    Mixed sex jails would be fine. Can’t see why it would be bad. Seems an ancient idea to segregate men from women.

    ‘it's an uphill struggle to mobilise the public in her favour. Human rights suggest she should be at home, but agitating is not popular just now.’

    That does not mean those who want to advocate on behalf of the unfashionable issues should be prevented from doing so.

  13. No, Mackers. He has sort of been swallowed up by the other issues. But here we have a man who is being victimized by the system for very vindictive reasons. For example, they claim he is a risk despite the fact that many of the prisoners have been in touch with him via the internal mail. He is being held on the boards in a cell far removed from new committals or other prisoners. He joined the protest two months ago and is now considered a protesting prisoner. This lad has been doing hard time since his arrest.

  14. Alec,

    this is a bad situation. I will try to highlight it but much more than that will be needed.

  15. not sure my wife would want me doing a sentence among women.

    need i state the obvious?

  16. don't want to be falling out with anyone here. i'm all for prisoners rights and decency and dignity being afforded them.

    My points are trying to highlight that flat screen tv, internet access [ i assume ] computer in cell? general home comforts like single cell+toilet in it? don't add up to a DESPERATE mental health breaking environment. How do you expect people to be motivated?

    At 18 in the crum I was in a cell with two men and shit was done in newspaper by one of the dirty fuckers and tossed out the window, there was never any need. But we all 3 pissed in our pots. Dirty old filthy shit-hole the crum. Forgive me if I anger some of you, but i fail to see conditions at maghabrey energising the masses against the state.

    Screws are obviously as biggotted as ever and preying on certain prisoners. Kill a screw then... dissidents seem to have nothing else to be doing.

    As for exercise, it is MP's right to an hour per day in the yard, solo or otherwise.

    mixed sex prisoner is a pandora's box, many wives were getting too much attention from prisoners comrades 'outside' in the past, do you think men and women doing lengthy strethches in gaol would be a good thing for a 'political cause'...REALLY.

    Oh i forgot, republicans are highly moral disciplined 'made of stronger stuff' individuals..
    BIT OF THE MICHAELHELHENRY fantasy island rubbing off there mackers.
    Be careful or like michaelhenry you'll be getting tucked in at night with your cocoa and promised McGuinness will be president of a 32 county Ireland in the morning.

  17. Larry,

    Solitary is hardly conducive to sound mental health.

    Whether people care to do something about or not is another matter. If you do not, your call. If we do, our call. It seems that some of the people motivated thus far are those determined to make her condition of solitary even worse. I think they should be pushed back. You don't have to share that opinion.

    Haven't heard you angering anybody yet on this topic. Maybe it is just you who is angry.

    Nor contrary to your advice should a screw or anyone else be killed.

    'As for exercise, it is MP's right to an hour per day in the yard, solo or otherwise.'

    Oddly not one hour of it did we get all those years on the blanket. She should be allowed the company of other prisoners. It is not for you to start policing their behaviour through segregating the sexes. I am indifferent to whether it is a good thing for a political cause. It should be permitted as it is the most normal of human things. If gay can associate with gay then why not straight with straight?

    'Oh i forgot, republicans are highly moral disciplined 'made of stronger stuff' individuals.'

    If that is what you think, very few will be found agreeing with you.

  18. There are a number of issues relating to Gavin Coyle's case which I am not at liberty to discuss at the present time. A 'JR' is pending therefore I must be circumspect in my comments, however, I can draw attention to a few glaring anomalies. A number of other prisoners have been informed of an alleged threat against them by the administration, yet they have not been moved off the landing. Last year a high profile prisoner was removed to the boards due to an alleged threat but, he was returned to the house having commenced a hunger strike. As I have said already, several prisoners are in direct contact with Gavin via the internal mail and prisoner representatives have made it know to the governors that no threat exists against this man. Quite simply, he is being held in isolation contrary to his entitlements under the 'prisoner compact' on the basis of a bogus threat. In this regard, the prison system is working at the behest of more sinister forces.

  19. A.M.

    Neither anger nor dissagreement. I just post how i see the lay of the political land. Not interested any longer in taking this country or politics too serious. No amount of left wing outpourings or harping back is going to alter the fact republicanism is 'boots up' and the oirish cute hoors are more interested in refloating the banks to do it all again. Leave the delusions to michaelhenry.

    Do I agree with MP getting her rights and entitlements...YES.

    Do I think she and others were wise in their actions...NO..ASTOUNDED more like.

    Do i think people in general are even interested...NO.

    Like I suggested to Mandy Duffy a while back, if she gets her dad home keep him there if she needs to nail him to the wall, the scumbags in Stormont, or the Dail are not worth a minute of anyones time.

  20. Larry

    there is a lot in your post I would be in agreement with, particularly the answers to your self posed questions. People generally don't give a toss about prisoners, political or otherwise. This is a sad fact which makes it so much more difficult to solve the problems inside the jails. Even those who should show a keen interest i.e. ex-prisoners are totally desensitized to the issues or else they are politically hostile to the current crop of republican prisoners. Either way support for the prisoners is limited to their families and friends and not much else.

  21. Alec

    I get the feeling people just see the present batch of prisoners as hell bent on trouble. Just a major turn-off.

  22. Larry

    That is the Major problem, you and others stating that the Current Prisoners are nothing but trouble.

    We all went through the system, treated as being sub_human, Guilty without a trial, well, do you think anything has changed since the GFA?

    Its still the same old system, except, Adams and Co are in on it now. so lets get the facts correct, those inside on (Interment) through the back door, supported By Adams and Co have not had what would be deemed as a trial, now, this is were i speak my mind, I did not agree with the murder of the two unarmed soldiers being mowed down, nor did i agree with the young policeman being murdered, But, I will stick up for any prisoner who is incarcerated without a proper trial, A proper trial is with a jury, and no tampering or planting of evidence by special branch/mi5/mi6, we all know the dirty tricks they got up to, and, still do to this very day.
    All ex Prisoners should stick together and lend support to those, Still being held under the old regime, under the guise of extended remand, those who do not recognise this as "Interment" need to get the blinkers removed.