Screws Beating Brian Shivers

We utterly condemn this brutal attack on a terminally ill republican prisoner and call for all those involved to be held accountable. We demand assurances from Maghaberry and David Ford that Brian will be able to attend his many future hospital appointments without fear of a repeat of the brutality inflicted upon him by the thuggish screws employed by Maghaberry - Mandy Duffy PRO, Family & Friends of Republican Prisoners Maghaberry.

Brian Shivers is to appeal the verdict delivered against him in a juryless court. That court decided that he was responsible for the deaths of two British soldiers at the British military installation of Massereene three years ago. Shivers is terminally ill and in normal circumstances it would be expected that his appeal would be hastened as a matter of urgency. But the North of Ireland has so rarely fitted the ‘normal’ category that the British state has frequently had to seek recourse in egregious strategies of normalisation. 

The Irish Law & Democracy Committee has commented that the Shivers case ‘has all the hallmarks of a miscarriage of justice and a conviction at all costs.’ The Committee arrived at this judgement prudently having read the court judgement. Although the same unease had struck many as soon as the verdict was announced. 

The Committee went on to raise what it said was a fundamental question:

why when Brian Shivers was granted bail prior to the trial, due to the conditions of confinement in Maghaberry and his existing life limiting condition, was he refused bail pending appeal as he would be living in those very same conditions that existed prior to the trial?

This last concern feeds into increased anxiety over what type of general punitive regime Brian Shivers is being subjected to. There are reports that he has been beaten during strip searching and also while on a visit to an outside hospital.

In a statement from the Family & Friends of Republican Prisoners, Maghaberry, it was stated that:

While waiting on his consultant Brian asked the screws present if he could have his consultation in private and he was told abruptly ‘No, we won’t be leaving here.’ Brian told them that there was not much point in the consultation if he couldn’t speak to his consultant in private and pointed out that there was no windows and up to nine screws guarding him. At that point, one of the screws present elbowed Brian in the face and said: ‘that’s it, you are going back to Maghaberry.’ Brian was then trailed to the ground by the same screw with such force that the other screw who was handcuffed to him was brought down as well. He was then viciously assaulted and dragged out of the hospital in full view of members of the public. Brian was in complete agony due to the brutality he received. Throughout the return journey, Brian suffered excruciating pain from a slipped disc which was aggravated by the assault.

Such reports are deeply alarming.  Anyone who has been in the custody of the Northern Ireland Prison Service knows the thuggish mentality that grips the mindset of those who staff it. Brian Shivers’ co-accused, Colin Duffy, shortly after he was acquitted spoke at some length about the ill treatment of republican prisoners in Maghaberry. In his words a strip search amounts to screws ‘beating the fuck clean out of you.’ There is no reason to doubt Duffy. Those of us who have been there and worn the boot mark can all too readily verify the type of brutality meted out. It is the same as it always was.

There were literally thousands of assaults carried out by prison staff during the blanket protest but not one of their number ever appeared in court as a result of it. Prison staff brutality from that era is a truth that will never speak its name in official documents or inquiries despite the zeal on the part of some for raking over past coals in search of something they can use for recrimination and prosecution.

Brian Shivers is a physically defenceless prisoner banished by the judiciary to Maghaberry and the tooled-up thugs that implement the regime there. What is required is a protective shield to ward off his assailants. A voluble public discourse that loudly screams ‘halt’ each time violation makes its approach will make it harder for David Ford, the British micro minister for Justice, to allow the prison attack dog pack to roam at will. Given the effective neutralisation of the erstwhile republican opposition, inserting such a shield between Brian Shivers and his attackers will be no easy task. The administration feels it has a free hand, with nothing to hold it to account. Former republican prisoners with experience of British prison regimes need to step into the breach and ensure that the anti-brutality mechanisms they so effectively put in place are extended to the prisoners of today.


  1. Screws Beating republican P.O.W's, now I am Refering to The Kesh, But now we are back to the old british ruling diplock judiciary courts and Ulster Protestant Screws and psni/R.U.C, thuggery, and they think they are men?, are they hell, beating up a defenceless Terminally ill Republican P.O.W "Brian Shivers". Were is the Auld Shinners and their followers in the Felons club Now?, call yourselves Republicans?, Nothing but a bunch of British Puppets. Get off your Pints and get outside Maghaberry to show your support for those P.O.W's incarcerated and tortured within, and, the way things are going at the moment, the rest of PSF will be looking for seats in Dail Eireann as a face saving exercise.
    Thanks for posting this Anthony, also thank you to Mandy Duffy. PRO, Family and Friends of Republican Prisoners Maghaberry.

  2. An attack on Brian Shivers was only a matter of time. That it occurred as quickly as it did, on his first visit to an outside hospital, only goes to show the uncontrollable hatred of Republicans felt by many screws. Putting themselves in the role of public avengers these bigoted individuals have enjoyed a free hand within the system for many years. Any Republican prisoner can attest to the brutality of the POA going right back to the early days. Beatings, forced baths, mirror searches, strip searches, wing shifts; every foul method has been employed to degrade, humiliate and demoralise political prisoners. To describe them as working men and trade unionists is to miss the point entirely. Screws chose the combatants role and paid a price for it. Hopefully, there will be a time in the future when those given a duty of care over prisoners will act as proper human beings.

  3. This is unacceptable. Whatever about the six counties, there is a wall of silence on the conditions in Maghaberry in the twenty six.

    Any posters I put up supporting the prisoners are removed almost immediately, whereas other posters I put up about issues that effect the south seem to survive much longer.

    I would like to know who is so keen to keep the public in the dark on the P.O.W's situation.

    Maghaberry is almost never mentioned in the southern media. After a long and hard campaign last year Brendan Lillis' plight got a few column inches in the days before his release, but I very rarely see or hear mention of Marion Price, Jerry McGeough and the rest.

  4. Itsjustmacker,

    A sorry lot in the Felons Club.


    If anybody calls that gang working men they may as well call the judiciary workers in wigs


    That’s an interesting point – a greater need down here to suppress information about Maghaberry brutality. I thought it was just the general indifference and arms length approach. Something to think about.

  5. Anthony,

    I can't say for sure so keen to maintain the silence, but I can't help thinking that there are two large political parties down here who describe themselves as republican.

    Both have a vested interest in maintaining the belief that all to good in the North since the peace process got going.

    The two government parties make no secret of their hatred of republicans.

  6. in the not too distant future we will all come to know the name Brian Shivers. Suffering from a life threatening condition, with a life expectancy of 4 to 5 years, he will become the focus of a major humantarian campaign to secure his release. His only hope is to see his appeal expedited and his conviction overturned, or else, be pardoned on medical grounds.

  7. Disgusting nothing but the same from those bigoted thugs, these boys intend to have as much fun abusing their charges before they take their golden handshakes,instead of facing the boot and charged with inhuman and degrading treatment, Raymond Mc Cartney was asked on tv last night if he thought that those men now on the dirty protest should be treated as political prisoners,he had to be asked twice before he said yes they should,now it is time he told those in charge of his party that and its time even at this late stage for qsf to throw its not inconsiderable weight into getting some justice and respect for the republican prisoners,we were at a well attended meeting in Conway Mill last light in support of Marian Price,representatives of a number of political and community organisations pledged support for the campaign to free Marian, qsf,s reps Austin and Jennifer McCann remained firmly seated,and quiet!

  8. Marty,

    I am glad Raymond didn’t dispute the status of political prisoner even if he stumbled. You could see them drop that stance once people serving times for what the Provos did are released; Gerry McGeough for example. They will feel freer then to level the ODC charge. Also, implicit in what Raymond says is that political prisoners are still with us so too is political policing.


    in the context of what you say it is instructive on how Brian Halpin was treated within SF for highlighting the Gerry McGeough case.


    I think he will need to win the appeal. These people will not release him on medical grounds. They are not going to be routed as they were on the Brendan Lillis case. They will find it much easier to stand over their decision on this one. The unionists will howl blue murder and the nationalists will be milder than lukewarm.

  9. Mackers,

    I think you have it spot on. And if they do release him it will be all of five minutes before he takes his last breath.

  10. testing 1/2....(just testing to see if i can post comments

  11. Alec,

    the politics of it will allow pressure to be mounted against any decision to release him on compassionate grounds. Apparently humanitarian intervention is about bombing Libyan civilians. The unsafe conviction is probably his best bet. And as we remember, when they are vindictive they will take it right to the end. Pol Kinsella and John Hanna were conflict prisoners that they allowed to die in the jails. At a time, too, when it was clear that the armed conflict was coming to an end

  12. Those bastards who are intent on creating as much pain and misery in the lives of republican prisoners,will no doubt receive a massive payoff then claim that their backs are severely injured by protesting republican prisoners and get dla,then when they have set up their holiday homes , guess who,s back to work doing what they do best?anyboby want to bet thats not what will happen.?

  13. I know you are right, Mackers. I fear the worst for Brian if he fails in his appeal. Of Course, we will do all in our power to build a campaign to secure his release but it will be an uphill battle due to the nature of the charges. In a proper court of law he would not hve been convicted on the available evidence, however,taking in to account the nature of the diplock system and the pressure to get a conviction, it was heavily weighted against him. The fate of Paul Kinsella is a terrible prospect for Brian.

  14. Alec,

    monitors in court. This DNA evidence is highly suspicious. Keep it in the public eye and make it as rigorous as possible. If the judiciary is to convict people then make sure the bar is very high and that it is made as difficult as possible for it to revert to form. We know the type of injustices that occur when we have a judiciary that has no ethics - Birmingham, Guildford, M62