I have received another email from Maureen re the issue of Maghaberry and Marian. She brought it back to the tanaiste here is her email.

Mary; I have below the latest reply on a Parliamentary Question I put in about human rights conditions of prisoners in Maghaberry and Hydepark. Best wishes, Maureen.

102. Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps he and his Department have taken, and are taking, in addressing the human rights conditions of prisoners in Maghaberry Prison, County Antrim, including the human rights of the prisoner who has been moved to Hydebank Prison. [25423/12]

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: The issue of prisons within Northern Ireland is a devolved matter related to the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Prison Service. Arising from the Hillsborough Agreement of February 2010, Dame Ann Owers and the prison review team undertook a review of the prison system. In October 2011 their report made 40 recommendations on prison reform in Northern Ireland. The Minister for Justice, Mr. David Ford, MLA, has underlined his commitment to full implementation of the recommendations and has described the prison reform process as “unstoppable”. I had an opportunity to discuss the reform process with him at our most recent meeting on 20 April.
Implementation of the Owers report remains the most effective way to ensure that prison conditions in Northern Ireland meet the required standard. The Government will continue to raise concerns regarding the circumstances of conditions of detention of Irish citizens as appropriate.
Concerns have been raised about the circumstances of this prisoner’s detention, both in this House and directly with me by human rights organisations. The prisoner’s defence team maintain that as she was granted a royal prerogative of mercy, the terms of the licence do not apply. I discussed this issue with Secretary of State Paterson on 27 April. I have been advised that the parole commissioners considered the terms of the royal prerogative of mercy after receiving submissions on behalf of the prisoner and the Secretary of State and had ruled that “the life sentences were not in fact remitted by the royal prerogative of mercy” and that the prisoner “remains subject to the life licence”. I understand that the case is currently under review.
Concerns surrounding the prisoner’s health led to the prisoner being moved to the medical wing of Hydebank Prison where I have been informed that medical and prison administration staff are making every effort to make the prisoner comfortable. I have been advised that a medical expert has requested an assessment visit and I have asked to be informed on the outcome of that visit. In the meantime my officials are in regular contact with the authorities in Northern Ireland, human rights NGOs and others close to this case.

Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan: The Tánaiste’s answer might have been acceptable except for the fact that these issues have been ongoing for some time.

They have been kicked to touch or from one person to another for far too long. In the meantime, the human rights issues have worsened, with solitary confinement, the denial of medical treatment, inadequate medical treatment and regular full body searches although scanners are supposed to be used. Elected representatives, human rights organisations and the Pat Finucane Centre have not received responses to their inquiries from the authorities in the North. Human rights regulations are being disregarded.
In January in response to a question I asked, the Minister for Justice and Equality stated the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade had been involved in negotiations the previous summer. This has been going on for almost a year and in the meantime the conditions for some of the prisoners have deteriorated. What other action can be taken? Action is required instead of phrases such as “we will continue to monitor it” and “we are in close consultation” before one of the prisoners dies.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: As I stated, responsibility for prisons in Northern Ireland has been devolved to the Department of Justice under the remit of the Minister, Mr. Ford, MLA. Among the issues which arise is reform of the prison service in Northern Ireland. The Minister categorically stated to us he is implementing the recommendation of the Owers report and the process is unstoppable. We have raised the issues of human rights and the conditions of the prisoners in Maghaberry Prison, in particular the prisoner moved to Highbank Prison, with the Minister and the Secretary of State, Mr Paterson, MP. I have asked departmental officials to monitor the situation very closely and keep in touch with the Northern Ireland Office and the Department of Justice there and we will continue to do so.

Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan: The denial of medical treatment and the way in which medication has been withheld from one of the male prisoners are very serious issues. I am also aware of issues regarding the health of Marian Price. When is a royal prerogative not a royal prerogative? Is it when it suits the authorities in the North and in England? Mr. Owen Paterson, MP, has not been elected by anyone in the North and is not accountable to the electorate in the North, but he seems to be able to disregard human rights legislation and legal issues. We speak about human rights at meetings of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade and we take up the cases of prisoners in Bahrain, Iran and China. Yet, this is happening up the road and is an urgent matter because one of the prisoners will die.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Responsibility for prisons has been devolved to the Northern Ireland Administration under the aegis of the Department of Justice. With regard to the royal prerogative, three sentences were handed down to Marian Price; she was sentenced to two life sentences and one sentence of 20 years. My information is that the royal prerogative applied to the 20 year sentence and the life sentences were covered by a life licence which may be withdrawn, which is what happened in this case. I share the Deputy’s immediate concern about Ms Price’s medical condition and health and about the conditions under which she and other prisoners are detained. I wish to make clear we have raised these issues with the Northern Ireland Department of Justice and the Secretary of State and we will continue to do so at political and official level.


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