Ms Long told the Assembly that police were preparing for a protest at the gates of Maghaberry prison in support of inmates who have been refusing food for the past week.
A number of prisoners embarked on a hunger strike in support of Palestinian doctor, Issam Hijjawi who was arrested after attending a meeting of alleged members of the New IRA.
Dr Hijjawi (62) embarked on a hunger strike on September 16 when he was isolated for two weeks on his return from an outside hospital following an MRI scan. A number of dissident republican inmates subsequently started refusing food in support of Dr Hijjawi.
Ms Long told the assembly yesterday the prisoners’ actions were in response to the removal of an inmate for medical treatment who was placed in isolation on his return as a Covid-19 precaution.
The Justice Minister said: “We put the safety of our prisoners and prison staff at the forefront of all we do. It is hugely important that we keep Covid out of the prison.”
She also raised a protest planned for this Saturday. Ms Long said her department was liaising with the PSNI to ensure it was handled in an appropriate way.
A spokesman for the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association (IRPWA) said prisoners had embarked on their hunger-strike protest over the conditions in which Dr Hijjawi was being held. An IRPWA spokesman claimed he was being isolated for two weeks in “filthy and dilapidated conditions” in Maghaberry’s Foyle House.
“It is the prisoners and IRPWA’s belief that this could and should have been averted if the Maghaberry regime applied logic and common sense,” he said.
“The regime palmed off the families with a refusal to answer questions. The families are genuinely concerned and need answers,” he said.
A Prison Service spokesman said more than 1,000 men have come through Maghaberry’s “isolation areas” and into the main prison since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “Prisoners in separation have previously accepted the need for a 14-day isolation period.”
Supporters of the inmates intend undertaking a 24 fast outside Maghaberry before a protest on Saturday afternoon. There will also be a white line picket at the Kennedy Centre in West Belfast.
With many thanks to: The Irish News and Seamus McKinney for the original story
He earned between £390,000 and £394,999 from the licence fee, compared with around £325,000 in 2018-19.
The figure is contained in the BBC’s latest annual report, which gives pay details of its top earning stars.
Mr Nolan’s pay is for presenting the Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster, The Stephen Nolan Show on BBC Radio 5 Live and Nolan Live on BBC One Northern Ireland.
The figure released by the BBC does not include payments for other programmes he presents like Top Table, as they are made by an independent production company.
A BBC NI spokesperson said: “Stephen’s salary represents his income across many projects including his network programmes BBC Radio 5 Live, his daily BBC Radio Ulster shows and live television work.
“His published salary each year may vary, depending on when payments for work completed are actually made.”
The report also reveals that the pay of BBC Northern Ireland director Peter Johnston rose again.
He earned between £195,000 and £199,999 in 2019-20 compared to between £175,000 and £179,999 in 2018-19, which was a rise from between £150,000 to £159,999 in 2017-18.
The BBC NI spokesperson said this was the “appropriate rate for the scale and scope of the role”.
“Peter’s salary was adjusted more than a year ago after a number of pay freezes for senior management and was part of BBC-wide benchmarking to bring salaries in line with industry standards.
“Other nation’s directors are paid similar salaries. In addition to his 14-year role as director of BBC Northern Ireland, Peter is also required to lead on a number of pan-BBC initiatives and projects,” the spokesperson said.
The annual report lists 109 senior executive staff at the BBC who earn over £150,000.
Payments that BBC stars receive from independent production companies are not revealed in the annual report.
Gary Lineker was again the BBC’s best paid star, earning about £1.75m during the year – the same as 2018-19.
Mr Lineker’s pay from the BBC was mainly for presenting Match of the Day.
His fellow Match of the Day presenter, the former England striker Alan Shearer, earned between £390,000 and £394,999.
Stephen Nolan’s pay makes him one of the top 10 best paid presenters in the BBC.
Four women – Fiona Bruce, Zoe Ball, Lauren Laverne and Vanessa Feltz – also made the top 10 in 2019/20.
‘£59m spent on NI output’
The annual report estimates that the BBC earned £93m in licence fee income from Northern Ireland in 2019-20, down from £97m in 2018-19.
Of that income, £59m was spent on Northern-Ireland specific output – BBC Northern Ireland TV, BBC Radio Ulster and Foyle and BBC Northern Ireland online services.
The annual report also reveals more details about BBC programmes and services in 2019-20.
From April 2019 to March 2020 – the period covered by the annual report – over 90% of the UK population used the BBC each week.
However the BBC is facing increasing competition from subscription services, with 13m households in the UK paying for Netflix for example.
But BBC audiences for both linear TV and digital programmes remained strong.
The BBC drama Normal People, for example, was requested 55m times on BBC iPlayer from early April until the end of July.
On television, Line of Duty – most of which is filmed in Northern Ireland – attracted an audience of 13.2m people for the first episode of Series Five.
91% of adults and 81% of children use BBC radio, TV or online every week, making it by far the most-used media organisation in the UK.
However, the BBC has to make substantial savings in the years ahead.
It has to save £125m in 2020-21 with “more to come next year,” according to the chairman Sir David Clementi, the chair of the BBC.
The gender pay gap at the BBC continues to fall.
In 2019-20 the pay gap between men and women was 6.2%, down from 6.7% in 2018-19.
That has been a source of considerable controversy in recent years.
However, the BBC has fallen short of its target for women in leadership roles, as women make up 45% of senior leaders in the BBC – short of the 2020 target of 50%.
With many thanks to: BBCNI and Robbie Meredith North of Ireland Education Correspondentfor the original story
QUEEN’S University Belfast has teamed up with the University of Edinburgh to launch a public Database exploring amnesties granted during conflicts.
The study includes details of the 1997 Decommissioning Act, which allowed paramilitary groups to collect and hand over weapons used in the Troubles.
None of the weapons could be tested or evidence gathered from them to be used in prosecutions.
Amnesties have often been used during armed conflicts or as part of negotiated peace settlements.
The decommissioning amnesty states: “Individuals involved in the decommissioning process should not be prosecuted for the possession of those armaments; amnesties should be established in law in both jurisdictions.
“Armaments made available for decommissioning, whether directly or indirectly, should be exempt under law from forensic examination, and information obtained as a result of the decommissioning process should be inadmissible as evidence in courts of law in either jurisdiction”.
Professor Louise Mallinder, from the School of Law at Queen’s, and the technologies department of the University of Edinburgh worked together to create an online tool which contains data on 289 amnesties introduced by states around the world from 1990-2016.
The study looks at the context in which amnesties were introduced and how they were implemented, including whether victims had a voice in the process.
The categories of persons who benefited from the amnesty or were excluded from its terms are not included.
Prof Mallinder said: “The use of amnesties is often highly controversial, particularly where amnesties are granted to war criminals or those responsible for serious human rights violations.
“This is a live issue in many parts of the world today, with amnesties under consideration in the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Thailand, and in Afghanistan, where a peace agreement was reached between the US and the Taliban in February 2020 and direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban are due to begin.
“The political negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban demonstrate how amnesty can be a prerequisite for opening peace negotiations or reaching an agreement.
“These debates indicate that the legitimacy of amnesty may rest on multiple factors including how amnestied persons are monitored after they receive amnesty; the forms of post-amnesty conditions that can be imposed for them to retain amnesty; and whether the peace process seeks to fulfil victims’ rights.”
For further details see http://www.peaceagreements.org/amnesties.
With many thanks to: The Irish News and Allison Morris for the original story
The deal reached by political parties underpinned the restoration of the assembly in January after a three-year shut down in the wake of the ‘cash for ash’ scandal.
As part of the agreement, unionists were promised the appointment of the commissioner to promote what was termed the ‘Ulster British tradition’ and the Castlereagh Foundation – a fund to explore issues around identity in the north.
However, it has now been claimed that the foundation may be used to channel opposition to any future referendum on a united Ireland.
In recent years, nationalists have been pressing for need for a unity poll especially as Brexit approaches.
Under the Good Friday Agreement a unity vote can only be triggered by a secretary of state.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Derry man Daniel Morrison, who is a member of the campaign group Yes for Unity, which campaign for a united Ireland vote say they recently served with pre-action letters to The Executive Office at Stormont, the Home Office and Secretary of State Brandon Lewis.
Michael Brentnall, of Brentnall Legal, said his client believes the Castlereagh Foundation will be used to influence the outcome of a future vote.
“The applicant submits that the establishment of the Castlereagh Foundation, it seems, is an attempt to prime the northern electorate to favour, or at least be exposed to, political arguments which favour partition,” he said.
“We are instructed to request that the NI Executive decline this funding from the British government, and whilst any request by the executive for funding of the Castlereagh Foundation would be subject to cross-community vote in the executive, our client submits that political consensus does not provide a licence for political discrimination.”
An Executive Office spokesperson said: “We have no record of this correspondence.”
The Northern Ireland Office did not respond.
With many thanks to: The Irish News and Connla Young for the original story
LOYALIST Mark Harbinson is attempting to set up his own ‘Orange Vanguard’ to oppose the proposed Brexit trade deal that will see a border checks in Northern Ireland. Harbinson, who was once a high-profile Orangeman, is attempting to garner support for an ‘Ulster Day of Action’. The 53-year-old has been calling on loyalists to join him on September 19th, at a venue yet to be confirmed, to oppose Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal which is seen by many loyalists as a betrayal. Loyalists from various groups have been invited to meet Harbinson to plan the formation of a new group calling itself the ‘Orange Vanguard’. Harbinson has sent messages to supporters through loyalist forums and social media pages in recent weeks saying: “Keep the date free. If you don’t want an Irish Sea border you’ll want to support this.”
The controversial loyalist held an event close to his Stoneyford home on July 11th to gauge support for his plans. He was shunned by many loyalists after being found guilty of child abuse but retained a small hardcore ofsupport despite the nature of his conviction. In 2011 the Stoneyford-based loyalist was convicted of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl he met when he was a leading member of the Pride of the Village Flute Band in Stoneyford. Because of time already spent in custody, he served two years. At his trial the jury failed to reach a verdict on five other charges including indecent assault. He was acquitted of indecently assaulting a 12-year-old schoolboy.
Harbinson was originally caught by police with the schoolgirl in his car on October 26th 2009. Police also found images of the child topless on his phone. Analysis of the handset showed more than 1,000 contacts between him and the very young victim. A once prominent member of the Orange Order, and former member of the UDR, he rose to prominence during the Drumcree dispute in Portadown. Following his conviction he was expelled from the Orange Order. In 2012 he failed to have the conviction overturned shouting “no surrender” in a courtroom outburst as the judgement was delivered.
A year later, he reinvolved himself with the flute band despite a court order banning him from having involvement with voluntary groups or charitable organisations involving children. A court heard that in May 2013, he telephoned and then wrote an email to the Parades Commission in protest at restrictions they had imposed on the flute band, signing it ‘Mark Harbinson, Pride of the Village spokesman’. The following year, he was handed a three-month suspended sentence after being found guilty of breaching a sexual offences prevention order. In July 2018 he was acquitted of firearms charges after a three-day trial. A gun, silencer and ammunition were located wrapped in yellow dusters in a biscuit tin in a woodshed in one of the outbuildings at Harbinson’s rural home in December 2015.