Maghaberry Gaol hunger strike support protest planned

Dissident republican prisoners at Maghaberry Gaol embarked on a hunger strike on September 16 in support of Dr Issam Hijjawi who is also an inmate at the prison and who is also refusing food. Picture by Michael Cooper/PA Wire
Justice Minister Naomi Long has said her department is in contact with police to ensure a protest connected to arrests following an alleged New IRA meeting is handled appropriately.

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 


Maghaberry Stealth Exercise – TPQ

Liam Mellows Society, Derry

Michael Stone fears he’ll die in jail from COVID-19

Michael Stone is self-isolating behind bars

Michael Stone pictured


Milltown massacre gunman Michael Stone fears he could die from coronavirus in jail.

The seriously ill multiple killer is among dozens of prisoners petitioning Justice Minister Naomi Long to be freed until the Covid-19 crisis ends.

Mrs Long announced on Monday that some prisoners are to be released temporarily from Northern Ireland’s jails in response to the crisis – but it will apply to “fewer than 200 individuals” who are entering the last three months of their imprisonment.

But because the 64-year-old loyalist was convicted of terrorist offences he will have to remain behind bars under new release criteria, which also excludes prisoners convicted of murder and sex offences.

Stone’s wife Karan told Sunday Life that her husband is now self-isolating in his cell at Maghaberry fearing that if he becomes infected with Covid-19 he will die.

Speaking on behalf of him and other “vulnerable prisoners”, she said: “Michael falls in the vulnerable prisoner category, and is trying to self-isolate and repeatedly requesting face masks and hand gel.

“He has always been fatalistic with a ‘you play, you pay’ attitude, but he should have the same basic human rights as anyone else. He is a husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.”

Read More
Up to 200 prisoners set for early temporary release in Northern Ireland
Stone, who suffers from a heart condition, the rare debilitating Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 2F, and can barely walk, had an early release application turned down by the Sentence Review Commission (SRC) last September.

He argued that he should be freed on compassionate grounds because of his ill-health having already served 26 years of a minimum 30-year sentence for six sectarian killings, and the attempted murders of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness in 2006.

The ex-UDA hitman, who was convicted of six murders including three in his gun and grenade attack at the west Belfast graveyard, was originally freed early in 2000 as part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement arrangements.

Six years later, however, he was sent back to jail after trying to enter Parliament Buildings at Stormont, armed with explosives, knives and an axe, in an attempt to murder the Sinn Fein leaders. He denied it had been a bid to kill the politicians, instead claiming it was an act of performance art.

After the SRC rejected his release bid Stone said he was resigned to being locked up until 2024.

But the threat of Covid-19 has led him to accuse the justice system of sentencing him to death should he not be among the dozens of prisoners released because of the crisis.

His wife Karan added: “Vulnerable prisoners of all ages and religions across Northern Ireland are being kept behind bars despite warnings that an outbreak in the jails is inevitable, and most likely ferocious given the lack of control over a spread.

“Last year alone saw a whole block at Maghaberry incapacitated by flu, and some inmates were hospitalised.

“So why are vulnerable prisoners any exception? Why should they be left just to serve their time? What a reckless and disgusting attitude.”

Members of the Assembly Justice Committee were briefed last Monday about plans to release dozens of inmates in order to relieve pressure on prisons during the Covid-19 crisis.

This is because Maghaberry, Magilligan and Hydebank jails are at breaking point with 165 prison officers – more than 10 per cent of the workforce – self-isolating with possible symptoms of the killer illness.

The dire situation is expected to get worse in the coming weeks as the infection rate in Northern Ireland soars.

To cope with this the Department of Justice (DoJ) has banned prison visits, while courts have scaled back on remanding suspected criminals into custody.

But by far the most drastic measure being implemented by justice chiefs is the release of some of Northern Ireland’s 1,600 prison population. However, this number will not include inmates convicted of terrorist offences, sex offenders, or domestic abusers.

Karan claimed: “This will lead to many more deaths in custody, something the Prison Service in Northern Ireland has become all too familiar with.

“These people have not lost their right to health or life. It’s about time these vulnerable prisoners were given a voice. They should all be released at this time. A jail sentence is not a death sentence.”

Asked about the criteria around the impending prisoner releases, a spokesperson for the NI Prison Service said: “In response to Covid-19 the focus for the Northern Ireland Prison Service is to protect and promote the health and safety of staff and the people in our care.

“The Prison Service has also taken significant steps to reduce the number of people coming into our prisons.

“No decisions have been taken regarding prisoner releases. Any decision will be based on a strict criteria and will be taken in full consultation with the Justice Minister.”

One inmate at Maghaberry Prison is currently in specially located accommodation away from the general population as “a precautionary move”. There have been no confirmed Covid-19 cases in jails here yet.

Prison staff share the same fears as inmates with several contacting Sunday Life to complain about feeling at risk due to a lack of personal protection equipment.

Desperate to avoid any more employees phoning in sick, prison bosses are offering big bonuses to those who remain in work. The payment structure is broken down in a leaked document seen by this newspaper.

It includes an extra £150 per month to any prison officer asked to work in a “contaminated environment”, and a further £160 for any member of staff required to accompany an ill inmate to “bed watch”.

Governors are also benefiting from the bonus with an added £1,000 per month for those remaining on duty during the Covid-19 crisis.

A second jail source also explained how strict social distancing measures were being ignored in the training of new officers.

The insider said: “A new group of 20 recruits started last Monday and will be in close contact for nine weeks. They may have been seated two metres apart in the classroom but this cannot be sustained during searching and handcuffing tutorials.”

Acknowledging the havoc caused by Covid-19 in prisons, Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “We have to manage this very carefully to make sure public safety is maintained and that we don’t overwhelm our prison service and that we’re also able to keep all those in our care safe and look after them.”

With many thanks to: The Sunday Life and the Belfast Telegraph and Caran Barnes for the original story

Some prison deaths in the North of Ireland ‘could have been avoided’

Maghaberry Prison: A report in May 2015 labelled Maghaberry one of the most dangerous prisons in Western Europe Image copyrightMICHAEL COOPER/PA

Some of the 23 deaths in NI jails in the last five years could have been avoided, according to the head of the body that inspects prisons.

Brendan McGuigan, chief inspector of Criminal Justice NI, said he was “frustrated” more has not been done to improve prisoners’ safety.

A report has highlighted concerns about suicide and bullying in prisons.

The prison service and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust said they would “carefully consider” the report.

The inspection report was compiled by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) and the CJI and looked at the standards of prisons at Hydebank Wood, Maghaberry and Magilligan.

Mr McGuigan told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme that problems had been highlighted some time ago.

“Three years ago, we had the ministers of health and justice ordering a review in terms of vulnerable prisoners – three years later that still hasn’t been published,” he said.

“I find that amazing to be honest with you.

“This was a priority for them, there had been a cluster of deaths in custody and still we don’t have that review published. I think it’s a disgrace.”

The director general of the NI Prison Service, Ronnie Armour, said he was surprised by Mr McGuigan’s comment that some of the deaths could have been avoided.

He said he understands that nine of the 23 deaths were from natural causes.

Brendan McGuigan welcomed improvements made by the NI Prison Service but called on more to be done

“Every death in custody is one too many, but I have to be honest with the public and say that having a strategy in place, important as that is, will not necessarily save a life in a prison,” he said.

“What’s really important is what the South Eastern Trust and prison officers are doing on the landing.”

The report also says prisoners’ access to illegal and prescription drugs must be addressed.

Mr McGuigan has called for better co-operation to tackle the problems.

He said many prisoners arrived with “significant diagnosed and undiagnosed healthcare needs and for those with mental health issues, personality disorders, drug or alcohol addiction or learning difficulties, imprisonment can be a time of great vulnerability”.

‘Illegal drugs’
He said a previous report in 2014 made recommendations to the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) to ensure prisoners were cared for and supported.

“When inspectors returned in 2018, we found that bullying remained a significant issue and, as a result, have repeated our recommendation that NIPS should as a priority, review its violence reduction and anti-bullying strategy and this work should be completed within six months,” said Mr McGuigan.

Gate at Maghaberry Prison: The report highlighted concerns about suicide and bullying in prisons

“We welcome the steps taken by the NIPS to reduce the supply of drugs coming into prison but I believe more needs to be done jointly by the NIPS and SEHSCT to tackle prisoners’ access to illegal drugs and the diversion and abuse of prescription medication.”

He added that “while at an operational level” the partnership between the prison service and the trust had improved, “difficulties at a strategic level had contributed to the slow pace of progress”.

Mr McGuigan said: “I acknowledge there have been a number of incidents where the prompt actions and interventions of staff have undoubtedly saved lives and that there are many committed and dedicated individuals who are working to ensure the prisoners within their care are kept safe and secure.”

Earlier, Mr Armour and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) Director of Prison Healthcare, Bria Mongan, issued a joint statement responding to the report.

It said: “We will carefully consider the recommendations in the report and while significant progress has been made in the 14 months since the inspection was carried out, we will continue to develop our work.

“Keeping people in our care safe is a priority for everyone working in our prisons.”

It added: “It is no exaggeration to say prison officers and healthcare staff save lives.”

With many thanks to: BBC NewsNI for the original story 

‘Awarding him is a slap in the face after Dan’s death’


DEATHS ON HIS WATCH: Maghaberry senior governor David Savage

THE father of a young man who took his own life in HMP Maghaberry has said an award which will be given later this year to David Savage, a senior governor at the prison, is a “slap in the face” to his family.

Paul McConville, outside HMP Maghaberry Prison

He also expressed his frustration upon hearing that another inmate tried to take his own life a fortnight ago, and that 13 such incidents have taken place in the last year. Speaking to the Sunday World, Paul McConville, whose son Daniel (22) took his own life in the prison on August 3oth, said he believed his son was the victim of mental and physical abuse and sleep deprivation. An inquest into the father-of-two’s death is now under way after allegations of bullying came to light. Following his son’s death Paul has staged a vigil/protest outside the prison gates, demanding answers from prison bosses.

TOOK HIS OWN LIFE: Daniel McConville

Since Daniel’s high-profile death, another father-of-two, Emmett Cassidy from Derry, died less than four months later in December. He had controversially been removed from suicide watch before his death. Emmett’s case is also being investigated by the Ombudsman. Last month a furious mother whose son is currently locked up in the prison said she wanted the authorities to do something before her son left the prison “in a coffin”. Audrey Donaghy, who has met Mr McConville, told the Sunday World she would “fight tooth and nail” to make sure her son Kyle “doesn’t end up like Daniel McConville”. She claimed her son was a victim of an assault at the hands of prison officers. She also says in the days leading up to the attack, which she says left him with a broken nose and other injuries, the 21-year-old was denied food and water.


She added: “I don’t trust the Prison Service to look after him properly so while he has no voice on the inside, I will be his voice on the outside.” Reacting to the news that David Savage is to be awarded the Butler Trust Award at St James’s Palace later in the year for his work in helping to “transform” HMP Maghaberry, Paul said: “Personally, I think he’s the last person who should be given an award, I think he should resign. “It’s a joke, and a massive slap in the face to my family. It just adds to the suffering we have gone through after the death of Dan. How can he accept this award while young men like Dan and Emmett Cassidy are taking their own lives? And on top of that there have been 13 more incidents in the last year. “Meanwhile, David Savage is away over to England for a back-patting exercise pretending everything is rosy and talking about that hell-hole Maghaberry as if it is something to be proud of.”

With many thanks to: Jamie McDowell for this EXCLUSIVE and the Sunday World for the original story.

Two more weeks’ punishment for Gabriel Mackle!

New screws in the CSU in Maghaberry jail must be trying to earn stripes from their paymasters judging by their aggressive attitude towards Gabriel Mackle. Since their arrival at the beginning of the month, the heating in Gabriel’s cell has been turned up high and as the windows don’t open the cell is suffocating. This has long been the practice in police cells but not in prisons. 

On May 5, 2017, Gabriel was taken to see a doctor at his own request. He was taken to the doctor, a nurse was also in the room, by two screws who refused to leave the room and stood at the open door within earshot of what was being said. Because of this Gabriel refused to discuss anything with the doctor or nurse and left the room.  Later when Gabriel was on the phone to his wife his call was stopped after only five minutes. 

Also on May 5, Gabriel was adjudicated on and charged with refusing a direct order on March 31 to go to Bann House. His radio was removed from his cell and he cannot make an order to the tuck shop for two weeks. This is indeed an act of vindictive aggression. As was stated previously, when Gabriel refuses to move into the loyalist section of the prison, that refusal is being used to further punish him. He still has had no visits and has only a short phone call during the day. 

All this on the anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands who died fighting criminalisation of political POWs. How infuriating that 36 years later there is an attempt to criminalise Republican prisoners, not just by the prison regime but by POWs in Roe House who suddenly change the rules to gain control of the wing. 

Withmany thanks to:

POW Department
Sinn Féin Poblachtach.

5 May/Bealtaine 2017

Police probe online paramilitary images

POLICE are investigating after an image was posted online showing a masked man apparently firing shots in tribute to a Socialist Republican in west Belfast.

“The final salute to comrade Harry O’Hara” – IRSP.

Photographs posted on Facebook by the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) – the politicial wing of the Irish National Liberation Party (INLA) – show masked men posing on a street with a picture of Harry O’Hara. Mr O’Hara, from Norglen Drive in the Turf Lodge area, died on February 28th and was buried in the City Cemetery earlier this month following Requiem Mass at Holy Trinity Church. Among death notices expressing sympathy at Mr O’Hara’s passing was one from “Connor Hughes, Cogús Republican Prisoners” in Maghaberry Jail.

West Belfast – INLA

The IRSP’s Belfast branch posted photos on Facebook of a “final salute to comrade Harry O’Hara”. It said “Harry was a loyal republican socialist and he will always be remembered with honour and pride by the Republican Socialist Movement” (RSM). The images show masked men dressed in paramilitay-style uniform posing beside candles and a photo of Mr O’Hara (copy of picture above). In one, a member of the group raises a gun above his head in a firing motion.

The images have been condemned by SDLP councillor Tim Attwood, who represents the area on Belfast City Council. “These are scenes which belong in the past. There is no excuse for masked gunmen on the streets of our city, no matter what the context,” he said. “This was a reckless act and should be roundly condemned.” A RUC/PSNI spokeswoman said: “Police are aware of footage on social media showing shots apparently being fired by a masked man in west Belfast. An investigation is under way.”

With many thanks to: John Monaghan, The Irish News, for the origional story.

RSF supports Gabriel Mackle in his defence of his Republican identity.

Statement by the President of Republican Sinn Féin Des Dalton
28ú Márta/March

Republican Sinn Féin salutes Gabriel Mackle on his courageous defence of his distinct identity and autonomy as an Irish Republican POW within the Maghaberry prison. Irish Republican POWs have historically had to run the gauntlet of British and 26-County state attempts to criminalise them and deny them their identity, shamefully on this occasion this latest injustice comes at the hands of those purporting to be fellow Irish Republicans. To compound the injustice is the fact that it was the CABHAIR supported prisoners who won the right of Republican prisoners to have their separate identity accepted by the prison regime. The CABHAIR supported prisoners led the dirty protests which resulted in the August 2010 Agreement.
This attempt to deny Gabriel Mackle his own political identity and autonomy brings only shame to those who have a hand in it. By cloaking their actions in the name of Republicanism they sully that noble banner. A statement issued under the name of “Republican Prisoners, Roe 4” in Maghaberry prison by the group styling itself Saoradh is quite simply a tissue of lies and calculated smear, designed to hide what is really happening here.

In an attempt to smear Gabriel Mackle the statement cites his previous membership of the British Army’s Royal Irish Regiment. This is a matter of public record. Irish Republican history is littered with instances of Irish patriots who having served in the British Army subsequently gave honourable and heroic service to the cause of Irish freedom, James Connolly, Michael Mallin and Tom Barry are notable examples.

This statement cannot disguise the reality of what is going on in Maghaberry. Gabriel Mackle’s right, a right inherent to all Republican POWs, to maintain his own political identity is being attacked. Historically this right has always been respected by Republican prisoners regardless of organisation. However, this latest move to deny Gabriel Mackle this right echoes the actions of the Provisionals who in 1986 forced Republican prisoners who refused to renounce their Republican principles and abandon their allegiance to the All-Ireland Republic off prison landings.

Today it seems similar tactics are being employed by a grouping that it seems will not tolerate any alternative views. When these people speak of unity we now can see what they really mean. They are simply Provo – lite, aping the tactics and mindset of the Provisionals. They will be no more successful in their attempts to intimidate faithful Irish Republicans than the reformist Provos were before them.
We will not be intimidated or deflected from our work. Over the decades we have seen many such groupings styling themselves as Republican come and go. Republican Sinn Féin and the Republican Movement long predate them and will long outlast them. This year we mark 100 years since the historic 1917 Ard Fheis at which Sinn Féin adopted a Republican constitution. We are proud of our history of unbroken continuity of principle and organisation. Over the course of that century faithful Irish Republicans have defended that constitution from those who have attempted to subvert it, in 1921, 1926, 1946, 1969/70 and 1986. We will remain steadfast in our allegiance to the All-Ireland Republic of Easter and determined in our pursuit of our Republican goals. Once more we salute Gabriel Mackle and pledge him our continued solidarity and support. Maith thú Gabriel.


With many thanks to: Des Dalton, President Republican Sinn Féin.

Corrupt prison officer arrested for supplying drugs – Maghaberry Prison

 A serving prison officer was among five people arrested as part of an investigation into trafficking banned items into Maghaberry Prison.

The 50-year-old was arrested at the prison on Tuesday morning.

A quantity of cash and drugs were seized in a joint operation carried out by the PSNI and the Prison Service.

Three properties were searched in Newtownabbey, Belfast and Kinallen, County Down.

The prison officer was questioned in relation to conveyancing prohibited articles into a prison, misconduct in public office, possession of criminal property and being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs.

A 28-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman were arrested in Newtownabbey.

A 55-year-old woman was arrested in Belfast and a 50-year-old woman was arrested in Kinallen.

They were all released on bail pending further enquires late on Tuesday night.

The PSNI’s Head of Reactive and Organised Crime Chief Superintendent Tim Mairs said: “Detectives today seized £10,000 cash, a quantity of suspected Class A and Class B controlled drugs and a number of mobile phones.

“This operation is a good example of how collaborative working can disrupt crime and also demonstrates our commitment to Keeping People Safe by removing harmful drugs from society.”

The head of the Prison Service, Ronnie Armour, said: “I welcome the result of today’s joint operation with the PSNI and would take this opportunity to reiterate the zero tolerance drugs policy which operates within Northern Ireland’s prisons.”

Free Tony Taylor now interned 376 Day’s

Tony Taylor from Derry City is currently Interned in Maghaberry Prison.

To date, there has been no allegation of wrongdoing let alone evidence put to Tony by the authorities to explain his continued imprisonment.

The decision to jail Tony has been taken by the British Secretary of State, based on unaccountable intelligence supposedly provided by the security services. This is an abuse of power, undemocratic and an infringement of human rights.


With many thanks to: James Connolly.

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