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Concern expressed after Maghaberry Report

4 May, 2006


Sinn Féin Assembly member for Foyle Raymond McCartney has expressed his concern after a report into conditions in Maghaberry prison. Mr McCartney warned against using a section of the report highlighting the cost of maintaining a segregated system as a excuse to reopen that debate and said that many would be concerned that the report highlighted over 170 areas were the prison service was failing.

Mr McCartney said:

"In August 2003 Sinn Féin made it clear to the British government that the practice of forced integration which they were attempting to operate within Maghaberry was flawed and doomed to failure. Shortly after this the British government did introduce a segregated section within Maghaberry to house republican prisoners in the face of opposition from the Prison Officers Association.

"Unfortunately the regime being imposed on those being held in the segregated wing differs greatly from the other parts of the prison. I have been contacted by a number of families of those being held in Maghaberry concerned about the repressive nature of the regime in operation in the segregated wing and problems arising on visits especially with the use of a sniffer dog which has led to a number of visits being cancelled as they were about to commence.

"I have been given numerous accounts of persistent strip searching, petty regulations and difficulties accessing adequate education facilities. There is a firm belief that the men being held there are pawns in a wider battle between the prison administration, the NIO and the Prison Officers Association, the latter of which certainly resists prisoners held in segregated conditions being given equal and fair treatment. This reality is contributing to the cost of maintaining the segregated wing.

"I would warn against any attempt to use the section of this report highlighting the cost of the segregated section to reopen that debate or try and force an integrated system onto prisoners in Maghaberry.

"There must be a realisation that all prisoners have the right to be treated in a humane fashion regardless of their political or religious affiliation and that conflict within the prison system is in nobody's interest and many will be concerned by the fact that this report highlights over 170 areas were the prison service continues to fail." ENDS

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