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Concern expressed at Maghaberry situation

30 June, 2006

Sinn Féin Assembly member for Foyle Raymond McCartney has expressed his concern at the conditions being experienced by those prisoners being held in the segregated wing in Maghaberry. Mr McCartney's remarks come after protest action was mounted by those currently being held on the republican wing in the prison.

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 it appears that the regime being imposed on those being held in the segregated wing differs greatly from the other parts of the prison. Sinn Féin 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.

"The prisoners being held in the segregated wing have now embarked upon a series of protests to highlight their case.

"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." ENDS

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