“The current situation in Maghaberry gaol is not a recent event. The on-going protest started in 2002 when republican were sent to Maghaberry after the closure of the H blocks.
The intention of the NIO backed up with the signatories of the Stormont agreement was to peddle the myth that there were no longer any political prisoners, only criminals.
Republicans found themselves fighting a system that was trying to force them into integrating with loyalists, drug dealers and other criminals.
Once again the criminalization policy was introduced to try and break the republican struggle on the inside.
Although small in number and heavily out numbered by loyalists, they embarked on a protest that accumulated into a no wash protest.
Eventually the gaol system was forced to act and the Steele report was commissioned and on the 8th Sept 2003 the Steele report was accepted and the Republican prisoners, on the basis of the report and other commitments given, ended their protest. The Republican prisoners were housed in Roe house, a compound within the main gaol, with its own added internal and external security.
During the protest and negotiations the POA became a blockage to any change.. They were and still are opposed to Republicans getting their own wing. Immediately upon entering Roe house, prisoners found themselves in constant battle with the POA and the jail administration to try and get them to implement the Steel report and other commitment given.
Controlled movement was introduced were by 3 screws would have to escort one prisoner anywhere on the wing. Prisoners were routinely striped searched up to 6 times a day. Cell were searched every day more often than not wreaked in the process. Prisoners were expected to eat their meals in there cells next to their toilet and wash their utensils in the sink that they use to wash themselves.
These were measures meant to make the prisoners feel isolated, powerless and alone but as in the past they had the opposite affect.
Republican prisoners regrouped and challenged the gaol administration at every opportunity. On Easter Sunday the 4th of April 2010 all Republican prisoners barricaded themselves in the prison canteen after it was realised that the regime in Maghaberry was not going to change without some form of protest action by the POWs.
The POWs held fast and when they were eventually returned to their cells they began a “dirty” protest.
A period of intense negotiations between the gaol Admin, NIO and the POWs , witnessed by 2 outside independent facilitators and on the 12th August 2010 agreement was reached.
Once again the POA and some elements within the NIO were not happy and from the outset the POA and NIO set out to undermine the agreement.
The timetable for relaxing controlled movement was not adhered to, the POA refused to honour the day to day working of the agreement, they introduces new procedures in the form of a mouth search and the issue of strip searches raised its head once again.
When the Republican prisoners, Quoting from the agreement, refused to comply with strip searches leaving and entering the jail, they were held down by up to 10 screws. They were beaten, had their clothes ripped from them and in some cases sexually assaulted.
From August 2010 until the resumption of the protest the Republican prisoners tried to find a way out of the impasse but reluctantly they came to the conclusion that they had no choice but to resume the protest”.
“We the Family and Friends support group of the non-conforming prisoners call on everyone on everyone to get behind the prisoners and demand the implementation of the August agreement”