Campbell rejects ‘political prisoners’ label

The DUP's Gregory Campbell.

The DUP's Gregory Campbell.

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The DUP’s Gregory Campbell has challenged a Derry MLA’s claim that there are “political prisoners” in the North’s jails.

Sinn Fein’s Raymond McCartney has said prisoners taking part in a so-called dirty protest at Maghaberry Prison are “political prisoners.”

However, Gregory Campbell says a number of those on protest are “convicted criminals.”

Sinn Fein endorses the prisoners’ claim that the prison authorities reneged on an agreement brokered in August 2010 to end a policy of routine full body searches, replacing it with electronic scanners.

The prisoners claim the deal was that they would be searched using a BOSS chair - a Body Orifice Security Scanner.

Asked recently if his party regarded the protesters as “political prisoners,” Mr. McCartney said: “There’s absolutely no doubt they are in prison as the result of a political legacy.”

In response, Gregory Campbell said: “These are criminals who are rightly serving their sentence at Her Majesty’s Prison in Maghaberry after having gone through due process.”

He added: “Like those before them, they are not political prisoners, but criminals who, unlike some before them, should serve their full sentence behind bars. Northern Ireland is moving forward and, obviously, some individuals have trouble accepting that reality. As we move forward, we cannot allow ourselves to be dragged back by those who use the cover of violence to mask their criminality.

“Sinn Fein have moved in recent years from the position these people currently find themselves in. It is reprehensible that they continue to try to engage in revisionism by describing these individuals as ‘political prisoners’.

“What’s the view of other senior Sinn Fein figures, such as Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, on what constitutes a ‘political prisoner’?”