‘Hunger strike’ at Free Derry

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Members of republican prisoners’ support group, Cogús, staged a 24 hour fast at Free Derry Corner at the weekend to raise awareness of the situation in Maghaberry.

Cogús is the prisoners department of the Republican Network for Unity (RNU) and members of the group travelled from Dublin, Newry, Belfast and Armagh, to take part in the fast alongside local members of the group.

Tony Taylor, the local chairperson of RNU, said the 24 hour fast helped raise awareness of the conditions in Maghaberry where republican prisoners are currently taking part in a ‘dirty protest.’

Mr Taylor said the Cogús decided to hold the protest at Free Derry Corner because it has traditionally been used to raise awareness of various causes. A Cogús mural was unveiled at the back of Free Derry Corner last week.

“We wanted to highlight the failure of the Northern Ireland Office to implement the agreement which was reached on August 11th last year. Here we are, almost a year, later and we should be looking at moving to the next stage of the agreement but we can’t because stage one has not even been implemented yet,” Mr Taylor said.

The Derry RNU chairperson also said the situation in Maghaberry is not getting the attention it should. “We had a great response from people over the weekend, some of whom were not even aware of what was happening in the prison before they saw us. It has been difficult to get the word out about the conditions these men have to endure,” he said.

He also said that more RNU/Cogús protests will be held in Derry in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, renewed calls have been made for the release of republican prisoner Brendan Lillis who is currently seriously ill in Maghaberry.

Foyle SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood has written to the Secretary of State and the Justice Minister calling for his release on humanitarian grounds.

“I would implore the Secretary of State to urgently intervene in the Brendan Lillis case. The DPP has dropped the original charges against Mr Lillis, he is therefore being held on the NIO’s judgement.

“On basic humanitarian grounds Mr Lillis should be released without delay. He is believed to be close to death, he and his family should be provided with the dignity of bringing Brendan home,” he said.

Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney, who visited Maghaberry Prison last week, has repeatedly called for the release of Mr Lillis.