Protest over prisoner treatment

Republican groups have gathered to stage a protest over the treatment of prisoners in jails across Ireland and abroad.

Republican Sinn Fein organised the rally at Guildhall Square on Saturday afternoon to mark the global Prisoner of War Day of Action, with Republican Network for Unity, the Irish Republican Prisoner Welfare Association and other groups in attendance.

Those gathered for the Republican Prisoner of War Day of Action protest at Guildhall Square.

Those gathered for the Republican Prisoner of War Day of Action protest at Guildhall Square.

The group held banners and a statement from Republican SF calling was read out by member Peter Cavanagh .

Calling for an end to “petty vindictiveness” in prisons, he said they had gathered “to pay homage to our brave volunteers and to highlight the plight that they are currently facing as they languish in captivity.”

Mr Cavanagh also accused prison officers were deploying “repressive and degrading” strip searches, a policy he branded “draconian” and one he said prisoners would continue to resist. He also claimed Sinn Fein had failed to condemn the alleged activities of MI5 in prisons.

Referring to one particular prison he said: “The men are now in a prison within a prison, within a house and on landings where their association areas are caged off and access to and from these areas are in complete control of the screws.”

Mr Cavanagh added; “It is important that we stand here today and show our enemies that we have not forgotten our men behind the wire.”

Independent Derry City & Strabane District Councillor Gary Donnelly, who was among those attending the event, told the Journal: “A large number of prisoners in the country, places like Portlaoise or Maghaberry, most, if not all of them, are under draconian legislation and having to endure harsh regimes.

“Some of the prisoners are in there without having any evidence whatsoever presented against them.”

He added that there politician prisoners across the world being forced to endure years of hardship at the behest of corrupt governments.

Martin McLoone, chair of the Sean Keenan/ Tommy Toner Cumann of Republican Sinn Fein said they hoped the event in Derry would become an annual one.

He said: “The event today is to highlight the plight of Republican prisoners and also to show solidarity internationally with the Palestinian prisoners and the revolutionary prisoners in Turkey.

“There are events taking place now all over Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands, United States, Australia and Sweden and we are doing it to highlight the prisoners internationally and also here.”

Addressing the rally, Republican Sinn Fein member Michael McGonagle said he had a message for the British government:“They should give a declaration of intent to leave this country, and the money they are putting in to run Stormont, subsidise half that to a united Ireland for 15-20 years . That is the only solution to the situation in the six counties and unless the British government give a statement of intent, these struggles will still go on and we will still have prisoners lying in Maghaberry and Magilligan.”