A republican protest has taken place in Derry this afternoon as the annual Apprentice Boys Of Derry Shutting of the Gates parade moved through the city centre.
The several dozen strong group were from a variety of republican groupings including the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (IRPWA), the Irish Republican Socialist Party and the Republican Network for Unity.
Spokesman for the IRPWA, Joe Barr told the ‘Journal’: “It’s already been highlighted how bad the situation is in Magheraberry following the release of a report into the prison. But, we have been campaigning about this for the past 10 years. It’s only now that our voices are being heard.
“We have prisoners being kept in isolation, we still have strip seraching going on too. There was an agreement reached between republican prisoners and the authorities five years ago, but it was reneged upon by the prison authorities after just 24 hours.
“We are here today to get our message across.”
Prisons Inspector for England and Wales, Nick Hardwick, produced a report into conditions at Magheraberry last month and concluded that it was the “most dangerous prison” he has ever inspected.
The inspection was carried out in May this year.
Speaking about the conditions inside Magheraberry Mr Hardwick said: “It’s not safe for the prisoners health, it’s not safe for the staff who care for them and it’s not safe for the communities into which these men will be returned with very little done to reduce the risk that they will stop offending.”
He also described it as a “very worrying and disturbing public institution” and said Charles Dickens could write about Maghaberry “without batting an eyelid”.
Independent Councillor on Derry City and Strabane District Council also attended today’s protest.
He told the ‘Journal’: “This a peaceful protest here solely to highlight the current situation at Magheraberry prison. There are a number of issues being highlighted. One of those is the isolation of prisoners, where we essentially have prisoners being kept in solitary confinement, we still have instances of strip searching going on as well as confined movement.
“We have chosen to use this situation today to highlight these issues.”
The PSNI presence at the protest was fairly low key and it ended without incident.
Around 1,500 members of the Apprentice Boys of Derry and 30 bands took part in the Lundy’s Day parade in atrocious weather. The annual parade represents the Shutting of the Gates of Derry against the forces of King James II in 1688 and preceded the beginning of the Siege of Derry which last 105 days, ending in the summer of 1689.