Video: Derry MLAs warn of violent whirlwind if attempt is made to enforce integration of paramilitaries

Derry MLAs have warned the forced integration of political prisoners at Maghaberry could reap a violent whirlwind if the jail authorities attempt it.

The warnings were issued in response to a private motion tabled by UUP MLA Doug Beattie on Monday, which called for the Minister of Justice, Claire Sugden, to put in place a framework to ensure that “by 2021, there are no new admissions to separate paramilitary wings and that, by 2026, there is a fully integrated prison regime.”

Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney said: “My opinion, based on years of experience and talking to prison managers in recent times, is that forced integration as a policy does not work. That is what is at the core of the separated regime in Maghaberry. In my opinion, that was recognised by the John Steele report in 2003. Forced integration does not work. Indeed, it makes prisons very difficult to manage.”

People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann said: “I can tell you now, and Mr McCartney was, I think, coming close to saying the same thing, that if you impose integration on the prisoners at Maghaberry, you will not solve any problem. You will reap a whirlwind. You are going to have serious violence within the prison. I do not say that with any sense of pleasure or anticipation of it happening; I am simply telling you that, in my view and judgement, based on my experience of campaigning on these matters and my knowledge of prisoners, some of them in Maghaberry at the moment, I have no doubt that you will be making a very serious mistake to push this.”

Relations between republican prisoners and the authorities have been tense over the past decade despite a temporary truce brokered between Real IRA, Continuity IRA and INLA prisoners and the prison service on August 12, 2010.