Eamonn McCann has warned the recent tragic cases of Sean Lynch from Derry, and Paddy Kelly from Omagh, seem examples of history repeating itself, saying the family of Strabane teenager, Annie Kelly, who hanged herself from wire mesh in a cell in Maghaberry 14 years ago, are still waiting for answers.
Mr McCann, speaking during a debate at Stormont, expressed scepticism over claims after each new review of each new death and serious injury in what the British Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick has described as the most “dangerous prison” he has ever inspected, that safety issues have been resolved.
Mr McCann told members how “Annie Kelly, aged 19... hanged herself from the wire mesh covering of the window in her cell, back in 2002.”
“At that time, there were extensive inquiries and clear-cut, explicit and ringing declarations that all the problems that had been identified would be seen to. Indeed, I have had from the Minister of Justice, in an answer to a recent question, a suggestion that the defects in the Prison Service at that time had been remedied,” he said.
But Mr McCann said answers are still awaited.
“Annie Kelly’s family, from Strabane, with whom I have been speaking in recent days, are still waiting for some explanation as to how a 19-year-old child, whose problems had been widely signalled, including by the prison staff, could have ended her life in that way.
“Indeed, a senior member of the prison staff at Maghaberry at that time wrote to Annie Kelly’s solicitor. I saw the letter. It said that the prison staff knew that Annie Kelly should not have been in Maghaberry and that it was no place for her.”
“It said explicitly that she was in danger of harming herself and even of suicide.”