Monday, 10 May 2010
Maghaberry and its Violence
The following was written by Ex-POW Anthony McIntyre and is on his blog, The Pensive Quill
Just minutes before I sat down to write, a text came through from a friend who has worked with ex-prisoners over the years. As I read her words her concern leaped across to me like a surge of electricity. The Maghaberry screws are at it again, beating and harassing republican prisoners.
These days few things from the political past annoy me. I have grown accustomed to the failures and the futility, the lies and the let downs. Life goes on, it always finds a way. Prison related matters are different. They grip me like few other things. I witnessed so much violence by the screws in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, on occasion being subject to it, that when I learn of it taking place again anger leeches through me.
My friend told me via her text that ‘the situation Maghaberry is increasingly dire at the minute.’ She went on to tell me about the beatings that had been handed out. A day or two ago my wife had alerted me to the harassment that one republican prisoner is undergoing. Harry Fitzsimmons, serving eight years for a Provisional IRA operation which the Provisional IRA denied and whose key leader dismissed as a ‘bar room brawl’, to save himself embarrassment, was apparently forcibly removed from his cell and thrown into an isolation unit. We decided to drop him a card which was written out yesterday and due to be posted tomorrow. It probably won’t get through – same old routine as the blanket men put up with during their incarceration.
Today Mairtin Og Meehan of the Republican Network for Unity circulated a press statement which the Pensive Quill will carry tomorrow. Himself a former republican prisoner, Meehan to his credit, like his late father, hasn’t got it in him to turn his back on those who find themselves on the wrong side of the walls. He confirmed that Harry Fitz had sustained injuries as a result of screw brutality.
The measure of the peace process as an initiative to advance a republican agenda can be found in what is happening in Maghaberry Prison today. It is found to be wanting. How are republican prisoners still being brutalised and deprived by the British Northern Ireland Prison Service? The peace process is clearly not protecting them. And Harry Fitz was not some dissident out to destroy the peace process but a Provisional IRA volunteer sent out by advocates of the peace process to assault and kidnap an opponent of the peace process.
Having just spoken with the father of South Armagh republican prisoner, Turloch McAllister, it was confirmed that Turloch was beaten by a number of screws. He is now in a cell. His furniture is a wet mattress and his clothing is a T-shirt and a pair of tracksuit bottoms. The screws have removed everything else. There is no toilet facility as the water had been turned off and Turloch McAllister has to use a bucket to relieve himself. Echoes of the blanket protest.
Jim McAllister, Turloch’s father, has expressed his concern at the regime his son and other republican prisoners are forced to undergo. In his view, very little is required in order to remedy the situation. That nothing is being done leads Jim McAllister to believe that some sinister agenda on the part of prison management is holding back progress.
Harry Fitzsimmons and Turloch McAllister are the names of republican political prisoners we are hearing about today. Their names could just as easily be Kieran Nugent or Raymond McCartney; men who faced the same vindictive regime and all the brutality it could muster in a different time but for the same reason.
These men cannot be allowed to be swallowed up in the jaws of the Maghaberry machine where their plight is smothered by public indifference and a regime of silence. We, former republican prisoners, who experienced the British jailers and know their callous penchant for bullying and brutality, can hardly sit indifferent to what is going on behind the walls. We were supposed to have sorted these matters out once and for all. If we don’t stop it then the value of our efforts so many years ago is called into question.
There is one way to protect the integrity of our own prison struggle. That is by extending the benefits it produced to the prisoners who followed in our footsteps. Maghaberry’s brutal screws must be stopped in their tracks. Nothing less will do