Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Prisoners’ Protest at Alliance HQ
Over 80 people participated in a protest outside the Alliance Party’s headquarters in south Belfast at lunchtime today [Tuesday].
The protest was organised at short notice by friends and family of republican prisoners following comments made yesterday evening by Alliance leader and Six County Stormont ‘justice’ minister David Ford.
In an obvious attempt to smear their campaign, Ford claimed that republican prisoners in Maghaberry were somehow responsible for the brutality being meted out against them by prison authorities, saying that they “seem determined to create conditions which they will then complain about, but they will have no-one to blame but themselves”.
There was a heavy PSNI presence in the area before, during, and for a good deal after today’s protest had taken place.
A letter on behalf of the prisoners’ families was put through Alliance’s letterbox by Lillian Fitzsimmons, sister of republican prisoner Harry Fitzsimmons. On Thursday [May 6], Harry was dragged from his cell to the punishment block after he refused to be strip searched; he was then held down and his clothes were cut from his back by screws.
Following the protest, rúnaí ginearálta éirígí Breandán Mac Cionnaith said: “While the Alliance Party often tries to portray itself as the paragon of liberalism, it is clear that they can be just as reactionary as the rest when they get their hands on a measure of power.
“Republican prisoners in Maghaberry continue to be kept in their cells for 23 hours a day and are still refused any opportunity to wash or exercise.
“David Ford is guilty of deliberately putting his head in the sand over this issue in attempt to obscure the real reasons for ongoing conflict in Maghaberry. He has now given the nod to the prison authorities to continue with their brutalisation of republican prisoners.”
Mac Cionnaith concluded: “It is now more important than ever that the prisoners attain political status. It is up to all republicans to campaign for return of this status to which republican prisoners were previously entitled.”