The 1981 Hunger strike saw 10 brave men fast to the death to end the process undertaken by the then British Tory government in their attempt to criminalise Republican POWs with their removal of Political status.
The sacrifice of the 10 and the impact around the world brought about a U Turn by the British government who reintroducted political status thus removing the criminal tag with which they had wanted to brand the Republican volunteers.
Some 30 years later,the status which had been so hard won, has been sold down the river whilst the British take carte blanche in allowing and actively encouraging the brutalisation and violation of Republican POWs within Maghaberry gaol while subtly reintroducing Internment through license revocation.
POWs in Maghaberry are involved in an ongoing protest at the removal of political status and face daily beatings at the hand of sectarian screws in Maghaberry while remand prisoners face 2 forced searches every time they have to make a court appearance.
The forced strip search is a wholly brutal practise designed solely to humiliate the POWs and the agreement reached in August 2010 which was designed to end the practises has been reneged on by the regime and now lies in tatters.
We ask that people who were opposed to the ritual humiliation and brutalisation of Republican POWs while last opposing the removal of political status to lend your voice to the campaign to reinstate it and end the Brutality by the sectarian regime on Irish Republican prisoners.
What follows here is a letter written by Damien "DD" McLaughlin which describes the brutality which is part and parcel of the forced strip search.
Support the Republican POWs on Protest!
POW torture in Maghaberry –Letter from D.D Mc Laughlin-Emotive, upsetting & graphic
Hello everyone. I’m just back from the court. I was twice subjected to forced strip searches today. That was my tenth forced strip in the last twelve weeks . I’m also out to court next Tuesday so that will be another two.
Today I was brought to the reception where the search team were waiting and forced into a 3ft x 3ft cubicle by two of them where I refused to strip. They laughed at me and said “He’s ready for it!”
I was then brought to a holding cell and kept in there for about 50 minutes with a governor coming in twice to tell me their so called prison rules. (He could talk all day, I wasn’t for stripping and won’t be at any stage while I’m incarcerated in this place)
All the while outside the cell the riot squad are getting ready. Suddenly the Cell door bursts open and in they come in full riot gear, Helmets, shields, body protection, the works.
They ram the shield into my face, 2 of them grab my arms, another grabs my head, I’m forced to the ground - Arms forced up my back, 2 knees forced into my head to hold it down , 2 knees in the back of my legs… Then another one of them starts to force off my shoes, socks and trousers off. I’m then moved into a forced position so that my boxers are ripped down and my frontal private parts can be seen by them. I’m then forced back into a position where my boxers are completely forced off me and a hand held metal detector is ran over my backside.
At this stage, it’s hard to breathe with their gloves covering my face and mouth. I’m still being held by four of them on the floor, my private parts exposed… Naked! Lying there!
They then grab my boxers and jeans and force them up, hurting me .. leaving my private parts still exposed – They then move me into another awkward position to take my t shirt off… I think my arms are about to break in two ! It’s agony at this stage.. My wrists are just numb... Being twisted the whole time this is going on.. My shirt is now off.. I’m lying now with both my arms are forced up my back towards the roof while the riot squad run out of the cell.. My arms just drop to the floor.. I try my best to get onto my feet using my elbows , trousers hanging off me, boxers still below my private parts.. I’m aching all over !
I try to get dressed as the riot squad stand smirking at me. I just stare back at them. I think of the other things they have done to me in the past.. Forced strips, cut my clothes off, broke my nose, stood on me, forced me into squat positions, forced my mouth open by trying to break my wrist… I could go on!
Well, that’s me on the way to court! As soon as I get to Laganside ( where I’m already an hour late because of the forced strip ) I’m brought straight to the court, cuffed, and haven’t seen my solicitor.. Adjourned again ! That’s me down now to a 6ft x 6ft cell to wait for a few hours.Then I’m brought back to the gaol where I go through the whole strip search ordeal again.
Sitting in my cell now – My wrists, knees, ankles, neck, back, head, shoulders are aching.. One image going through my head is the faces of my friends who were waiting patiently for me to come back.. Colly, Harry, Brendy, Gerard, Kevin … It’s hard to explain the look on their faces but I can tell you that it’s one of the worst feelings in gaol seeing one of your friends coming back from a forced strip search, seeing them in pain !
I would take all of their forced strip searches rather than see them in this agony.. pain .. and I know they would do the same for me.
That’s friendship that won’t be broken !
Well, slan for now, another Republican forcibly strip searched.
D.D McLaughlin, POW, Maghaberry gaol