IRSP Call on New Justice Minister to Commit to 2010 Maghaberry Agreement following Another Assault on Republican Socialist Prisoner

Republican Socialist prisoner Paddy O’Neill was assaulted in an unprovoked attack in Maghaberry prison yesterday morning. (Thursday 16th January 2020). At approximately 10.40am as Paddy made his way back to Roe 4 from the prison’s gym, he was confronted by an aggressive so called prison officer (who we wont name for legal reasons) has a long history of sectarian violence. 

Immediately upon entering the main door to Roe house, Paddy was confronted by the screw who then threw him back against the metal frame. In the presence of others, Paddy asked the screw what his problem was, to which the screw aggressively answered; “Youse (sic) C***s”. With a number of other prison personnel present, Paddy attempted to walk away. At this point he was attacked from behind, brought to the ground and placed in a choke-hold by the screw. 

A dangerous manoeuvre that led to the death of West Belfast native Jim Mc Donnell in the same prison back in 1996. In the ensuing struggle Paddy sustained numerous cuts and bruises to his face, neck and head. Prison staff intervened to restrain the screw and they agreed with a distressed Paddy that the screws behaviour had been unreasonable, erratic and totally ‘out of order’. The screw himself then admitted to his senior officer (SO) who was wearing a body-camera that Paddy had not provoked him nor had he touched him. 

This attack on Paddy O’Neill is unacceptable. A British Royal visited Maghaberry on Thursday and it is possible that the visit contributed to the screws sectarian and crazed aggression against a defenceless prisoner who was merely attempting to return to his cell.

Stormont’s justice ministry was accepted this week by Alliance party leader Naomi Long. The record of her predecessor; as both Alliance party leader and Stormont justice minister, David Forde has placed Ms Long into the midst of a conflict that should have been resolved a decade ago. It is now time for Ms Long to prove a commitment to her stated aims of improving society and transitioning it away from sectarianism, violence and subsequent related conflict. 

A failure to implement an agreement that was reached in 2010 continues to create mayhem within Maghaberry and potentially conflict outside it. It is vital that those in power understand the significance of prison issues on the Republican psyche. It is necessary for those in authority to accept the fact that Republicans do not and have never accepted the abuse of our prisoners in British or any other prisons in Ireland or abroad. 

Six years ago Fianna Fáil’s Eamonn O’Cuiv spoke about the killing of prison officer David Black. Mr O’Cuiv said “David Black was murdered because of the refusal on the part of people in authority to deal with the issues that resulted in a dirty protest that lasted 18 months. One can see the cause and effect.” 

The attack on Paddy O’Neill this week stands as clear testimony to the fact that this failure on the part of those in authority to deal with conflict in Maghaberry continues unabated. 

Those who claim to believe in progress and who seek societal change have an obligation to act when circumstances such as these arise and therefore we challenge the new Justice Minister to do so immediately.

 The screw in question is a sectarian thug and a bully but he is also the product of a failed prison regime and an ethos prevalent within Maghaberry that threatens every inch of progress made by Republican socialists in the last twenty years.

We support Paddy O’Neill and his Roe house comrades.

Beidh muid ann.

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