In an article to the Belfast Telegraph
on the 26th of October of last year it was reported – “Willie Gallagher, of the INLA-linked Irish Republican Socialist Party, told the Belfast Telegraph: “The main area of tension is around the forced strip-searching [of prisoners] leaving and entering the prison and assaults on prisoners who have refused.”
And there is a warning about what could happen next: “We would call on the prison administration to implement what they have already agreed upon in August, but have yet to implement in full and to do so as speedily as possible,” said Gallagher. “Otherwise, the potential for renewed protests is very much a strong probability.”
That strong probability has now become a reality which will see republican prisoners once again embarking on a protest demanding that the Agreement negotiated last August is implemented in full. Seven months after the Agreement was concluded the ‘Justice Department’ and the Prison Service continues to prevaricate over it’s implementation. The issue of forced strip-searching leaving and entering the prison and assaults on prisoners is a humanitarian issue and one that should have been resolved months ago. It has now become obvious that both the ‘Justice Department’ and Prison Service have been disingenuous with the facilitators, who were involved in the August negotiations, and who continued to lobby both of these agencies regarding the non-implementation of the Agreement.
It is no secret that there was a split among the prisoners, as well as among the outside support groups, in how these issues were to be resolved. The prisoners and the outside support groups were united in their demand for full implementation but were divided on how this was to be achieved and no doubt the establishment used this to their advantage. One bloc of prisoners(6)wanted to immediately renew the protest whilst others(26) wanted to give time and space to the facilitators to resolve the outstanding issues. The IRSP’s position has always been that the prisoners, and not us on the outside, would have the final say on whatever course of action they deemed necessary and of course we took our lead from prisoners aligned to the IRSP. All republican prisoners now in Roe House have decided that the time for waiting is over, that they have given the establishment more than enough time to resolve the outstanding issues and are united that the only course open to them is that of protest. The IRSP fully supports the prisoners demands for full implementation of the Agreement.
When the protest began last Easter there were three prisoners aligned to the IRSP with two of them being released, one during the protest and the other shortly have the Agreement was concluded. Three republican prisoners walked off Roe House last night including the one aligned to the IRSP. It has been reported on one republican forum that these prisoners left the House as they didn’t want to become involved in any further protests. This claim is untrue. There has been quite a lot of misleading information appearing on various Internet sites regarding the situation in Maghaberry this past number of months which contributed to the deterioration of relationships both inside and outside the prison. With this in mind we have decided not to give any details of the reasons why the IRSP aligned prisoner decided to leave Roe House but we do respect and support the decision that he has made.
Even though there are now no prisoners in Roe House aligned to either the IRSP or INLA we will continue to work towards the implementation of the Agreement and will continue to support the position of republican prisoners