The Republican Prisoners Support Group has been formed in the Derry area in response to the continuing deteriorating conditions within Maghaberry Prison.

The group is made up of members of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, the Republican Network for Unity and a number of concerned individuals.

Spokesperson for the new group, ex-blanketman, Thomas “Dixie” Elliott, an independent member of the group, said that there was a lack of understanding within the wider community as to the actual conditions that prisoners are currently suffering. He said, “In Maghaberry prison in 2010 Republican prisoners are living in the most inhumane conditions imaginable. The prisoners are locked up 23 hours per day and have no access to canteen or education facilities. For the hour that they are allowed out of their cells they are strip searched, their movements are controlled by 3 prison officers to each prisoner, they have to shower and are allowed one 5 minute phone call home to family members. This is totally unacceptable. As a direct consequence of this the prisoners have reacted and have been on protest for a number of months partaking in what can only be described as a “Dirty Protest” in which their bodily waste has been dumped on the floors of their cells and on the landings. The prison authorities have responded by sealing the bottom of the cell doors with rubber strips to prevent this waste leaking onto the landings and to keep the waste in the cells with the prisoners. This waste is now accumulating and in a number of cells is 1 to 2 inches deep on the floor. It is in these horrific conditions that the prisoners are forced to eat every meal.

Mr Elliott went on to detail the role that the new group would be undertaking. “This new group aims to distribute information and build awareness of the situation in Maghaberry. We are also intent on pushing for a solution. We believe that the implementation of the prisoner’s two basic demands will go a long way to resolving the situation and bringing about a satisfactory solution. The prisoners have called for the end to controlled movement and for the end to strip searches and we fully support them in these calls. We do see a solution but we also see a deep need for the people to come out and help us to highlight the current conditions.”

In conclusion Thomas Elliott called on all former republican prisoners to come out and lend their support. He finished by saying; “This is not about the Good Friday Agreement or the rights or wrongs of participating in Stormont. This is about human beings who are forced to endure horrific conditions as a result of a vindictive and cruel regime in Maghaberry that is attempting to break republican prisoners that simply cannot and will not be broken. We would call upon all former prisoners, especially the hundreds of former blanketmen, to get behind our campaign. In the coming weeks we will be distributing information to homes across Derry and taking part in protests highlighting the current conditions within Maghaberry and we urge the people of Derry to support us in this. Our group has pledged it’s full support to the prisoners, we will continue to fight for them and work to prevent the situation in Maghaberry becoming worse than it already is.”



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