Support Demands Of Maghaberry Prisoners for their rights and dignity to be respected


Around 30 Republican prisoners continue to engage in a ‘dirty protest’ in Maghaberry prison over the failure of the Northern Ireland Administration and the Prison Officers Association to implement a facilitated agreement reached between all parties last August. This is part of a wider criminalisation policy to punish, brutalize and isolate prisoners which includes regular beatings and strip-searching - which remains the outstanding issue to be resolved. Similarly to the 1980/81 prison struggles, the prisoners are simply asking for their rights and dignity to be respected.

In May, the family of Harry Fitzsimmons including his 4-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son visited him and were traumatised by what they saw.

In their words: "We were shocked by the state of his face - multiple cuts and bruises, he could not be hugged because his ribs were so sore, his jaw and chin is swollen as is his wrist, but it can't be said if they are broken because he still hasn't had medical attention, no x-rays, no painkillers, nothing. He said they entered his cell and forced him to the ground, kicking and punching him to the face and body, smashing his glasses into his face causing the cuts and bruises. They held his arms behind his back while covering his mouth and nose so that he could not breathe - still kicking and punching him, they trailed him over to the radiator by the hair whilst naked, to bash his face off it. This went on for a full 20 minutes non stop and all through the ordeal screws screamed in his face "dirty bastard, no good scumbag".”

If anyone is in any doubt regarding the callous disregard show by the prison administration towards the prisoners you only need to look at the case of Brendan Lillis. His partner Roisin has made an emotional appeal for support and for him to be released having estimated that he is close to death, weighing only 5.5 stone and having an estimated 10 days to live. Despite being unfit to stand trial Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford has refused to release him or give in to concessions on the wider prisoners’ struggle in Thatcherite style.

In recent years Maghaberry prison has been in the news headlines for all the wrong reasons.  Consistent reports from ‘independent’ watchdogs have highlighted the ongoing neglect and abuse within the prison pointing out that it is not fit for purpose. Prison kills and rates of prison suicide are staggering and are directly related to overcrowding and neglect, which translates into torture.

The North’s prisons are no exception, at home and globally we are witnessing a gradual erosion of prisoners’ rights and conditions which where often achieved by militant demonstrations and riots. The gradual privatisation of prisons, repressive legislation using the pretext of ‘war on terror’ or ‘war on crime’ is about creating a prison industrial complex driven by profit and fear, where prisoners are no better than slaves.

As anarchists we recognise that the criminal justice system’s first priority is to defend the status-quo and the bosses. Prisons are an integral part of the class system and vital to the survival of capitalism and the preservation of wealth and privilege. Prisons can only be abolished as part of the social and political revolution that destroys capitalism and the state.

While the WSM is opposed to state repression we are also opposed to the cul-de-sac of armed republicanism which only serves to further divide the working class in the service of a narrow, militaristic and all too often sectarian nationalism.  We support the prisoners’ demands on a humanitarian basis and call for an end to prison censorship and repression.