Prison Deal Halts Derry Protest

A so-called 'dirty protest' being staged by dissident republican prisoners at Co Antrim's Maghaberry prison has ended after three weeks of talks.

At the same time, supporters of the dissident republican protest who were due to hold a rally at the same time as the annual loyal order Apprentice Boys march in Londonderry has been cancelled.

The protest, organised to highlight prison conditions in Maghaberry, was called off after the dispute in the jail was resolved on Thursday evening.

NI Justice Minister David Ford welcomed the ending of a protest by those he said were "separated Republican prisoners" and explained that the breakthrough came after the Prison Service and prisoners reached agreement on a way forward, following a facilitation process.

The Minister said: "The welfare, safety and security of both staff and prisoners were central to the discussions and I'm pleased that an agreement has been reached which allows for revised arrangements and procedures, but in no way dilutes the security of the prison or those who work and live there.

"It has been a difficult process and I thank the facilitators for their efforts in helping to bring about a solution. I commend also the Roe House staff who in recent times have carried out their duties in a dignified and professional manner," he said.

"A safe, secure and humane prison regime is at the heart of a 'healthy prison' and the full compliance of all parties with this agreement will lead to enduring stability."

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Assembly member Caral NíChuilin has also welcomed the ending of the protest in Roe House.

"I have held many meetings with the prison administration and the Justice Minister. All along it was my firm view that if the necessary political will was demonstrated that the situation in Roe House could be resolved.

"Martin McGuinness raised the issue with David Ford again earlier this week and it is very welcome that the dialogue established between the prisoners and the administration has resulted in an acceptable resolution. Prisoners need to be treated with dignity and respect."

Prisoners had complained about excessive strip-searching and controlled movement and at one stage, prison officers were offered protective clothing after having urine thrown at them.

According to the Northern Ireland Prison Service, around 30 separated dissident republicans were involved in the protest, which began in Roe House on Easter Sunday and lasted over three months.

It is understood that a new search facility and revised search policy will be introduced for separated prisoners.

The new facility will be subject to CCTV and audio coverage. It will incorporate a combination of the latest technologies to remove the requirement for routine full-body searching of separated prisoners.

Meanwhile, prisoners have committed to refrain "from intimidating, threatening, or harming prison staff in carrying out their duties."


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