19/11/2010

Republican Protest 'Deal' Queried

A Stormont Justice Committee member has said figures revealed by the Department of Justice that almost £700,000 has been spent as a result of the agreement reached with dissident republicans in Maghaberry prison will be met with dismay by the public.

Paul Givan MLA said that responses by the Department of Justice revealed £550,000 will be spent that include a new search facility; aterations to provide alternative secure access to exercise yards; a secure link from the exercise yards to AstroTurf pitches; additional security for the AstroTurf pitches; refurbishment work, including painting and floor covering of staff and prisoner areas and replacement of all cell sanitary ware and cell doors damaged during the protest.

The DUP politician said that £75,000 spent to date on additional staff costs to implement new arrangements and £45,000 spent on cleaning Roe House during the protest brought the overall bill to around £700,000.
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Commenting on the figures the Lagan Valley Assembly Member said: "My primary concern is for the safety of staff. During meetings I have had with the Prison Officers Association in Maghaberry, fears have been raised with me that the agreement reached with separated prisoners by the Department of Justice is putting the security of the prison in jeopardy.

"In Maghaberry there is now a two-tier system in place; one, which applies to the general prison population, and a different one for separated prisoners that is more relaxed and has rewarded non-confirming prisoners with greater benefits because of the protest that took place from Easter Tuesday until the 12th August 2010," the MLA continued.

"It seems that the prison management have failed to learn any lessons from the Maze prison where prisoners practically ran the place," he fumed, noting that the public "will rightly want to know why money that could have been given to the police to combat crime or spent on our schools and hospitals has been spent on providing a very small number of prisoners".

"Such an enhanced regime isn't available to any other type of prisoner and came about as a result of a protest that challenged the prison's authority," Mr Givan concluded.

The deal followed a 'dirty protest' by republican prisoners and ended the four-month protest in August when prisoners were granted a new search facility and other measures.

The prisoners said the protest was over issues including strip-searching and restricted movement and the deal has been defended by prison authorities who said "it had brought to an end a highly volatile situation".

(BMcC/GK)

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