LAST week I received a letter from an Irish Republican imprisoned in Maghaberry Jail in Co. Antrim. As may of your readers know, there still are many Irish Republicans imprisoned on both sides of the border.
Copied below is one POW's letter, printed verbatim from the man himself. His words tell the story of life today for imprisoned Republicans. In memory of the 10 Irish Republicans who died on hunger strike 30 years ago, I hope you will print this letter.
“Hello everyone. I’m just back from the court. I was twice subjected to forced strip searches today. That was my 10th forced strip in the last 12 weeks.
“I’m also out to court next Tuesday so that will be another two. Today I was brought to the reception where the search team were waiting and forced into a three foot by three foot cubicle by two of them where I refused to strip. They laughed at me and said, ‘He’s ready for it!’
“I was then brought to a holding cell and kept in there for about 50 minutes with a governor coming in twice to tell me their so called prison rules. He could talk all day. I wasn’t for stripping and won’t be at any stage while I’m incarcerated in this place.
“Suddenly the cell door bursts open and in they come in full riot gear, helmets, shields, body protection, the works. They ram the shield into my face, two of them grab my arms, another grabs my head, I’m forced to the ground - arms forced up my back, two knees forced into my head to hold it down, two knees in the back of my legs.
“Then another one of them starts to force off my shoes, socks and trousers. I’m then moved into a forced position so that my boxers are ripped down and my frontal private parts can be seen by them.
I’m then forced back into a position where my boxers are completely forced off me and a hand held metal detector is ran over my backside.
“At this stage, it’s hard to breathe with their gloves covering my face and mouth. I’m still being held by four of them on the floor, my private parts exposed. Naked! Lying there! They then grab my boxers and jeans and force them up, hurting me, leaving my private parts still exposed.
“They then move me into another awkward position to take my t shirt off. I think my arms are about to break in two! It’s agony at this stage. My wrists are just numb.
“I’m lying now with both my arms forced up my back towards the roof while the riot squad run out of the cell. My arms just drop to the floor. I try my best to get onto my feet using my elbows, trousers hanging off me, boxers still below my private parts. I’m aching all over!
“I try to get dressed as the riot squad stand smirking at me. I just stare back at them.
“I think of the other things they have done to me in the past. Forced strips, cut my clothes off, broke my nose, stood on me, forced me into squat positions, forced my mouth open by trying to break my wrist… I could go on!
“Well, that’s me on the way to court! As soon as I get to Laganside (where I’m already an hour late because of the forced strip) I’m brought straight to the court, cuffed, and haven’t seen my solicitor.
“Adjourned again. That’s me down now to a six by six cell to wait for a few hours. Then I’m brought back to the gaol where I go through the whole strip search ordeal again.
ìOne image going through my head is the faces of my friends who were waiting patiently for me to come back -- Colly, Harry, Brendy, Gerard, Kevin. It’s hard to explain the look on their faces, but I can tell you that it’s one of the worst feelings in gaol seeing one of your friends coming back from a forced strip search, seeing them in pain!
“I would take all of their forced strip searches rather than see them in this agony, and I know they would do the same for me. That’s friendship that won’t be broken!
“Well, slan for now, from another Republican forcibly strip searched.”
Princeton, New Jersey