Northern Ireland

Dirty protest launched at Maghaberry Prison

Co Derry man launches protest in bid to be transferred to republican wing

Among those tracked were prisoners released from Maghaberry. Picture by Michael Cooper/PA
A republican prisoner has begun a dirty protest at Maghaberry Prison

A Co Derry man alleged to have made threats against drug dealers has launched a dirty protest at Maghaberry Prison after authorities refused to transfer him to the jail’s republican wing.

Republicans say Dermot Burke, from Dungiven, began smearing excrement on the walls of his cell at the start of last week in a bid to force a move to Roe House, which holds the majority of the prison’s republican prisoners.

The no-wash protest tactic was used by republicans demanding political status in the H-Blocks in the 1980s.

Republicans have previously engaged in similar no-wash and dirty protests at Maghaberry over prison conditions.

The 58-year-old is facing a series of charges arising from an incident in Dungiven last month when three bars in the town were visited by armed and masked men who claimed to be from the ‘IRA’ and issued threats against drug dealers.

The charges he faces include belonging or professing to belong to a proscribed organisation, namely the ‘IRA’, possessing a handgun with intent to cause a person to fear unlawful violence would be used against them and with possessing a weapon.

It is understood that Mr Burke has been refused a transfer by prison authorities, who say he is under threat in Roe House.

Republicans say that Mr Burke is not under threat.

They also say that prison authorities claim Mr Burke has failed up to 10 body scans but has not been moved to a ‘dry cell’, which allows authorities to monitor bowel movements.

Paddy Gallagher from the Irish Republican Welfare Association, said matters had “reached the point where protest action is required for Dermot to be moved to republican Roe House”.

“In a bid to secure human and civil rights, in 2024, republican prisoners still need to resort to protest action,” he added.

In a statement issued through the Department of Justice a spokesman for the Prison Service said: “The Prison Service does not comment on individual prisoners.”

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long
Justice minister Naomi Long (Liam McBurney/PA)

Meanwhile, in response to a written question from Sinn Féin assembly member Gemma Dolan, Ms Long said there are no political prisoners in the north’s jails.

Ms Dolan had asked a series of questions about the prison population including a breakdown of “political and non-political prisoners.

The response from Ms Long stated: “There are no political prisoners in Northern Ireland.”

The DoJ was contacted.