Northern Ireland

Prisoner moved to republican wing after five-week ‘dirty protest’

Co Derry man Dermot Burke calls off prison protest

Co Derry man Dermot Burke
Co Derry man Dermot Burke

A five-week dirty protest at Maghaberry Prison has ended after an inmate was moved to the jail’s republican wing on Tuesday.

Dermot Burke, from Dungiven, began smearing excrement on his cell walls last month after prison authorities refused to transfer him to the republican Roe House.

It is understood prison authorities say he was under threat in Roe House - a claim denied by republicans.

Mr Burke, who claimed MI5 tried to recruit him as an informer behind bars in recent weeks, was finally moved to Roe House on Tuesday.

Last Friday a court heard he had been on 23-hour lockdown as prison authorities suspected he has “contraband” secreted inside him.

The court also heard that Mr Burke had been x-rayed more than 20 times.

Despite repeated scans it is understood he was not moved to a ‘dry cell’, which allows authorities to monitor bowel movements.

Former Irish government minister Éamon Ó Cuív raised his case in the Dail last Thursday and suggested the International Red Cross could provide “independent medical supervision” of his next x-ray scan.

The 58-year-old is facing a series of charges arising from an incident in Dungiven in January 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.

Paddy Gallagher from the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (IRPWA) welcomed Mr Burke’s transfer to the republican wing.

“After embarking on a dirty protest lasting several weeks, combined with internal pressure from republican prisoners….the Maghaberry regime have moved Dermot to Roe House,” he said.

“The IRPWA continue to stand in solidarity with republican prisoners,” he added.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said: “The NI Prison Service does not comment on individual prisoners.”