Northern Ireland news

Republican prisoners launch library legal action

Maghaberry Prison
Connla Young

REPUBLICAN inmates in Maghaberry have launched a legal challenge for access to the prison library.

Prisoners held in the jail's Roe House wing are currently not allowed to visit the library or withdraw books.

Roe House holds republican inmates at the high security Co Antrim prison.

Solicitor Gavin Booth, of Phoenix Law, said the right to visit the library is guaranteed under prison rules.

"This provides a prima facie entitlement to be permitted to go to the library," he said.

"As a minimum every prisoner must have access to books or other such items from the library.

"The failure to permit either of this is contrary to prison rules and is unlawful."

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said: "The DoJ does not comment on any ongoing legal matters."

The latest challenge comes just weeks after the Prison Service changed its policy on books allowed into the prison.

That move came after an academic book featuring views of hardline republicans was 'banned'.

At the time Dr Marisa McGlinchey, who is an assistant professor at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University in England, said she was surprised that her book Unfinished Business: The Politics of 'Dissident' Irish Republicanism had not been allowed into the prison.

Prison chiefs later said that from now on books will be allowed into the prison “unless they breach specific guidelines which include the promotion of, or support for terrorism/paramilitaries, or overtly promote or encourage the commission of criminal acts".

They said that if concern were raised about a book these would be reviewed by a deputy governor and if a ban is upheld there would be an appeal.

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