Northern Ireland news

Vigil held in Derry in support of hunger striking prisoners

A vigil was held in Derry on Wednesday evening in support of the hunger strike currently ongoing in Maghaberry Prison. Picture by Pacemaker, Belfast.
Seamus McKinney

Supporters of hunger striking prisoners, including senior dissident republican Thomas Ashe Mellon, have joined a vigil in Derry.

Up to 50 prisoners in Maghaberry, Portlaoise and Hydebank prisons have been on hunger strike since September 16. The protest was launched in support of Palestinian doctor, Issam Hijjawi (62) who was arrested as part of an MI5 investigation into the New IRA.

The Irish Republican Prisoners' Welfare Association (IRPWA) said the protest was organised over concerns for Dr Hijjawi's health and a refusal to allow the Palestinian doctor to isolate in the republican Roe House wing of Maghaberry Prison following an external medical visit. Dr Hijjawi has also joined the hunger strike.

Organised by the IRPWA at Rossville Street in Derry's Bogside on Wednesday night, the vigil was attended by prisoner support groups and dissident republican Saoradh members.

Derry Saoradh chairman, Jude McCrory compared the prisons' protest to the 1981 campaign for political status.

“Forty years after ten young revolutionary prisoners of war starved to death, revolutionary prisoners in a British prison can be heard across landings throwing up as they starve with hunger,” he said.

The vigil was also addressed by a daughter of Gary Hayden, one of the hunger striking prisoners.

The hunger strike was also raised at a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council yesterday. Independent member, Gary Donnelly proposed that the authority select a cross party delegation to meet prison authorities to discuss the protest and the condition under which Dr Hijjawi was be held. Mr Donnelly also asked the council to call on Maghaberry prison authorities to provide prisoners' families with daily updates.

Mr Donnelly's proposal was passed by 30 votes to nine, with the SDLP, Sinn Féin and People Before Profit supporting the motion and the DUP voting against.

The IRPWA has planned a major protest in support of the prisoners at the gates of Maghaberry Prison on Saturday.

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