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Irish archbishops intercede in Maghaberry Prison strike: The Church of England Newspaper, January 13, 2012 p 5. January 17, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Politics.
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Archbishops Harper and Brady

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Anglican and Roman Catholic Archbishops of Armagh took part in a secret visit with striking prisoners at Northern Ireland’s Maghaberry Prison shortly before Christmas, the Irish press has reported.

On 22 December 2011 Dr. Alan Harper, the Church of Ireland’s Archbishop of Armagh, met with loyalist prisoners while Cardinal Sean Brady, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Archbishop met with republican prisoners.  The two then met together with representatives of the groups to hear their complaints over prison conditions.

Thirty republican inmates at the high security prison near Lisburne have caused more than £1m worth of damage to the prison over the past two years in protest to the introduction of body scanners to search prisoners coming and going from the Roe House special unit at the prison.

The prisoners claim the body scanners have violated an agreement reached in August 2010 to end full body searches.  They have also complained that the new regime has seen increased surveillance of inmates with additional strip-searches and cell checks.

Fires have been set by the protesting prisoners while some have smeared their cell walls with excrement in protest to the conditions of their confinement.

A Prison Service of Northern Ireland spokesman confirmed the archbishops had met with the prisoners but offered no details of the meetings.  A spokesman for the Church of Ireland told the Belfast Telegraph declined to elaborate on the visit.

The Church of England Newspaper was told by one cleric with knowledge of the visit that the archbishops sought to provide pastoral support to the prisoners – as well as help a second Maze prison problem, where political concessions to striking prisoners led to a breach of security and political turmoil in Northern Ireland.

The situation has taken on political overtones outside the prison walls with alleged republican supporters vandalizing the party political offices of Justice Minister David Ford.  Dog excrement was smeared on the windows and door of the Alliance Party headquarters in Belfast.

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