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Dated tactics have a negative impact

(Jim Gibney, Irish News)

For years Sinn Féin has been highlighting the existence of a group of people they dubbed 'securocrats' a word borrowed from South Africa.

The British government and other political parties to varying degrees oppose Sinn Féin's claim about the existence and malign influence of the securocrats on the peace process.

The Denis Donaldson informer revelation establishes beyond doubt that this body of sinister and powerful individuals exists.

These individuals operate within the office of the British Secretary of State and the British Prime Minister.

They derive their power from both sources and are protected by them.

We will never know if Tony Blair and Peter Hain knew about Denis Donaldson. Although it is hard to believe they did not know.

They are familiar enough with the world of spying.

The late Mo Mowlam authorised and publicly defended the bugging of a car used by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. Gerry Kelly's home was also bugged.

Whether Blair or Hain knew about Donaldson is irrelevant. They are responsible for the actions of their intelligence agencies.

Furthermore they are the only people with the power to end the intelligence war being waged against the peace process.

Whatever excuses the securocrats used to defend their existence the removal of the IRA by the IRA from the political scene in July this year should also herald their exit from the stage.

The securocrats are fighting an old and waning battle. They are trying to shape the politics of the future by using methods, which belong in the past.

There is another group of individuals in the employ of the state who, like the securocrats, are using failed methods from the past to try to shape the future.

They are the prison authorities in charge of political prisoners in Maghaberry prison.

In Roe House 25 republican prisoners are living under a petty- minded regime, which has all the attitudes and behaviour of those who ran the H-blocks and Armagh Women's prison in the dark days of the seventies and early eighties.

Belfast republican Michael Rogan was recently released from Roe House. He spent thirteen months on remand there.

Incredible though it may seem his story sounds like an account of prison life from the years when republican prisoners were protesting for political status during which ten republican prisoners died on hunger strike.

The prison authorities at Maghaberry have created a prison regime inside Roe House, which is designed to break the will of the prisoners who have chosen to live there in segregated conditions.

Segregation was introduced into the prison three years ago on foot of a recommendation from the Steele Committee set up by the secretary of state to examine why political prisoners were protesting inside the prison.

Steele's recommendation was based on protecting the health and safety of prisoners.

There was an expectation that Steele's report would end conflict inside the prison.

It could have, had the prison authorities not filtered it through their punitive mind-set as they have done so often in the past when dealing with republican prisoners.

Daily life inside Roe House involves controlled movement on the wings with no more than three prisoners out of their cells; routine humiliating strip searches; regular body and cell searches. One prisoner Patrick Leonard from Belfast was searched forty two times in one week!

Prisoners must eat all meals in their cells, which is small and houses a toilet. Most days they are locked up for twenty-two hours. Association with other prisoners is minimal.

The exercise yard is like a birdcage with no natural sunlight and the prisoner's use of it is restricted to one hour a day.

Use of the gym is curtailed as is educational and recreational classes.

A dog is used to search the visiting area for drugs. Warders often use its interest in a visitor as an excuse to end a republican prisoner's visit on the bogus basis of drug smuggling. Thereafter closed visits are imposed.

The stroke of Peter Hain's pen would sort out petty prison officials at Maghaberry , as would a P45 form from his office to the securocrats.

He should do both.

December 30, 2005

This article appeared first in the December 29, 2005 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News