THE administration of Maghaberry Prison has been condemned for putting republican prisoners under 24-hour lock-up over the Easter weekend for refusing to remove their Easter lilies. A spokesperson for the Family and Friends of Republican Prisoners Maghaberry group  claim the prisoners were locked up on Saturday, April 7, and had their Easter Sunday visits cancelled by the prison administration. It is claimed that the prisoners also lost their daily one-hour access to the exercise yard and five-minute phone call, leaving their family members concerned at the loss of contact.

“Once again, republican prisoners have been punished for wearing Ireland's traditional symbol of remembrance,” said Mandy Duffy, spokesperson for the Family and Friends group.

“However, no punishment by Maghaberry will deter them from honouring those who died in pursuit of Irish freedom.  We are reminded once again of the sectarian regime adopted by Maghaberry prison, a regime that punishes republican prisoners for being republicans.”

Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast and member of the Assembly’s Justice Committee, Jennifer McCann, condemned the prison’s action.

“This is unacceptable and punitive action on behalf of the prison administration,” she said.

“The Easter lily commemorates Ireland’s patriot dead throughout the years and it is unacceptable that these prisoners should not be allowed to wear them.”

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Prison Service told the Andersonstown News: “Appropriate steps were taken to ensure that the well known policy on the wearing of lilies was adhered to over the Easter period.

“This did not impact on visits which proceeded as planned on Easter Sunday.”