28 March 2006

Republican group slam Prison Service after visit denied

Derry Journal

28 March 2006

TWO DERRY republicans have hit out at the Northern Ireland Prison Service after they were refused entry to Maghaberry Prison.
The men - who are representatives of the Irish Republican Prisoner Welfare Association - were visiting a Fermanagh republican in the Co. Antrim jail on Sunday when they were turned away at the gates.
Prison officers took the action after one of the men attracted the attention of a drugs sniffer dog.
The men claim they were among eight people refused a prison visit at the weekend.
One of the representatives hit out at the prison authorities and accused them of attempting to control visits.
"This is nothing more than an excuse by the prison service to control visits to the jail," he said.
"The dog sniffed as usual but it didn't sit down as it is supposed to. It was on that pretext alone that the visit was stopped.
"We believe the prison service is simply trying to isolate people. The two people stopped were anti-drugs activists.
"One works in a bar and organises meetings on drug awareness in Creggan. If anything, he may have been contaminated and that may have triggered the dog's response.
"But this had nothing to do with drugs. This is now a regular occurrence. The prison authorities are stopping and allowing visits when it suits them. It is just their way of controlling access to the jail."
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Prison Service hit back at the allegations.
He added: "The Northern Ireland Prison Service strongly rejects the accusation that passive drugs dogs are used to control visits to prisoners.
"The use of passive drug dogs is an effective measure in helping to stem the flow of drugs into prisons. Their use has been vindicated by the courts."

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