March 11th, 2004 by Fionbarra O Dochartaigh
A Flaming Riot
The civil war in Northern Ireland between the pro-British, largely Protestant Loyalists or Unionists and the anti-British, largely Catholic Republicans has largely disappeared from international headlines. However, tensions between the factions continue to erupt, even within the controlled environment of prison life.
On the evening of Wednesday, January 14, 2004, Loyalists erected barricades within the Loyalist wing of Northern Ireland’s top security Maghaberry Prison, in protest of segregation plans. Various areas within the Bann House section of the prison were torched; windows were smashed, and prison facilities were destroyed. The following Monday, 35 prisoners involved in the disturbance were placed on ‘Rule 32′, which restricts a prisoner’s freedom of association. Authorities charged the Loyalists with offences against prison discipline.
It was the latest violence in response to Republican prisoners’ demands for segregation, in line with earlier protests such as the ‘no-wash’ protest or ‘dirty protest’ during the days of ‘The Blanketmen’  (1976-81). Loyalists believe that segregation in the prison system would result in the re-granting of political status to the Republicans (RIRA/CIRA). The Unionists, however, view segregation as an unnecessary weakening of the British Government’s position, and possible dilution of the Unionist’s own power both within and outside and the penal system. Read more of this article »
Posted in Northern Ireland, Op-Ed