Video: Four year ‘solitary confinement’ of Dungannon men is ‘torture’ say campaigners

Scores in white line vigil for Dungannon men in 'solitary confinement'
Scores in white line vigil for Dungannon men in 'solitary confinement'

A vigil has been held in Dungannon for two local men reported to have been held in ‘solitary confinement’ at HMP Maghaberry for four and a half years.

Marty McGilloway and Tommy Hamill were jailed at Belfast Crown Court in May 2012 after admitting possession of improvised explosive devices on May 28 that year.

But a short time after they were incarcerated, campaigners said they were moved to the Care and Supervision Unit (CSU) - dubbed ‘solitary confinement’.

We asked the Department of Justice if this was the case, but they declined to comment citing ‘data protection’.

In 2015, the United Nations called for a worldwide ban on solitary confinement - which it considers the physical isolation of individuals in cells over 22 hours a day - of over 15 days.

It has also likened the practice to torture, saying it is “contrary to rehabilitation”.

Patrick Carty, speaking on behalf of the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (IRPWA) in Tyrone, said McGilloway and Hamill were first moved to CSU for their own protection, as they had been detained alongside loyalists in open population.

He said they had also held a “dirt protest” as they fought to be recognised as republican prisoners and relocated.

“They moved them in there originally for their own protection,” Mr Carty said.

“And obviously when they were protesting and they didn’t want them fouling up open population.

“At first they said they didn’t meet the criteria for the separated wing (Roe House) and then they said there was a threat to them from other Republican prisoners - and that was categorically denied. Roe Four republican prisoners had invited them on to the wing.”

But all that aside, Mr Carty said IRPWA’s main concern was the solitary nature of the men’s confinement and its effect on their mental wellbeing.

“Marty McGilloway, if he wants to go to sleep at night he has to stuff tissue paper in his ears to drown out the cries and the noise from the wing - and that’s ongoing in the CSU,” he explained.

Scores of people turned out to highlight their plight at a white-line vigil on New Well Road in Dungannon on Saturday afternoon.

“There is no reason why they still should be in the CSU,” Mr Carty said. “Both men should be in Roe Four.”

He also said there are concerns that as their five years on licence draws nearer - it could be revoked and they will have to spend another half decade alone.