Recently, there has been a steady increase in Loyalist prisoners being refused access to Bush House Separated landings by the Northern Ireland Office – NIO. We believe these Loyalist prisoners have a right to be located in Bush House either through being associated with or supporters of an organization or due to the fact they are incarcerated for political action in support of Loyalism.
We here on Bush House would welcome such prisoners and our political representatives are constantly requesting that the NIO facilitate them being transferred here. However, applications from such prisoners have been persistently refused on the basis that they do not meet the criteria in the ‘compact agreement’. Having studied the agreement, it is abundantly clear that every Protestant in Northern Ireland who supports an organization, if arrested, meets the criteria for access to Bush House Separated.
If an arrested Loyalist has not previously come under scrutiny from the PSNI then this seems to be a benchmark for refusal by the NIO. The fact that a majority of them have never been previously arrested, it is unlikely the PSNI would have any reason to have them on their ‘radar’. Put simply, if sentenced, they wish to be incarcerated in a safe environment distinct from the general prison population wherein they are at risk of being attacked.
This issue has gone unaddressed for a number of years now and in spite of discussions with prison officials and compliance with the political process from our representatives, our protestations have ‘fallen on deaf ears’. The ‘flag protesters’ have a legitimate rationale for being accepted on Bush House Separated and we have repeatedly stated this since 2013. We call on the prison authorities to adopted a common sense approach and end their embargo on prisoners who undoubtedly meet their acceptance criteria. In the absence of this, the Loyalist prisoners of Bush 1/2, have no alternative but to begin a period of disruptive protest. We appreciate that this may cause hardship to any or all of us. However, we are not requesting that Bush House be filled to overcrowding but rather those that meet the necessary criteria are afforded the right to be separated as we are.
It is our understanding that subsequent to our decision, Republicans have followed suit for similar reasons.
The Loyalist Prisoners – Bush 1/2