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Prisoner loses EU legal challenge on Easter lily

Published 08/02/2011

A legal challenge taken by a republican prisoner over his right to wear an Easter lily marking the 1916 Rising has been thrown out by the European Court of Human Rights.

Christopher Donaldson, an inmate at Maghaberry Prison, took the case after he was punished for wearing the lily in 2008.

Prisoners are not allowed to wear such emblems outside cells.

When Donaldson refused to remove the lily on Easter Sunday 2008 he was confined to his cell for three days as punishment.

Donaldson later challenged the policy through Northern Ireland’s court system, but the High Court ruled it was proportionate to maintain order in prison and was not discriminatory.

His subsequent judicial review was dismissed.

At the European Court in Strasbourg, seven judges ruled the prison's policy had a legitimate aim to prevent disorder and crime.

The judges noted many emblems in Northern Ireland, such as the Easter lily, were inextricably linked to the Troubles and their public display could be divisive and make existing tensions worse.

The judges said the fact that the wing in the Donaldson case was segregated did not change their ruling.

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