A Sinn Fein delegation led by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has held crisis talks with Justice Minister David Ford over the alleged mistreatment of republican inmates in Maghaberry Prison.
The move comes as dissident republican Liam Hannaway last night ended a 42-day hunger strike.
The situation involving republican prisoners in Maghaberry, angry over the “unacceptable” conditions they are being held in, is understood to be becoming increasingly volatile.
Mr McGuinness and Sinn Fein’s Raymond McCartney met with Mr Ford yesterday afternoon to represent the grievances of republican prisoners who claim that their treatment within the jail is “inhumane” and “degrading”. There is concern that if the situation is not resolved soon it could spill over into violence.
Hannaway, aged 40, who is serving a 10-year sentence for possession of explosives and ammunition, was moved to the hospital wing of Maghaberry Prison on Monday night, just hours after the birth of his new grandchild.
His mother Lilian Hannaway said he was taken to the hospital wing so that his condition could be monitored.
Mrs Hannaway said she was “worried” about her son, who is a grandson of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adam’s cousin Kevin Hannaway, a founding member of the Provisional IRA.
“The conditions they are being held in are just terrible,” she said.
“It is worse for them now than it was in Long Kesh in the 70s. I believe that if you do the crime you have to do the time, but that prison is filthy and they have no rights.”
His family have said that he is determined to see his demands — mainly to be moved to the republican landing at Roe House — met. They have also rubbished claims by prison staff that there was a republican death threat against him.
Following talks with Mr Ford, Sinn Fein MLA Mr McCartney said that regardless of why people are being held in prison they are entitled to be treated with respect.
He added: “It is my firm view that with the necessary political will, all of these issues relating to Liam Hannaway, and indeed the wider problems in Roe House, can be resolved.”