Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland prisoners to be allowed books on terrorism and paramilitaries

Maghaberry Prison (Michael Cooper/PA)
Maghaberry Prison (Michael Cooper/PA)

Inmates in Northern Ireland's prisons will be allowed access to books on paramilitaries and terrorism after a rule change.

Such books were previously banned from prisons, but a review of the policy has reversed the decision.

The review came after academic Dr Marisa McGlinchey discovered that her book 'Unfinished Business: The Politics Of Dissident Irish Republicanism' was prohibited in Maghaberry Prison.

At the time all books relating to terrorism and paramilitaries were banned from the prison.

The review found that the policy was "not proportionate".

Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service Ronnie Armour said that police officers were still dealing with the impact of the Troubles and "ongoing violence".

He cited the murders of prison officers David Black and Adrian Ismay by the New IRA.

The BBC has reported that the books will not be allowed into prisons "unless they breach specific guidelines which include the promotion of, or support for terrorism/paramilitaries, or overtly promote or encourage the commission of criminal acts".

If a book is banned there will be an appeals process avaliable.

A Northern Ireland Prison Service discussion said the review had prompted "serious discussion" and accepted that a blanket ban was no longer appropriate saying that the prison service was a "changing organisation and learning organisation".

Dr McGlinchey said she was pleased with the outcome of the review.

"It was clear that the matter had been taken very seriously," she said.

A Department of Justice spokesperson told the BBC that prison governors would make the decisions on a case by case basis.

"Books and other reading material will now be permitted unless they overtly promote or encourage the commissioning of criminal acts or otherwise break the law," the spokesperson said.

"Decisions will be taken on behalf of the governor of each prison, with a review process available at headquarters."

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