It’s time to stop pandering to terrorists, says UUP’s Beattie
A wing at Hydebank built for just three dissident republicans will cost the taxpayer a “grotesque” £355,000 a year to run, it has emerged.
Sunday Life revealed last week that the unit housing Christine Connor, Amanda McCabe (also known as Mandy Duffy) and Sharon Jordan cost a huge £482,000 to build.
The running cost was revealed by Justice Minister Naomi Long in response to a question from Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie.
“I have concern, firstly about the amount spent to house three prisoners. £482,000 is an obscene amount of money to create this unit and I want to know if the Justice Minister was given sight of this before the decision was made,” he said.
“Secondly, this will cost over a third of a million pounds to run, which is grotesque. All prisoners are suffering as a result of us pandering to terrorists.
“I tried to end this in 2016. Had we adhered to that, this wouldn’t be happening, but I was voted down. Now we have this absurd splashing out of money at a time when we are still struggling with a pandemic.”
The Fern 4 unit is home to Christine Connor, who was jailed for 20 years last month for trying to kill police officers, Amanda McCabe and Sharon Jordan, both of whom are facing charges of directing a New IRA terror campaign.
Prison Service bosses admitted to the construction costs last week. Some of the money went on furniture bought from Ikea, expensive seating, pricey electrical equipment and a huge TV mounted on a common room wall.
A spokesman said the service had a legal duty to provide proper care.
“It is the responsibility of the Prison Service to hold those placed in our care in safe, decent and secure accommodation,” he added.
“An unused area has been converted into a new unit capable of accommodating women separately from the main (prison) population. This required extensive internal and external structural, mechanical and electrical work to deliver significant changes to the security infrastructure and facilities, and the creation of a recreation area.
“This was completed in two weeks at an approximate cost of £482,000.”
Roe House, a similar wing in the all-male Maghaberry Prison that holds 25 dissidents, costs nearly £2million a year to run.
Mr Beattie wants to see both scrapped and paramilitary prisoners moved to regular units.
“This is not the fault of the Prison Service, it’s a political issue we have allowed to continue,” said the UUP justice spokesman.
“A motion that I tabled in 2016 to end the separated regime over eight years would have given us a roadmap to deal with the issue.
“However, it was voted down. Those who opposed it need to explain their reasons.”
Yesterday, dozens of people – including leading republician Colin Duffy – joined a protest in Lurgan town centre in support of dissident hunger strikers.
Saoradh’s Stephen Murney told the crowd inmates were refusing food in a show of solidarity with a Palestinian doctor charged following a New IRA terror probe.
Issam Hijjawi Bassalat, who was arrested last month, is being held in a Covid-19 unit at Maghaberry.
Mr Murney said the GP went on hunger strike after being put into “forced isolation”.
“Scores of republican prisoners at Maghaberry and Portlaoise have joined Issam Hijjawi to demand his return to Roe House,” he added.