Prisoner refused parole to attend father’s funeral

REPUBLICAN inmates in Maghaberry Prison held a 24-hour fast earlier this week after a Lurgan man was refused compassionate release to attend his father’s funeral.

Damien McKenna (29) applied for parole to attend his father Noel’s funeral last Thursday (January 19).

In a statement, Republican Sinn Fein said he was refused on the grounds that he is a “protesting prisoner”.

McKenna, who is serving a 15 year sentence for taking part in a plot to attack police officers with a mortar bomb, is currently taking part in a dirty protest in the prison.

The party, which has links to the Continuity IRA, described the decision as “inhuman”.

Josephine Hayden of the party’s POW Department, said: “Damien, along with his comrades in Maghaberry prison, is engaged in a protest against strip-searching and in defence of the historic right of Republican prisoners to political status.

“Once more the real face of British rule in Ireland shows itself. Britain and their hirelings have learned nothing over the course of centuries of occupation.

Upper Bann MLA John O’Dowd branded the decision “unacceptable”.

”At times like this grieving families come together to comfort and offer support to each other,” said Mr O’Dowd.

“Granting compassionate parole in such circumstances has been a feature of prison life for many years and is as much about offering compassion to the prisoner‘s family as it is to the prisoner.

“Despite assurances, given by both intermediaries and political representatives, that this young man would return to the prison within the allotted time the prison authorities refused to offer him compassionate parole.

“Their decision was morally wrong and is unacceptable.”

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Prison Service said: “We do not comment on the circumstances of individual prisoners.”