Her supporters say her prison conditions are appalling. The truth is a very different story

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The Independent Online
The prison service has made unprecedented arrangements for the birth of Roisin McAliskey's baby next week, to prevent the event turning into an international propaganda coup for Sinn Fein. Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Fein senior strategist, came to London to visit the suspected IRA bomber in prison this week to raise the profile of her case in the international media.

He claimed she was being "persecuted" and subjected to "inhuman and degrading" conditions in Holloway prison, north London, where she is awaiting extradition to Germany on charges relating to the mortar bombing of a British Army barracks.

But documents obtained by The Independent show that during her confinement, Ms McAliskey will be allowed to be accompanied by two "birthing partners" of her choice, expected to be the father of her child, Sean McCotter, and her mother, the high profile republican, Bernadette McAliskey.

The baby is due on Wednesday and will be delivered at a hospital in London. Ms McAliskey, whose general health is not good, has been seen weekly by an obstetrician, a gynaecologist and a midwife, gets daily visits from a doctor and is allowed to attend ante-natal classes. She can also use the prison swimming pool and gym.

After the birth, she will be allowed to keep her child with her in the prison's mother-and-baby unit, at least until it is nine months old. Papers drawn up by Alan Walker, the prison service head of operations, show that Ms McAliskey has been made a special case.

The level of treatment is unprecedented for a high-security category A prisoner. Senior prison service officials said they "dare not" give their critics ammunition for accusations of unfair treatment.

Ms McAliskey has been visited by an almost constant stream of penal reformers, family members and English, Irish and European politicians.

Among those who have been to see her are George Howarth, the Labour MP who is now a Home Office minister with a responsibility for prisons.

Other high-profile visitors include the Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, Max Madden, the former Labour MP, and Sean Maloney, the Irish senator.

The McAliskey case threatens to become an international cause celebre and a propaganda disaster for Britain as the new Labour government aims to champion human rights causes.

In the United States, star-studded events have been held to raise money for her. One gathering at the fashionable La Belle Epoque restaurant in New York a fortnight ago raised pounds 12,000 for the pregnant prisoner.

The Hollywood stars present included Joanne Woodward, the wife of Paul Newman, Ulster-born Liam Neeson and his English wife Natasha Richardson, and Terry George, the former Irish National Liberation Army terrorist and film-maker responsible for In the Name of the Father and Some Mother's Son.