As a personal friend and as a member of a human rights organisation in Ireland, I have regularly visited Patrick McLaughlin who was, in the opinion of many, wrongly convicted of involvement in the Chelsea Barracks bomb in 1986. I visited him in Long Lartin, Whitemoor and Full Sutton prisons. Before every visit I was required by prison officers to pass through electronic detectors and was then given a thorough body search. Unlike most other visitors, my visits always took place in a separate part of the jail and with at least two prison officers present at all times. While I cannot vouch for the quality of the supervision, at no time was I ever left alone with Patrick.
The reality is that, far from having 'privileges' or special treatment, republican prisoners and those visiting them have always been subject to tight, often intrusive, supervision. I leave it to others to speculate as to why at this time those involved in running British prisons want to suggest otherwise.
The Pat Finucane Centre
Derry City, Co Londonderry