A CORK COUNTY councillor has refuted claims from Ulster unionists that he is stirring up a “diatribe of anti-British rhetoric” following his motion that the local authority oppose the extradition of Irish prisoners to the UK due to the practice of full-body strip searching at Maghaberry Prison near Lisburn.
Cobh-Glanmire representative Kieran McCarthy (IND) last month had a motion passed by Cork County Council opposing the practice.
A number of dissident republicans are currently being held at Maghaberry. The motion has been criticised in the North with Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister saying it is “cloaked in a diatribe of anti-British rhetoric”.
Democratic Unionist Party MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the motion is an excuse for “anti-British sentiment”. However, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday agreement has raised concerns about the practice of strip-searching at Maghaberry and Mr McCarthy said it is a violation of the European Human Rights Convention.
He said his concerns are not about nationality, but human rights and fears the situation will worsen once Britain exits the EU.
“This is not anti-British, it’s a human rights issue. My wife is English. My mother is English and all one side of my family is British,” he told the Evening Echo.
“Yes, I’m an Irish republican. Yes, I’m a former Sinn Féin councillor and a former prisoner myself but I’m also a politician and this issue is purely about human rights. If it was any other group of prisoners that were receiving the same kind of treatment as republican prisoners, I’d be speaking out as well,” he added.
Mr McCarthy has called for staff at Maghaberry to use search technology to prevent contraband and weapons being smuggled into the prison instead of subjecting prisoners to full body strip searches, which he has described as cruel. “The technology is there,” he said.
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