Dissident Republicans on dirty protest challenge Maghaberry move to prevent legal and family visits

Two prisoners involved in a “dirty protest” at Maghaberry Jail have won High Court permission to challenge the denial of legal and family visits. William Wong and Michael Johnston are seeking to judicially review the ban imposed by prison authorities, which includes phone calls and court visits.

Dissident republicans being held there have been staging a protest over conditions. Maghaberry authorities have stopped their access to visits due to health and safety concerns for staff, other inmates and the public.

Mr Johnston, 28, from the New Lodge area of north Belfast is on remand charged with possession of timer power units. Wong, 22, and formerly of Dalton Close, Armagh, was jailed earlier this month for a minimum of five years for having a pipe bomb.

Their lawyers claim the prohibition breaches their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Tony McGleenan, for the Prison Service, contended that the situation was down to the protesters refusing to wash. He told the court: “The prisoners themselves can quite simply take a shower, change their clothes and they can have legal visits.”

With the legal challenge set to be reviewed again later this week, prison authorities are expected to examine what other steps can be taken. One possible method may involve installing a phone line to be used only by the protesters.