UK prison bans academic book on Irish separatism

Mourners react as the coffin of journalist Lyra McKee, who was killed by a dissident republican paramilitary in Northern Ireland on April 18, is placed into a hearse following her funeral at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on April 24, 2019. (AFP photo)

Authorities in a prison in the UK province of Northern Ireland have prevented inmates from access to an academic book on separatism in the region as London tightens its crackdown on a movement which seeks independence or a merger with the Republic of Ireland.

The Guardian newspaper said on Tuesday that inmates in Maghaberry prison, located near Lisburn, County Antrim, in Northern Ireland, had been banned from access to , a book written by Marisa McGlinchey from Coventry University.

McGlinchey, a research fellow in political science at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, published its book through Manchester University Press in February. The book discusses how radical republicans in Ireland, including the Sinn Féin political party and the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), betrayed the independence movement and accepted to give away Northern Ireland as part of a peace treaty implemented in 1999.

The author has conducted interviews with dozens of notable Irish separatists, including people now held in Maghaberry prison.However, the prison service in Northern Ireland said the ban was meant to create a neutral environment in the prison.

The decision comes amid a crackdown on Irish separatists, especially after a series of high-profile attacks this year created concerns about a return of violence to the region after more than two decades.

Attacks reported in Northern Ireland this year, most of them in Derry, a main hub of separatism in the British province, included a major car bombing, two shootings and riots this month which ended in the tragic death of a journalist, all of them claimed by a group called the New IRA.

The surge in separatist sentiments in the region comes amid huge political uncertainties about Britain’s imminent withdrawal from the EU. Many fear a divorce deal between London and the EU, signed by Prime Minister Theresa May, could restore border checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland and help violence return to the region.