The Lurgan family of a two year old child, who was refused entry to Maghaberry prison due to his ‘camouflage-coloured’ shoes, has lashed out at the prison service.
Damian Duffy was waiting on a visit from his son and partner while on remand for charges linked to targetting a former member of the security forces following the discovery of a mortar in Lurgan last year.
Mr Duffy’s partner Carol McLaughlin (30) was very upset after their son Donnacha was denied access to the visiting area of Maghaberry Prison.
Ms McLaughlin explained in an article to The Irish News, that she had already passed through a search zone in the prison and was sitting in a waiting area when she was approached by two staff members.
In the artcle she claimed she was later told that her son’s shoes were not acceptable because “the camouflage posed a threat to the staff because they resembled paramilitary-style clothing”.
She also claimed that a senior official insisted they would have to be removed or replaced by other footwear before the visit could go ahead.
Mrs McLaughlain said that she was told that because she was unwilling to remove the child’s shoes and didn’t have replacement footwear, she was forced to leave the prison without visiting his father
In the interview she said: “I didn’t get angry,” she said.
“I said I thought it was absurd and was it possible they could show some discretion as he is not 20, but only two.”
Ms McLaughlin also told the Irish News that her child had been allowed into the prison in the past wearing the same shoes.
“They have let the child in before so there is discretion to some degree.”
Her legal representative Gavin Booth confirmed he has written to the Prison Service.
“This is a disgraceful move by Maghaberry,” he said.
“We will be taking this up with all relevant authorities.”
The Northern Ireland Prison Service said to the Lurgan Mail: “The Prison Service regrets any distress caused as a result of this incident and will be investigating the matter.”
Mandy Duffy, an aunt of the child, said: “The Prison service regrets any distress is not good enough. They need to address what is actually happening here. It is not acceptable. All families want is to spend an hour with their loved ones.”