Prisoner to fight lily ban in Europe

A republican inmate is taking the Prison Service to the European Court of Human Rights over its refusal to allow him to wear an Easter lily.

On Easter Sunday 2008 Christopher Donaldson was among 17 republican prisoners disciplined for wearing lilies.

While inmates are allowed to wear poppies and shamrocks within Maghaberry jail, Easter and Orange lilies are banned as they are classified as ‘conflict emblems’.

Last year the Court of Appeal rejected Donaldson’s challenge to the ban, saying the symbols had the potential to “inflame” those who hold differing views.

But Donaldson, who is serving a 12-year sentence for armed robbery, claimed that inmates only wanted to wear the emblem within the confines of the republican wing and would not come into contact with loyalist prisoners.

He is now bringing the case to Europe, arguing that the ban is a breach of his political expression.

Fearghal Shiels of Madden & Finucane solicitors said: “The Prison Service policy in respect of the wearing of Easter lilies by republican prisoners represents an undue interference with our client’s rights to freedom of expression of his political beliefs and cultural identity, based upon purported concerns of good order and discipline, which is a generalisation not supported by evidence.

“The policy represents a violation of our client’s rights under Article 10 of the European Conven- tion on Human Rights.”

A Prison Service spokeswoman said inmates were allowed to wear Easter lilies in their cells but have to remove them when outside.

“There have been a number of review applications in relation to the wearing of Easter lilies in recent times and in all occasions the judge has upheld the Prison Service position,” she said.