by John Carey
THE IRISH Justice and Peace Commission indicated this week that it believed the Government was prepared to reach some kind of compromise solution to the problem of the hunger strikes at the Maze prison. But it warned against undue optimism.
fn a brief comment on Tuesday's statement on the Maze by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Mr Atkins, the Commission said: "This statement, together with clarification which we have received over a number of days, encourages us to continue our effort,...
Later Mr Jerome Connolly, the Commission's executive secretary. said the statement and earlier meetings with Government officials, the National HBlock Committee and the strikers' relatives left room for some progress to be made. But he stressed that hopes should not be raised too high.
The latest developments in the four-month-old crisis clearly stem directly from the Commission's statement of June 3. That statement asked the Government to make general changes to prison rules affecting all prisoners, while opposing the hunger strikers' demand for political status.
In particular it urged that prisoners be allowed to wear their own clothes all the time, that there should be increased opportunities for association between prisoners and that arrangements fur prison work should be reviewed to ensure that it was of the greatest possible educational value.
The momentum generated then was maintained by the Irish bishops' statement of two weeks ago, which condemned the fast and called again on both the Government and the strikers to show more "openness".
Tuesday's long and carefully worded statement by Mr Atkins said: "It has been suggested that changes should be made now in the areas of work, clothing and association as a gesture in the hope of ending the hunger strike. The Government does listen to the views of responsible people. The great difficulty about such a move is that it would encourage the hope that political status based on the so-called "five Turn to page 10