Prison break; Fear dissident inmates are hatching copycat Maze plan

15 August 2010
The News of the World
Ciaran McGuigan

It's feared dissident republicans who called off a dirty protest could be plotting a mass jail ESCAPE instead.

The group in top security Maghaberry Prison won search concessions and secured free movement and association 12 hours a day inside the republican landings after a deal with prison chiefs.

The deal on Thursday ended a two-month dirty protest by dissidents at the jail's Roe House.

But seasoned staff fear the settlement means prisoners are now well-placed to stage a repeat of the mass IRA break-out from the Maze in 1983 — when 38 men escaped after taking over an entire jail block.

One experienced source warned: "It will now be possible for prisoners to overwhelm staff on the republican wing by about eight to one now they are free to be out of their cells most of the day.

"The fear is that the next step will be that a member of staff is attacked, meaning bosses will then have to withdraw staff from the wing entirely for their own safety.

"And once that happens the next step is to try to escape by taking over an area such as visits on a weekend when security is less tight.

"These people are determined to copy the Provisional IRA's every move, and this is exactly what happened in the run up to the break-out from the Maze.

"Step by step it's clear what way this is going."

The protest had been in place since Easter Sunday, when around 30 prisoners barricaded themselves in the jail canteen and damaged cell toilets. Prisoners had complained about excessive strip-searching when going to and from visitors.

They also moaned that their movements within the block were too closely monitored. The inmates started to clean down their cells on Thursday after receiving orders shouted in Irish by Real IRA number two Paul McCaugherty.

The 43-year-old from Lurgan is awaiting sentence for plotting to smuggle tonnes of weaponry into Northern Ireland.  (See info re: McCaugherty links to Alvor, Portugal)

As inmates cleaned up, they continued to make sick threats against staff.

Jail sources told how they sang, 'Tiocfaidh Ar La, look under your car', at staff as the protest ended.

It is understood that at least three serving prison officers have received specified threats in the past week.

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