Three prisoners have left the republican wing in Maghaberry Prison following a dispute with other inmates over protests about conditions in the jail.
Paul McCaugherty from Lurgan, who was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment last October after MI5 smashed an international gun-smuggling plot, Turloch McAllister from south Armagh, and Belfast man Sean Carlin have chosen to serve their sentences alongside ordinary criminal prisoners.
Police believed McCaugherty was second-in-command of the paramilitary group Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH).
The men’s decision to leave the republican wing follows a major dispute about strip-searching in Maghaberry.
Republican prisoners in the jail claimed that an agreement with the authorities that the procedure be carried out only in exceptional circumstances had been broken.
However, they were deeply divided on tactics, with some prisoners wanting to continue to mediate with the authorities to find a resolution and others favouring outright resistance to strip-searching.
The hardline approach was adopted by Real IRA inmates and several unaligned prisoners, including Colin Duffy, who is charged with murdering two British soldiers at Massereene.
Continuity IRA and ONH inmates, along with unaligned prisoner McAllister — convicted of possessing explosives — and INLA prisoner Carlin, didn’t believe that was the best way forward.
However, last week the ONH and Continuity IRA prisoners changed their minds and supported the protest.
McAllister, Carlin and Mc Caugherty have now left the republican wing in Roe House at the prison.
McAllister and McCaugherty are now housed with non-paramilitary prisoners in Erne House.
Carlin, who will be released in June, is moving to Magilligan Prison.