Dissidents warn of ‘drastic’ action
A senior dissident republican has warned that inmates at Maghaberry Prison may take "drastic" action as their protest escalates.
The warning came after a number of republicans began a 48-hour hunger strike at midnight on Sunday - a move, according to a leadership figure, designed to "bring attention and focus minds on the conditions that currently exist in Maghaberry".
Dissident republican prisoners linked to a number of organisations have been involved in a behind-bars battle over strip searches and controlled movement.
"The situation in the jail is (that) prisoners are prepared for a long protest," Carl Reilly of Republican Network for Unity (RNU) told the Belfast Telegraph.
"We know from history the longer these things (prison protests) go on the more drastic they become," Reilly said.
Sources believe Reilly is an Army Council leadership figure in the terror faction Oglaigh na hEireann, the group behind the Palace Barracks bomb and a series of attacks targeting security forces
The bulk of dissident republicans being held have been involved in a so-called 'dirty protest' with the further development of a time-limited hunger strike.
"It's designed to send a warning shot across the bows of the prison administration and the Department of Justice," Reilly told this newspaper.
In June, Justice Minister David Ford insisted that searching prisoners leaving and entering jail is an essential part of security, and made clear there would be no compromise on this issue.
"There are two core issues," Reilly said, "controlled movement and strip searches".
"It's my understanding that on the current position there's no movement on searching leaving and entering the jail," he added.
He means no change in the position of the prison administration, and this is the stand-off - the deadlock in this jail battle.
As the republican protests continue, prisoner movement is being restricted, with jail rules being used to impose long periods of lock-up.
The big fear in all these situations is that prison protests inside jail can lead to action on the outside.
STORY SO FAR
Oglaigh na hEireann had previously warned it had the details of prison staff up to an including the governor - a statement designed to act as a warning. That threat was later withdrawn. In May, the faction was behind a series of bomb alerts that crippled many parts of Belfast. Dissidents linked to the Real and Continuity IRAs, Oglaigh na hEireann and other "independents" are held on a separated wing in Maghaberry Prison.