Belfast Telegraph

Maghaberry prison: Dirty protests and threats of murder as battle of wills on cellblock goes on

By Chris Kilpatrick

Roe House in Maghaberry Prison was built in 1999 and houses republican prisoners, including several of Northern Ireland's most high-profile terror suspects.

The block has four landings with a total of 96 cells.

Roe 1 and 2 landings are used for new commitals, while landings 3 and 4 accommodate republican prisoners.

In 2012 it was revealed £1m was spent repairing damage caused to prisons by so called dissident republican dirty protests over the previous three years. Rather than smear excrement on their own cells, most of those involved threw it into prison landings.

Prison officers on the wings were forced to wear forensic suits, latex gloves and face masks.

In November 2012, 22 inmates aligned to a group calling itself the IRA ended their protest over the routine use of strip-searching at the prison.

Earlier that month the IRA murdered prison officer David Black. The father-of-two's killing was referenced in a chilling statement released in the name of the IRA earlier this year.

Days after letter-bombs were sent to named prison staff at Maghaberry, the group ordered the officers' immediate removal from the republican wing or "face direct action either inside or outside" the prison.

"In the recent past we have demonstrated our ability to target and execute prison staff when necessary," the statement added.

"The further death of prison staff is an inevitability should the Maghaberry situation not be resolved.

"The IRA has the intelligence, capability, weaponry and volunteers at its disposal to take further actions against Prison Service staff and management.

"We will not be found wanting in that regard."

Last month Prisoner Ombudsman Tom McGonigle reported an upsurge in complaints from Roe House at the start of this year.

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