Dissident republican factions in Maghaberry split
A major split has erupted between two republican groupings in Maghaberry Prison.
Continuity IRA supporters say that its prisoners are being shadowed by members of the New IRA, who demand to see legal documents and follow CIRA inmates to meetings with their solicitors.
Republican Sinn Fein, the political wing of the CIRA, said that Gabriel Mackle, a former Royal Irish Regiment soldier turned dissident paramilitary, is being forced out of the republican wing.
It said this was because he refused to be under the control of the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (IRPWA), which supports New IRA inmates.
It said Mackle had only returned from temporary release on Sunday night when he was approached by three IRPWA-supported inmates who informed him that he had to hand over all legal papers to them and have one of their prisoners accompany him on legal visits.
It said Mackle refused, and said he was represented by Cabhair, the CIRA representative group.
"Gabriel rightly refused to be bullied in this manner, stating he was not an IRPWA PoW, that he was a Cabhair-supported prisoner and would work under Cabhair-supported structures as he has been since being incarcerated," Republican Sinn Fein said in a statement.
High security Maghaberry, near Lisburn, houses the majority of Northern Ireland's paramilitary prisoners and keeps them in specially designated landings.
Mackle (42), of Tandragee, Co Armagh, is serving eight years for possession of equipment used for making mercury tilt switch bombs.
Republican Sinn Fein said that warders then told him that he should leave the republican wing, but he refused.
"Later, IRPWA PoWs came to his cell and ordered him from the landing, issuing threats, to which Gabriel said he would remain on the landings as he is a Republican PoW," Republican Sinn Fein added.
Republican Sinn Fein said the incident came on top of what it claimed was membership poaching by the IRPWA, and that former prisoners were being told that the IRPWA wanted to control all republican inmates by the end of the year.
"It is not so long since the dirty protest when fellow Cabhair-supported PoWs took the lead in that protest and welcomed newly incarcerated PoWs.
"It seems the old saying 'Eaten bread is soon forgotten' never rang so true," it said.
One dissident republican group in Munster also claimed that it was placed under pressure to only represent IRPWA prisoners.
The IRPWA has not responded to a request for comment.