Belfast Telegraph

Dissidents in a chilling warning to prison staff: we have got your details

A terror group is threatening to target prison staff because of a continuing dispute over strip-searches at Maghaberry jail.

That threat comes from a senior figure in Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH), who told this newspaper: “If ONH prisoners are harmed, I am led to believe there are a number of prison officers whose details are known to ONH, up to and including governor level.”

The warning comes from an organisation that has previously used under-car booby-trap bombs to target police officers, including Peadar Heffron, and an Army major.

Now it is threatening to further extend its targeting to |include prison staff.

The threat comes seven months after an agreement brokered by facilitators brought an end to a long-running protest on the republican wing in Roe House at the jail.

That protest began when prisoners barricaded themselves inside a canteen, cells were wrecked and a no-wash and dirty protest followed. Now, there are claims that “sections of the Northern Ireland Prison Service” are against that agreement reached last year and “are determined to wreck it”.

Not all the equipment intended to remove the need for strip-searches at Maghaberry has yet been installed.

“Forced strip-searching was to be done away with as part of this agreement,” a spokesman for the Republican Network for Unity (RNU) said.

“Seven months from the August 12 agreement, the Northern Ireland Prison Service are, by their own admission, behind schedule on the implementation of the agreement,” the spokesman continued.

“We are calling for the full implementation of the agreement... and for the Northern Ireland Prison Service to stop playing games with prisoners, their families and the agreement itself,” he said. A source told the Belfast Telegraph that the mediators who helped broker the agreement last year are aware of the seriousness of the situation.

On the republican wing in Roe House there are prisoners linked to the Continuity and Real IRAs, Oglaigh na hEireann, the INLA, as well as a number of other |dissidents not linked to those organisations.

Willie Gallagher of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP), which is linked to the INLA, said: “The prison authorities and the Justice Department have been given enough warnings in relation to the slow implementation of the agreement.

“I have no doubt that there is a protest coming in relation to the non-implementation of the agreement — a protest by the republican prisoners.”

Comment, Page 28

backgroundThe dispute began on Easter Sunday 2010 when 28 dissident republican prisoners barricaded themselves inside the prison canteen and smashed toilets in their cells, complaining of excessive strip-searching and controlled movement. Prisoners said the practice was degrading and alleged it was being used as a form of harassment — claims strenuously denied by the Prison Service, which had to issue staff with special protective clothing after prisoners began pouring urine, sometimes mixed with excrement, onto landings. In August an agreement was reached and it is understood concessions were secured on strip-searching.

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