Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Maze deputy governor rejects IRA man's claims warders beat up prisoners

By Jane Scott

A former deputy governor at the Maze has hit back at claims by an ex-IRA prisoner of assaults by jail staff, branding them "dishonest".

Tom Murtagh was reacting to allegations made by republican bomber Robert McClenaghan.

In a documentary When The War Ends, McClenaghan, a member of the Victims and Survivors Forum for more than a year, told of being "immensely proud" of joining the IRA and revealed that it was his "daily job" to plant bombs across Belfast.

Police have said they will examine the claims made by the convicted Provo in the 2011 documentary, which is available to watch on YouTube.

McClenaghan's claims came to light after Jackie Nicholl, whose 17-month-old son died in a no-warning IRA bomb attack on the Shankill Road in 1971, resigned from the same body for victims of the Troubles after learning of his past.

McClenaghan's grandfather Philip Garry was killed in the UVF McGurk's bar atrocity in north Belfast in December 1971.

In the YouTube film he also alleged IRA prisoners were beaten by warders during his time in the Maze.

He said: "I could hear men screaming. You heard punches and slaps.

"If they had kept beating us for that intensity... I don't know how long you could have lasted.

"It used to terrify you when they walked towards you in uniform."

But his claims have been rejected by Mr Murtagh, who recently published The Maze Prison: A Hidden Story Of Chaos, Anarchy and Politics, his autobiographical account of his life as a deputy prison governor and administrator.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Murtagh expressed his shock at the "dishonest portrayal" of the situation at the Maze, particularly that IRA prisoners were beaten and brutalised by staff.

"Whilst I sympathise with Robert and his family for their tragic loss, I was truly shocked by his dishonest portrayal of various events and situations," he said.

"He (McClenaghan) presented an emotional and completely dishonest account of the situation in the Maze Prison and seemed to attempt to present the IRA and republicans as the main victims of the Troubles.

"His comments could only be interpreted by any fair-minded person as an attempt to rewrite history, especially that of the Maze Prison."

In the documentary, McClenaghan also gave graphic details of what he described as "the mirror search", accusing warders of carrying out intimate searches inside the mouths of prisoners wearing gloves covered in excrement.

But Mr Murtagh also rejected this account, branding it "misleading".

Meanwhile, calls are growing for a change in how people are appointed to the Victims and Survivors Forum.

Members are appointed based on them meeting the legislative definition of a victim, but are not asked for a criminal record declaration as it is not part of the criteria for the role.

Kenny Donaldson, director of the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) victims' group, said: "There are a lack of checks and balances around people trying to be appointed.

"These people don't have to go through any form of AccessNI check."

Belfast Telegraph

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