Belfast Telegraph

H-Block Escape Night with Maze escapees angers unionists

The food lorry which was at the centre of the Maze Prison breakout
The food lorry which was at the centre of the Maze Prison breakout
Warder James Ferris who died of a heart attack after being stabbed during the escape in 1983
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

A 'H-Block Escape Night' featuring a Sinn Fein MLA has been branded an "immoral attempt to profit from violence".

One unionist described the event held in the republican stronghold of Carrickmore, Co Tyrone, on Saturday night as "the height of immorality".

Three of the 1983 Maze escapees - former Provos Bobby Storey, Brendan 'Bik' McFarlane and North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly - promised to give the audience the true story of the mass escape.

The escape operation involved 38 IRA prisoners and was the largest prison breakout in UK history.

Inmates used weapons smuggled into the jail to catch warders off guard before making their getaway in a food delivery truck.

Prison officer James Andrew Ferris died from a heart attack after being stabbed during the incident.

Another 20 warders were injured, including John Adams who was shot in the head.

A flyer for Saturday night's event in the village's Patrician Hall stated: "The story told as it happened."

Entry to the ticket-only event was £10.

But Chris Smyth, a Ulster Unionist councillor from nearby Omagh, said it was a glorification of violence.

"The event in Carrickmore where three former IRA prisoners, including Gerry Kelly MLA, were due to appear is the height of immorality," he said.

"During that escape one prison officer died and 20 others were injured, including two who were shot.

"Now we have the pathetic sight of republicans conducting roadshows to boast about their activities in front of a paying public.

"Sinn Fein often demands the truth from others.

"But republicans have hitherto demonstrated a complete reluctance to tell it themselves."

Mr Smyth added that if republicans were so keen to tell the stories of the past, there was plenty they could disclose to the authorities.

He said: "The IRA holds many secrets. Previously, Martin McGuinness told the Saville Inquiry that he had taken an oath to the IRA which he could never break.

"Now we see a roadshow in Carrickmore where, for £10, you can hear about the Maze escape 'as it happened'.

"Perhaps this is some new initiative being rolled out whereby the truth can be told, but only if you pay a tenner to hear it. One wonders if this is part of a new campaign for the truth.

"Perhaps for future events they could consider a night to tell the paying public what happened to Jean McConville and the rest of the Disappeared?

"That could be followed up by an appearance of the men behind Bloody Friday.

"Then we could have an event where the Claudy bombers take to the stage.

"Next up, the La Mon bombers could regale an audience with just how, and why, they murdered so many innocent people."

Sinn Fein did not respond to requests for a comment.

Belfast Telegraph


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