Real IRA Plotting To Blow Up Troubled Jail
Posted 12 August 2003 - 05:23 PM
Real IRA Plotting To Blow Up Troubled Jail Jul 28 2003
THE Real IRA is plotting to blow up Maghaberry prison.
Special Branch officers have uncovered the chilling plans and now a top-level security warning has been given to prison warders who have been told they could be attacked on or off duty.
The Real IRA plan is to break through the perimeter fencing and shoot prison officers before detonating a huge bomb.
A senior police source said yesterday: "It is like a plot from an action movie.''
The security warning given to Maghaberry prison staff says: "Dissident republicans are planning to carry out some form of attack on the perimeter fence in order to break into the prison complex to highlight their campaign for segregation.''
It also emerged yesterday that about one in five warders is presently on sick leave.
Finlay Spratt, Prison Officers' Association chairman, said: "The high level of sick leave is due to staff facing threats and intimidation."
Posted 12 August 2003 - 05:24 PM
Real IRA boss must pay €1m in CAB move on terrorists
TERRORIST boss Liam Campbell will have to hand over at least €1m to the Criminal Assets Bureau as a result of a court decision yesterday.
The CAB secured a High Court judgment for €872,483 against the man who was effectively second-in-command of the Real IRA until his arrest by gardai.
And when costs and interest are added to the bill, it is expected that the final figure will top €1m.
The judgment resulted from the first strike by the CAB against the finances of leading dissident republicans.
Campbell is expected to be followed by other victims as the CAB steps up its campaign to target those responsible for organising the terror attacks carried out by dissident republican groups since the Provisional IRA ceasefire.
Last December the Irish Independent disclosed that the CAB had served a tax bill on Campbell after he had been arrested at Portlaoise jail under the Taxes Consolidation Act and taken to the local garda station for questioning for 12 hours.
While in custody, he was presented with a tax assessment for more than €750,000, which resulted from a year-long investigation into his finances.
Campbell had been sentenced by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin in October 2001 to five years imprisonment for membership of the Real IRA and sent to the top-security prison.
During their inquiries, the Garda officers and Revenue officials, attached to CAB, discovered that Campbell had put €635,000 in an investment scheme in 1998 and his policy was near maturity.
The money was initially placed in a bank in Dundalk in a single lodgment by a man using a false name.
Immediately after Campbell's conviction, a major garda operation also involving the national fraud bureau was initiated under the direction of Noel Conroy, who yesterday took up office as new garda commissioner.
Gardai were already aware that Campbell (41), a father-of-two and a farmer with five acres almost on the Border, was heavily involved in cross-border smuggling, particularly of drink and tobacco.
Major seizures of cigarettes, worth €5.5m, in Inniskeen, Co Monaghan, and the Netherlands, last week were linked by gardai to associates of the Real IRA's former director of operations.
During a search of his home at Upper Faughart, Dundalk, in 2000 gardai found 96 magnums of champagne among other items that were to be used as evidence against him at his subsequent trial.
Up to then, Campbell had no criminal convictions but he had been high on the list of subversive suspects since the formation of the Real IRA in early 1998.
While in jail last year Campbell and some associates had a row with the main RIRA group led by its reputed chief of staff, Michael McKevitt.
A year ago Campbell and McKevitt were visited in the prison by lawyers representing the families of the victims of the Omagh bomb atrocity which was carried out by the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA.
They are among five men who have been served with writs seeking compensation of £1.5m sterling and alleged by the families to have been involved in the bombing.
Terrorists 'have 200 activists'
MAIN dissident republican organisation the Real IRA has up to 200 activists, according to estimates from US anti-terrorism experts.
A report from the US State Department on global terrorism includes the Real IRA, Continuity IRA, Provisional IRA, Red Hand Defenders, Loyalist Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association/Loyalist Volunteer Force on its list of terrorist groups.
The Continuity IRA is reckoned to have fewer than 50 hard-core activists. The report notes police operations have reduced the group's strength. Extreme loyalist group the Red Hand Defenders is thought to have up to 20 members. The report notes the group is often a cover name for UDA/UFF members.
Estimates on the strength of the UDA/UFF are looser and vary from 2,000 to 5,000 members. The LVF, US experts reckon, has 300 members, of whom half are active. The Provisionals are said to have several hundred members plus several thousand sympathisers.
New York Times
U.S. Deports Irish Suspect in '76 Killing of Policeman
By THOMAS J. LUECK
suburban Philadelphia pipe fitter who was charged in the 1970's killing of a police officer in his native Northern Ireland has been arrested and deported, federal officials said yesterday.
The pipe fitter, John Edward Anthony McNicholl of Upper Darby, Pa., was arrested by agents for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement as he left his home for work at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday, the authorities said. He was flown to Dublin on Friday and released.
The deportation culminated a legal battle that spanned more than a decade and generated passionate support for Mr. McNicholl from Irish-Americans.
"He may have participated in a war 27 years ago, but that war ended and we should stop this insanity," said Jack Worrall, a Rutgers University economist and friend of Mr. McNicholl. "This is a good and decent man, a quiet man, who is widely respected in his community."
Mr. McNicholl's lawyer, James Orlow, said last night that his client was a victim of overzealous federal policies toward anything related to terrorism.
"Mr McNicholl is like a lamb they led to slaughter to show they are doing something about terrorism," Mr. Orlow said.
Immigration officials said Mr. McNicholl entered the country illegally and lied on a visa application. They also said sufficient evidence had been presented to tie him to past terrorist activity to warrant the deportation.
"He went through the whole process, and was denied his last appeal," said Garrison Courtney, a spokesman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The federal Board of Immigration Appeals issued a deportation order on July 10, immigration officials said in a statement yesterday.
Mr. McNicholl was arrested in 1976 after two officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary were ambushed and shot, one of them fatally, in the small town of Dungiven. The police later raided a farmhouse where they found Mr. McNicholl and two other men, as well as guns and explosives.
Mr. McNicholl was described at the time by the British authorities as a member of a terrorist paramilitary organization, the Irish National Liberation Army. He was arrested with the two other men, and confined to the Maze prison near Belfast.
Three months later, while awaiting trial, he tunneled out with eight other prisoners.
Mr. McNicholl, 51, and his wife, Francis, a naturalized United States citizen who was born in Northern Ireland, moved to the United States in 1984, and have lived in Upper Darby since the late 1980's. They have three children, ages 12, 16 and 17.
Federal immigration officials began trying to deport Mr. McNicholl in 1995. Their case was based in part on a 1990 charge that Mr. McNicholl lied on a visa application by saying he had never been arrested.
The government's case was also based on testimony by British officials that was intended to tie Mr. McNicholl to the Irish National Liberation Army and the killing of the police officer in 1976. Mr. Courtney said grounds for deportation had been established under federal rules because Mr. McNicholl was "suspected of being involved in terrorism."
Mr. McNicholl denied any involvement in the 1976 shooting, and Mr. Orlow produced court documents from Ireland that showed another man had been convicted in the case, which he said absolved his client.
Posted 12 August 2003 - 05:26 PM
US omits loyalists from terror list
By Mark Devenport
BBC Northern Ireland political editor
The US State Department's report on patterns of global terrorism contains a wealth of detail on Northern Ireland's paramilitary groups, with one notable absence.
Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport reports on which groups are on the United States' 'A' list and why the Ulster Volunteer Force did not feature in the report.
The US Envoy to Northern Ireland, Richard Haass, is reported to be examining a short list of prominent people on the US diplomatic and political scene who might be interested in serving on the new Independent Monitoring Commission.
An announcement of the Commission team in shadow form is now thought to be likely next month.
The timetable has apparently slipped as officials pour over the fine detail of the Commission's remit in an attempt to make the body acceptable both to sceptical unionists and suspicious republicans.
Many Real IRA members are former Provisional IRA members who bring to RIRA a wealth of experience in terrorist tactics and bombmaking
US government report
Whenever the US does have its nominee in place he or she will no doubt want to get briefed on the fine detail of the paramilitary scene in Northern Ireland, which the Commission is meant to be monitoring.
An obvious starting point might be the US State Department's own report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism", which came out earlier this year.
The report contains a wealth of detail on most Northern Ireland based paramilitary groups. But there is one glaring omission.
One of the report's appendices contains a list of the 36 groups which the US government has designated as foreign terrorist organisations.
The only Irish group to make this 'A' list of terror, if that's the right description, is the Real IRA, the faction which carried out the Omagh bombing.
The US report describes the Real IRA as the "clandestine armed wing of the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, a 'political pressure group' dedicated to removing British forces from Northern Ireland and unifying Ireland."
It says "many Real IRA members are former Provisional IRA members who left that organization following the Provisional IRA cease-fire and bring to RIRA a wealth of experience in terrorist tactics and bombmaking."
It estimates the Real IRA's strength as "100 to 200 activists plus possible limited support from IRA hardliners dissatisfied with the IRA cease-fire and other republican sympathizers."
A separate appendix, or 'B' list deals with 38 other organisations who for one reason or another did not merit the US government's worst opprobrium.
In Northern Ireland, that is either because the groups concerned are on ceasefire, or because they are not deemed significant enough to make the 'A' list.
David Ervine believes the UVF aren't listed as they don't pose a threat to the peace process
The 'B' list includes major groups like the IRA and the UDA/UFF as well as factions such as the LVF, the Red Hand Defenders and the Continuity IRA.
But there is no mention of one of the biggest and most potent loyalist terror groups, the Ulster Volunteer Force.
David Ervine, whose Progressive Unionist Party is closely linked to the UVF, said it was hard to understand why the UVF didn't feature.
With his tongue in his cheek, he suggested that it might be the fruits of all his assiduous lobbying in Washington.
More seriously, he suggested "maybe it's because the UVF don't pose a specific threat to the peace process and aren't wanting to seek political advantage through military action".
But to be fair to the State Department it looks more like a clerical error than a belief that the UVF has gone out of business.
An insider said "we're a huge organisation; these things happen".
The entry for the Loyalist Volunteer Force describes the LVF as a faction "composed largely of UVF hardliners who have sought to prevent a political settlement with Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland by attacking Catholic politicians, civilians, and Protestant politicians who endorse the Northern Ireland peace process".
So it's pretty clear that Washington knows the UVF still exists.
The UVF to one side, the other details in the report should make interesting reading for any would be US Monitoring Commissioner.
The omission of the UVF seems to be a clerical error
Described as "particularly vicious", the LVF is said to have "300 members, half of whom are active."
The Red Hand Defenders is referred to as "a cover name often used by elements of the banned UDA and LVF".
But it also appears the US believe the Red Hand Defenders has some existence in its own right as it is rated as having "up to 20 members, some of whom have experience in terrorist tactics and bombmaking".
The Ulster Defence Association a.k.a Ulster Freedom Fighters is acknowledged to be "the largest loyalist paramilitary group" with anything from "2,000 to 5,000 members, with several hundred active in paramilitary operations".
The report says "the UDA/UFF has evolved into a criminal organization involved in drug trafficking and other moneymaking criminal activities".
On the republican side, the Continuity IRA is described as "the clandestine armed wing of Republican Sinn Fein", which is thought to have "fewer than 50 hard-core activists".
The US report claims that "police counter-terrorist operations have reduced the group's strength, but CIRA has been able to reconstitute its membership through active recruiting efforts."
The US State Department notes that the Provisional IRA is maintaining a ceasefire but adds that it "retains the ability to conduct paramilitary operations.
The IRA's extensive criminal activities reportedly provide the organizations with millions of dollars each year."
It says the IRA has "several hundred members, plus several thousand sympathizers-despite the defection of some members to RIRA and CIRA".
In a section sub-titled "External Aid" it points out that that IRA "has in the past received aid from a variety of groups and countries and considerable training and arms from Libya and the PLO".
It goes on: "The group is also suspected of receiving funds, arms, and other terrorist-related materiel from sympathizers in the United States.
"Similarities in operations suggest links to (the Basque separatist group) ETA and the (Colombian Marxist organisation) FARC."
When they start work, the Independent Monitoring Commission could do worse than to keep a copy of "Patterns of Global Terrorism" on their bookshelves.
But they should also invest, quite separately, in a history of the UVF.
Irish Independent 23rd July
Maze escapee set for extradition bid
POLICE chiefs in Belfast are expected to seek the extradition from the Republic of a suspected INLA man who escaped from the Maze Prison 28 years ago.
John Edward McNicholl (51) arrived in Shannon last Friday, having been deported from the US for entering the country illegally.
Police in the North had been seeking his deportation from the US since 1997 to face murder charges dating back to the shooting of an RUC man in south Derry in 1975.
If extradited and subsequently convicted, the North's authorities are unlikely to accept that McNicholl would be eligible for any early release under the Good Friday Agreement, as the alleged offences relate to a case for which he has not yet stood trial.
McNicholl had denied involvement in the 1975 murder or belonging to a terrorist organisation in his appeal against deportation from the US.
Nonetheless, he was flown out last Friday after admitting he had entered the country illegally.
A spokeswoman for the Gardai said there was currently no extradition order to the North for McNicholl.
She was unable to confirm or deny earlier media reports that he had been taken into custody last Friday on arrival at Shannon
Irish Independent 23rd July
McKevitt's lawyers apply to stop trial
LAWYERS for alleged Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt yesterday applied at the Special Criminal Court for his trial to be halted.
The application followed claims that the defence case has been "irreparably damaged" because documents relating to the evidence of key witness, FBI agent David Rupert, were not disclosed until after he had left the stand.
Mr McKevitt's counsel, Hugh Hartnett SC, told the court the documents showed inconsistencies in Mr Rupert's proposed evidence regarding a meeting of the Real IRA Army Council in Co Louth in 2000 and his actual evidence.
Diarmaid Mac Dermott
and Liz Walsh
Dissident 'shot by IRA'
A man who described himself as a dissident republican paramilitary said he was attacked by the IRA because of his political views.
The 32-year-old victim was shot in the right leg by a gang of men in an alley close to the Oldpark Road in north Belfast on Thursday evening.
The man, who did not want to be identified, also said a gun was held to his head and he is lucky to be alive.
He told BBC Northern Ireland: "I believe it was more than a punishment-style attack, I believe my life was at stake.
"These people were sent out to murder me.
"I have spoken out against these people and my views are completely different from theirs."
Lawyers are sacked in terror trial
By Thomas Harding, Ireland Correspondent
Michael McKevitt, the alleged leader of the Real IRA at the time of the Omagh bomb, sacked his lawyers yesterday and refused to participate in what he called a "political show trial".
The alleged former Provisional IRA quartermaster was in the fifth week of his trial for directing terrorism and membership of the Real IRA when he made the announcement.
After his lawyers left, McKevitt, 53, from Dundalk, read a statement claiming that his trial was flawed because security services failed to disclose documents that would prove his innocence.
The state's case relies almost entirely on the evidence of David Rupert, a former haulage company owner who spent almost a decade infiltrating republican terrorist groups.
Before the trial started there had been days of legal argument about secret MI5, FBI and Garda documents that the security services did not want disclosed on security grounds.
"The prosecution was founded on concealment and non-disclosure," McKevitt claimed.
As he was being led from the court, Laurence Rush, whose wife Elizabeth died in the Omagh bombing, shouted: "What about disclosure in 1998? You are nothing but scum."
The judges ruled that the case should proceed with McKevitt present in court.
Posted 12 August 2003 - 05:29 PM
Rosie Cowan, Ireland correspondent
Saturday July 26, 2003
Dissident republicans in a Northern Irish jail are engaged in a "dirty protest" which their supporters and the authorities fear could escalate into a hunger strike.
Twenty inmates at Maghaberry, near Lisburn, Co Antrim, have been smearing their cells with excrement for three weeks in an attempt to be segregated from loyalists and non-paramilitary criminals, who they claim are putting their lives at risk.
They say they have been locked in punishment blocks for refusing to share cells with loyalist terrorists, and that protesters have been beaten, hosed down, and left ankle deep in water - allegations denied by the prison service.
A prison service spokesman insisted statistics disproved their argument. Of 60 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in the past 15 months, only nine were sectarian. So far, the protest has been relatively low key. The renegade groups, the Real and Continuity IRA, have nothing like the widespread nationalist community support the Provisional IRA had when 10 republicans starved themselves to death in the Maze prison in 1981.
The Maze, where various terrorist factions practically ran their own wings under a notoriously segregated regime, closed its gates in September 2000 behind the last of 450 terrorists freed under the terms of the Good Friday agreement.
Marian Price, a spokeswoman for the dissident prisoners, knows only too well how serious the protests could be. She and her sister, Dolours, were force fed in an English jail where they went on hunger strike after being imprisoned for bombing London in 1973.
"My stomach drops to my feet when I think about it," she said. "But these are extremely determined young men. From my own experience, the hardest bit is making the initial decision. Once you embark on a hunger strike, it is very difficult to turn back."
Maghaberry's most infamous prisoner, Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair, is in isolation for his own safety, as much under threat from fellow loyalists as republicans. But other loyalists, who vastly outnumber the 25 dissident republicans among Maghaberry's 700-strong prison population, are expected to mix. They too want segregation and are angry at conditions in the jail.
Tommy Kirkham, of the Ulster Political Research Group which speaks for the Ulster Defence Association, the largest loyalist paramilitary group, said: "Loyalists won't get involved in a hunger strike but we are worried republican action inside will bring reaction outside."
A prison service spokesman, however, was adamant that integration was the best policy. "Dissidents are trying to say this is about safety," he said. "We believe it's about power and control. Assaults are unfortunately part of prison life but the vast majority in Maghaberry are not sectarian."
But he admitted the fear of hunger strike was there. "Even the very words are evocative. Anybody who has read anything about this place has them in the back of their mind."
Posted 12 August 2003 - 05:33 PM
Dissidents Target Rush Hour Jul 31 2003
By Clare Weir
MEMBERS of the Real IRA protesting against prison conditions at Maghaberry have admitted that they were responsible for a string of hijacks and security alerts that caused traffic chaos in greater Belfast.
The dissident republicans have claimed they were behind a series of bomb scares, adding that they were designed to cause havoc and disruption as part of the campaign to have their prisoners segregated.
Motorists were left frustrated yesterday (Wednesday) after a total of nine hoaxes were dealt with by police and army technical officers in Belfast, Lisburn and Dunmurry.
Seven of the affected areas were in or close to Belfast city centre.
The first alert took place at 8.10am on Wednesday morning, when Annadale embankment was closed from King's Bridge to Sunnyside Street as a suspicious device was examined. The area was finally reopened five hours later.
At 8.30am, there were alerts about devices at Queens Bridge and Shaw's Bridge, but nothing was found.
Also closed was the main Belfast to Lisburn Road after two armed and masked men hijacked an Ulsterbus at the Stewartstown terminus at McKinstry Road just outside Dunmurry at around 8.40am.
No passengers were on board at the time and the alert was later declared an elaborate hoax.
At 9am, bomb disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion on a hijacked van left outside Grosvenor Road police station in west Belfast, which forced the closure of the Westlink. Again, this was a hoax.
The army were then called to examine an abandoned van in High Street at 9.40am, which was declared another false alarm.
Shortly before 12 noon two alerts in the Donegall Street area closed Royal Avenue to Kent Street and North Queen Street to Frederick Street and the ATO were also called to Bow Street Mall shopping area in Lisburn.
The spate of hoax calls followed an alert on Tuesday evening in Donegall Road which was also declared a false alarm but caused considerable inconvenience to tea-time commuters.
Maggie Hunter, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable for Urban Region said: ''These alerts, which caused serious disruption to people going about their day to day lives, are unacceptable and irresponsible.
''So far the alerts, which are believed to have been carried out by dissident republicans, were all hoaxes but have to be treated seriously with public and police safety foremost in our minds.
"We regret the inconvenience caused by these alerts and the diversion of police resources away from genuine calls.
''I urge anyone with any information about these alerts to contact the police or Crimestoppers on freephone 0800 555 111,'' she added.
Posted 12 August 2003 - 05:33 PM
Hoaxes are Flashback to Darker Days Jul 31 2003
BOMB hoaxes brought traffic chaos to Belfast yesterday, leaving frustrated commuters to wonder at the mentality of those responsible.
The actions of dissident republicans left one bus driver, his vehicle hijacked at gunpoint, deeply shocked and distressed and resulted in thousands of people being late for work.
Stolen vehicles were abandoned on a number of main routes outside prime targets, such as the police station on the Grosvenor Road, while telephone callers warned of devices being left of the Queen's Bridge and Shaw's Bridge. Traffic in Lisburn and Dunmurry was also affected.
All the alerts were timed to cause the maximum disruption, beginning at 8am as traffic built up in the city.
Army bomb disposal experts were quicklyon the scene where devices were found and, with their usual professionalism, dealt efficiency and quickly with the situation while the police did a sterling job in keeping the traffic flowing where possible.
In the event, all the phone calls, hijacked vehicles and suspicious devices turned out to be elaborate hoaxes.
Assistant Chief Constable Maggie Hunter said the alerts had created ''serious disruption for people going about their everyday lives in a way that is unacceptable and irresponsible''.
Even Sinn Fein, whose allies in the IRA are past-masters at bringing disruption and chaos to the streets of Ulster, condemned the actions.
It takes neither brains nor courage to bring traffic to a standstill by such methods.
Disgruntled schoolchildren could achieve as much and probably be able to put up a more coherent and intelligent argument for their actions.
The people of Northern Ireland have endured more than 30 years of terrorism without conceding to the men of violence.
To echo the words of SDLP representative Patricia Lewsley: ''It is difficult to understand what they hope to achieve by such actions.''
The fact remains, however, that such groups will continue to wage their own dirty little war while the political progress in the Province remains logjammed.
Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged as much yesterday when he warned the present situation was ''too fragile''.
It is good to know that Mr Blair hasn't forgotten the Province amid his many other problems, but it is leadership, not words, which are needed now and not just from the premier but across the board.
Posted 12 August 2003 - 05:43 PM
SATURDAY 19/07/2003 16:01:21 1 comment
Dirty protest development
The dirty protest by republican inmates at Maghaberry Prison in County Antrim could be called off if the prison authorities continued to segregate them from loyalists, it was claimed today.
Marian Price, spokeswoman for the Real IRA-linked Irish Republican Welfare Association, said the prisoners were currently being held in a special unit at the jail`s Foyle House as punishment for the protest, which began more than two weeks ago over sharing a wing with loyalists.
She said: ``In effect they have been segregated by the authorities. We have been told that this is because they have been put on punishment but we certainly see that as a moral victory.
She continued: ``If the authorities can segregate them for punishment then surely they can segregate them to live together and get on with serving their sentences.``
Ms Price, a former Provisional IRA activist, who was jailed for her part in the 1973 IRA bomb attacks in London, was speaking at a special protest rally on the Falls Road in west Belfast.
There has been speculation that if the prisoners do not get what they want they could begin a new hunger strike.
Ms Price said there would be no announcement of a hunger strike today but added if the prisoners were prepared to intensify their protest to force the authorities to agree to their demands.
She added: ``These men are not going to be forced into anything, neither are they going to shirk away from anything. They will do things at their own pace, we are not pre-empting anything, we are getting all instructions from them and it is very much prison driven.``
The protest at Dunville Park on the Falls Road included families of the prisoners involved in the protest.
The campaign centres around republican demands to be separated from the high security complex near Lisburn.
Fears have been raised that supporters could attack a prison officer as the crisis deepens. Ms Price yesterday warned: ``If one of these young men dies in prison there are going to be consequences and it doesn`t bear thinking about. Lives will not be lost on just one side.``
So far the Northern Ireland prison service has insisted it would maintain its policy of integration between republican and loyalist prisoners but Ms Price described this policy as a nonsense.
``I have experience of prisons and I fail to see how anyone with any knowledge of how a prison works would see that as a way forward.
``There has always been segregation within prisons in the north. When there hasn`t there is always trouble.``
She added: ``People on the outside don`t live together and I don`t see how you can expect republicans and loyalists to live together on a wing - it`s a very confined space.``
She said the republicans wanted an undertaking that the punishment would stop and that they will be held on their own wing so that they could serve out their sentences in safety.
Posted 12 August 2003 - 05:48 PM
Hoses Turned on Jail 'Dirty' Protest Jul 9 2003
A SO-CALLED dirty protest by dissident republican prisoners in Northern Ireland intensified yesterday.
With up to 10 men smearing excrement on their cell walls at Maghaberry Jail, highpowered hoses were brought in to clean up the mess.
The prisoners, most of whom are linked to the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA, are demanding to be segregated from loyalists.
Prison authorities confirmed a number of men had been moved from their cells, but denied anybody was hurt during the cleaning operation yesterday.
The campaign for segregation is being resisted because of fears prisoners will attempt to take control of their own areas.
Unlike the 1981 IRA hunger strike, this protest by dissidents opposed to the peace process has virtually no support in republican areas.
Posted 12 August 2003 - 05:52 PM
Republican Dissidents Responsible for Fires
Republican dissidents campaigning for segregation from loyalists inside Maghaberry jail are believed to have been responsible for starting small fires in the prison last night. Fire crews dealt with the fires at the high-security jail in Co. Antrim. This time last week eight prisoners climbed onto the roof of one block in the jail to protest at being doubled up in cells intended for one prisoner only. During the week, 30 dissident republican protesters forced their way into the prisons department at Stormont to demand segregation, allegedly gaining access to confidential files. Last night the campaign went further with small fires set alight in a dining room and one of the wings of the prison. A number of fire engines were called to the jail but no-one was hurt. Finlay Spratt of the Prison Officers Association said he was not surprised and accused the authorities of adopting a lackadaisical attitude. This is unlikely to be the last incident in the continuing campaign for segregation between loyalists and republican inmates
Posted 14 August 2003 - 04:44 PM
'Dirty' protest prisoners fail in legal bid
Ten republican prisoners on a "dirty" protest at Maghaberry Prison lost a High Court action today against being denied access to their lawyers. The Lord Chief Justice Sir Robert Carswell said the prison authorities acted lawfully in suspending legal visits after the prisoners refused to clean their cells which they had smeared with their own excrement.
Dismissing an application for a judicial review of the decision, the Chief Justice said standards of hygience, health and safety had to be maintained and the response by the prison authorities was "proper and necessary."
But he said the situation had to be kept under review because of the difficulties that might arise for prisoners preparing a legal defence for their trials.
Frank O`Donoghue, QC, said he anticipated receiving instructions to appeal as four of the prisoners were due to stand trial next month.
The prisoners - seven are on remand awaiting trial and the other three are serving sentences - are now in the fifth week of their protest over demands for segregation from loyalists.
Today`s hearing was told that some of them have been given up to five spells of solitary confinement arising out of their protest.
On each occasion their cells were cleaned by contractors but when they returned they re-commenced their "dirty" protest.
Posted 16 August 2003 - 06:45 AM
FRIDAY 15/08/2003 10:49:50
Loyalist paramilitaries launch jail separation campaign
Loyalist paramilitaries today launched a poster blitz across Northern Ireland in a new bid to get their jailed comrades separated from republicans.
Thousands of Ulster Defence Association flyers demanding segregation for men locked up at the high-security Maghaberry Prison near Lisburn, Co Antrim, were put up in towns and cities overnight, supporters claimed.
Tommy Kirkham, of the UDA-affiliated Ulster Political Research Group, said: ``This is a campaign of non-violence aimed at achieving separation.
``When the government is building walls between communities on the outside, why should these men be forced to live together on the inside?``
The move follows a dirty protest staged by dissident republican inmates at the jail, which houses some of Northern Ireland`s most notorious terrorists and criminals.
Prisoners linked to the Real IRA and Continuity IRA have been smearing their cell walls with excrement in a bid to force the authorities to move them away from loyalists.
Their legal representatives lost a High Court battle yesterday against claims that they had been unjustly denied visits from lawyers because of the dispute.
Even though prison bosses have vowed not to give in to the protesters, the loyalist campaign could now intensify the pressure.
The British government has already set up a special review team to examine the difficulties and tensions inside Maghaberry.
But Mr Kirkham insisted the UDA was determined to press ahead with its campaign, although he stressed there was no intention of causing trouble.
He added: ``We have loyalists locked in a cell with republicans on either side on dirty protest.
``They should not have to live in that environment.``
Posted 16 August 2003 - 07:22 PM
TEN republican prisoners on a ''dirty'' protest at Maghaberry Prison lost a High Court action yesterday against being denied access to their lawyers.
Lord Chief Justice Sir Robert Carswell said prison authorities acted lawfully in suspending legal visits after the prisoners refused to clean their cells, which they had smeared with their own excrement.
Dismissing an application for a judicial review of the decision, the Chief Justice said standards of hygiene, health and safety had to be maintained and the response by the prison authorities was ''proper and necessary''.
But he said the situation had to be kept under review because of the difficulties that might arise for prisoners preparing a legal defence for their trials.
Frank O'Donoghue, QC, said he anticipated receiving instructions to appeal as four of the prisoners were due to stand trial next month.
The prisoners - seven are on remand awaiting trial and the other three are serving sentences - are in the fifth week of their protest over demands for segregation.
Faugh A Ballagh
Lámh Dhearg Abú
Tha Hamely Tongue:-
Houl yer whisht - keep quiet / don`t butt in
Ye hallion - you tearaway
Skreigh o day - crack of dawn / day
Scundered - fed up
Posted 18 August 2003 - 05:44 PM
Powderkeg Prison Ready to Explode
Aug 18 2003
By Stephen Dempster
MAGHABERRY prison has been described as a powderkeg waiting to explode, by a senior warder at the jail.
The chairman of the Prison Officers' Association, Mark Lewis, has joined loyalists and republicans in warning jail bosses that the situation inside Maghaberry is extremely volatile.
But, while prisoners are more concerned with gaining segregation between rival paramilitary groups, prison guards are claiming that staffing levels are dangerously low.
Mr Lewis has said that, at times, staffing is down to one warder for 12 prisoners - half the preferred ratio.
With 25 years' experience as a prison officer, Mr Lewis claimed the situation at the jail was "critical".
He told a Sunday newspaper: "I have not seen a prison in such a disorganised state since I worked in the Maze.
"I would love to be able to say my employer is taking the situation seriously but that does not appear to be the case.
"There seems to be a perception that, if you ignore it, it will go away."
Mr Lewis said he had seen staffing as low as eight officers looking after 100 inmates.
He also said sickness levels among staff were high.
"We have been assaulted, intimidated and threatened with physical violence," he said.
"We are sick of it." Warders are under attack, as inmates and supporters outside the jail vent their frustrations with Maghaberry on prison staff.
A number of officers' homes have been attacked by pipebombers.
Inside Maghaberry, there have been a string of incidents.
As well as clashes between rival prisoners, there have been roof-top protests and a dirty protest by dissident republicans.
Prisoners claim conditions are overcrowded on some wings and loyalists and republicans are angry at being housed together.
Real IRA supporters have held rallies in west Belfast, while the UDA has blitzed Ulster streets with posters demanding segregation.
The Prison Service has responded by launching an inquiry, headed by former prisons' boss John Steele.
It is assessing the problems and talking to prisoners, as well as staff and prison chiefs.
Officials at Maghaberry have insisted they are monitoring problems and note that the Steele report will make recommendations.
They have also, however, said that segregation would not be a preferred option.
But among those housed in the same wing as republicans are prisoners such as UDA bosses William Mo Courtney and brothers Andre and Ihab Shoukri.
Posted 27 August 2003 - 06:29 PM
UDA Opens up New Front in Jail Conflict
Aug 27 2003
By Gemma Murray
UDA prisoners in Maghaberry jail have vowed to attack republican prisoners on sight in their bid for segregation, it has been claimed.
The allegation comes after two dissident republican prisoners - including the alleged OC of IRA prisoners - was brutally beaten by a gang of loyalists understood to be from different factions.
As Maghaberry Prison plunges deeper into crisis, the authorities denied claims that a gun was pulled during the assault, which left one man with head gashes.
Police have been called in to probe the attack by seven men, which was carried out amid demands from paramilitaries on both sides to be segregated.
A Prison Service spokeswoman confirmed the beating took place at the Bann House wing of the Co Antrim jail early on Monday.
She said: ''The two prisoners were assessed by health care staff. Both have sustained bruising and one was treated for a cut to his head.
"The prisoners suspected of carrying out the assault have been removed from the scene to a special supervision unit.''
Martin Mulholland, from the Irish Republican Prisoners' Welfare Association, told the News Letter that when the gun jammed, loyalists tried to strangle the republican.
"When another prisoner came into his cell they beat both badly with cans of food inside socks. They had been waiting to go for skull X-rays. Initially we thought it was just a beating - but now know it was much more serious.''
It is understood five of the suspects are affiliated to loyalist paramilitaries.
The attack came as dissident republicans at Maghaberry continued their so-called dirty protest, smearing excrement over cell walls in a bid to be kept apart from loyalists.
As tensions in the jail heightened, the Government has set up a special review team to examine all safety issues.
But prison bosses have vowed not to bend to the segregation demands.
One of those beaten is believed to be a 27-year-old republican from Co Fermanagh,who is serving a 14-year sentence for possession of a so-called barrack buster.
Marion Price, also from the Irish Republican Prisoners' Welfare Association, said: ''It is a matter of grave urgency that a gun is in the hands of loyalist prisoners and they are prepared to use it.''
But a Prison Service spokeswoman denied any firearm was used.
She added: ''People were interviewed and searches were carried out. There was no gun found.''
Posted 08 September 2003 - 05:25 PM
Maghaberry prisoners win segregation
Sep 2 2003
by Eamonn Houston
LOYALIST AND republican inmates held in Maghaberry prison - including three Derry republicans - are due to be separated within the walls of the prison.
Dubbed the North's 'powderkeg prison', tensions have been simmering between loyalists and republicans forced to share cells and prison areas, culminating in a republican dirty protest and rooftop protests.
The 'Journal' can reveal today that the British Government is poised to announce "separation" of loyalist and republican inmates.
It is believed that the statement, the culmination of a review of practices in the prison by an appointed panel, could be made as early as this week.
Three Derry republicans, Ciaran
McLaughlin, Tony Friel and Seamus Doherty are currently being held in Maghaberry.
Announcing the consultation last month, Secretary of State, Paul Murphy said: "Concern has been expressed about the current situation at Maghaberry. The safety and conditions of all who live and work within the prison is of paramount importance to me and to everyone in the Prison Service."
Former head of the Northern Ireland Prison Service John Steele, heading the panel, will announce the review's recommendations in the near future.
According to reliable sources he will
recommend the "separation" of prisoners affiliated to paramilitary organisations across the sectarian divide. The term 'segregation', it is understood, will not be used. The terms of reference of the prison review are: "To consider, in consultation with prison management, staff, their unions, prisoners and other interested groups and taking account of relevant practice in other jurisdictions, the options for improving conditions at Maghaberry Prison, particularly as they relate to safety, for all prisoners and staff, remembering the Prison Service's
statutory obligations as set out at s.75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, and bearing in mind the lessons of the past and the new environment created by the Good Friday Agreement, and to make recommendations to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland."
Recently UDA prisoners in Maghaberry jail vowed to attack republican prisoners on sight in their bid for segregation.
The allegation came after two dissident republican prisoners - including the alleged OC of IRA prisoners - were brutally beaten by a gang of loyalists understood to be from different factions.
As Maghaberry Prison plunged deeper into crisis, the authorities denied claims that a gun was produced during the assault, which left one man with head gashes.
Police were called in to probe the attack by seven men, which was carried out amid cries from paramilitaries on both sides to be segregated.
It is expected that the separation of prisoners will go a long way towards diffusing the current crisis.
The prisoners' demands have received backing from politicians across the political spectrum.
Foyle MEP, John Hume, said that the separation of prisoners would be: "a common sense solution to the current situation".
The DUP's William Hay said that plans to separate prisoners is a welcome development and will help restore a semblance of normality within Maghaberry's walls. "No doubt one of the recommendations of this review will be the segregation of prisoners. But this segregation has to be managed so as not to elevate prisoners, some of whom are guilty of some of the most heinous crimes," Mr. Hay said.
Sinn FÈin Councillor, Peter Anderson, also welcomed the news. "This will be a victory for common sense. How can they expect people who are killing each other on the outside to live cell-by-cell on the inside?"
Posted 08 September 2003 - 07:28 PM
Loyalists Protest at Jail Conditions
Sep 8 2003
By Gemma Murray
AROUND 1,000 loyalists voted with their feet yesterday during a peaceful protest campaigning for improved conditions for their jailed comrades.
Key loyalist figures from the greater Belfast area gathered outside Maghaberry prison to protest against their associates, both on remand wings and the sentenced wings, being the subject of "unfair" treatment.
UPRG prisoners' spokesman Stanley Fletcher claimed loyalists are being treated differently from republicans in jails.
He said the demonstration was called to demand the right to unhindered legal visits, a better grievance procedure, a more streamlined visit booking facility, access to educational facilities, the same punishment as republicans when in default of prison rules, access to better medical treatment and access to prisoner welfare groups in relation to resettlement issues.
South Belfast loyalist Jackie McDonald said loyalist prisoners were being denied basic human rights - including basic medical care.
He claimed some were being mistreated by prison officers ''from the Maze, with long memories''.
Mr Fletcher, based in Carrickfergus, said: ''At least 120 to 130 prison officers are off on long-term sick which makes prisoners' lives more stressful.
"Many loyalist prisoners are being locked up 23 hours a day - and being denied access to the exercise yard and basic amenities.''
He said 30 per cent of visits were ''boxed'' while some families who travelled from as far as Londonderry were being ''flatly refused visits at the last minute''.
"Our solution would be to have more prison staff available for the benefit of prisoners. We would call on the prison authorities to arrange a meeting to discuss the matter.
"We would also call on them to encourage some of the 120 officers on sick leave to return immediately.''
UPRG spokesman Frankie Gallagher said the protest had nothing to do with the campaign for loyalist separation.
"This is about getting basic health and safety for loyalist prisoners,'' he said. ''Republican prisoners are treated more fairly than loyalist prisoners and it has been noticed. This is a recipe for disaster.''
Dell Williams, from Prisoners Aid in west Belfast, said the human rights of loyalist prisoners in the same wing as republicans on dirty protest were being violated.
"When prisoner officers go into the cells, they are wearing masks and plastic clothing. But the loyalists on the wing have to live in the stench and germ-ridden conditions.''
A review of safety at Northern Ireland's main prison is to be published this morning.
The report, commissioned by Secretary of State Paul Murphy, was carried out by John Steele, the former controller of prisons and a former director of security policy at the Northern Ireland Office.
It is expected to recommend separating republican and loyalist prisoners, but not the type of segregation which led to years of paramilitary rule on the wings of the now-closed Maze prison.
The report follows recent protests inside the jail and violent clashes between republican and loyalist inmates at the prison who want to be housed in separate wings.
Five dissident republican prisoners are taking part in a ''dirty protest''.
According to a range of sources, the report which is now with Mr Murphy will conclude that current arrangements are not safe.
Posted 12 September 2003 - 06:20 PM
THE Government's decision to accept the recommendation by former prisons chief John Steele to separate the various categories of prisoner in Maghaberry is a victory for common sense rather than for any of the campaigning factions.
Prisons and graveyards have the capacity for reopening wounds which might fester malevolently at the very time when the majority of the community desperately wants to move on to a more civilised future.
Indeed, some have argued that prison embitterment and graveyard commemorations have done as much as anything to pass the myths of misunderstanding from one generation to another, trapping the impressionable in their death-culture dynamics all over again.
It is not for nothing that republican murals have featured the slogan "the fools, the fools, they have left us our Fenian graves" and loyalist and republican communities alike contain large numbers of people who feel a kith-and-kin sympathy with fallen "heroes" and prisoners, even when they disapprove totally of the activities which landed them there.
There are those who would actively hope that the Government might take a repressive approach in order to cause trouble.
Many, on the other hand, will disapprove of anything that looks like a concession to criminals who should simply be punished. Such a disposition lacks wisdom. It fails to take fully into account all the contributory factors which might have misguided people or, on the other hand, all the possible consequences of a confrontational approach.
For such people, often disposed to biblical quotations, the imperative not to be judgmental is worth reflecting on, even if the conclusion that "there but for the grace of God go I" is not accepted.
As the situation, both in the prisons and on the streets, was showing signs of serious deterioration last week, the decision based on Mr Steele's recommendation offers hope that one source of inflammation at least has been put right. It is to be welcomed.
WHILE the issue has had a much lower media profile than that of segregation, the detention of asylum seekers has been deeply troubling, not least for prison staff themselves.
It is hard to escape a sense of shame that such people, some already distressed and disorientated, should be held in the same environment as hardened criminals and terrorists.
It has been and will be argued that holding the asylum seekers in jail is an administrative matter and should not reflect at all on these unfortunate people.
In a society vulnerable to racist attitudes, the "optics" of such an administrative arrangement merely confirms in prejudiced minds that asylum seekers are a threat, all the more insidious for being ill-defined.
We need, as South Belfast MP Martin Smyth strongly urged last week, to confront racism in our midst and, in fact, to express our appreciation of so many immigrants who have enriched our society and on whom many of our services crucially depend.
On both practical and simple humanitarian grounds, having a prison as home to babies, toddlers and mothers-to-be is an outrage that we should be ashamed of tolerating.
The Home Office and the NIO should bring their formidable resources to bear upon this problem with at least the same concentration as that drawn forth by the segregation issue. We owe it to our self-respect, as much as our humanity owes it to the asylum seekers, to see this disgraceful situation resolved.
Posted 12 September 2003 - 06:23 PM
Sep 9 2003
By Ciaran McKeown
LOYALIST and republican inmates at Maghaberry prison are to be separated, Security Minister Jane Kennedy announced yesterday in the wake of a report by former prisons' chief John Steele into jail safety.
But there would be no return to wing control by prisoner groups, Ms Kennedy said.
"No one wants a return to the conditions that existed at (the) Maze, where prisoners could intimidate and attack other prisoners and staff.
"Prison staff must, and will, remain in control,'' she said.
Several months of violent clashes between rival groups and an ongoing ''dirty protest'' by republican dissident inmates forced the about-turn in a jail which has operated an integrated policy for almost 20 years.
Mr Steele was asked by the Secretary of State, Paul Murphy, last month to head a ''swift'' review into the safety of both prisoners and staff at the jail.
He concluded: ''Separation of paramilitary prisoners is necessary in the interests of safety.
"We reached this view after much soul-searching and on the basis that the Government will never again concede complete control of the wings to prisoners as happened at the Maze.''
There are currently 630 prisoners in Maghaberry. Peter Russell, director-general of the Province's prisons, said he expected separation to involve ''more than five per cent of the prison population but less than 25 per cent''.
Ms Kennedy said there would be no sliding back to the Maze prison days when inmates virtually ran their own areas.
The Prison Governors' Association opposed the move, but said its members would do their best to implement the decision.
Acceptance of the Steele recommendations by the Government and the prisons' chief
''places an onus of delivery on ourselves regardless of our professional views''.
"We will do our utmost to ensure that this new policy is implemented,'' the association said.
Prison Officers' Association chairman Finlay Spratt welcomed the report and said that attacks on prison officers ''should cease at once''.
He too said integration was the preferred option, but a way had to be found of dealing with those who refused to co-operate.
"Staff will do the job demanded by the Secretary of State provided we have the resources and support to do that job,'' he said.
He welcomed a section of the report which highlighted low morale among his members, following a series of security leaks of officers' details and poor relations between staff and management.
While the Government was addressing the problems inside the jail, he said, it needed now to properly address the problems of officers' security on the outside.
"Steele quite rightly identified Government penny-pinching on security at officers' homes as a cause of low morale among staff,'' he said.
Sinn Fein prison spokesperson Michael Browne said the Steele recommendations should lead to the early introduction of segregation.
"It is a question of common sense,'' he said, a view echoed by loyalist prisoners' welfare spokesman William Smith.
DUP security spokesman Ian Paisley Jnr said it was ''without doubt that those who attempt to murder each other outside prison can hardly be expected to live hand in hand whilst inside prison''.
Alliance Party deputy leader Eileen Bell said that proposals appear to be a compromise that should be acceptable to all sides.
Women's Coalition leader Monica McWilliams also welcomed the Steele recommendations, including the proposal to establish a Prison Ombudsman.
She also reiterated concerns about women prisoners and asylum seekers in Maghaberry.
Posted 16 September 2003 - 04:30 PM
Publication Date: 14 September 2003
Reward: Comfy cells for the republicans who threatened to kill Shoukri
REPUBLICANS at Maghaberry jail will be segregated from loyalist inmates today - after a cellblock threat to murder UDA boss Andre 'The Egyptian' Shoukri.
Sunday Life understands the Continuity IRA ultimatum was made last week, in a letter to the prison's governor.
And it warned that, if 22 top republicans weren't moved to segregated accommodation by 5pm today,(correct 150 prisoners would be ordered: 'Kill Shoukri.'
Plans to move the inmates to the empty Foyle House wing have already been made.
And their new cells have even been kitted out with colour TVs, videos and satellite boxes!
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson last night described the climbdown as a "disgrace".
The Ulster Unionist said he would be raising the matter in the House of Commons this week.
The republican prisoners are understood to include the officers commanding, and second-in-commands of the Continuity IRA, Real IRA, Provisional IRA, INLA, and other senior republicans.
Prison officers fear the move will outrage loyalists, who last Sunday staged a major demonstration outside the jail to protest at conditions.
One prison officer told Sunday Life: "This is going to appear to them (loyalists) that we are, indeed, treating republicans as a special case and treating them differently.
"It leaves us open to a charge of discrimination, and many officers are concerned at the implications of this - both inside and outside the jail."
It's understood the decision was agreed on Friday, after meetings between the Prison Service and the NIO.
Republicans selected for segregation are understood to have been visited in their cells, last Friday, and asked to sign documents saying they wished to be moved to Foyle House, because of "concerns to their health and safety".
Mr Donaldson said the plan was "ill-conceived and dangerous" and a miscalculated knee-jerk reaction to a threat of violence from republicans.
The Prison Service last week outlined proposals for the limited segregation of hardline loyalist and republican prisoners, in the interests of safety.
But, the Steele Report didn't envisage a return to the total segregation, which existed at the Maze Prison before the Belfast Agreement was signed in 1998.
Added the prison officer: "We do not have the number of staff to deal with this. And, we do not have the technical infrastructure to monitor the activities of these prisoners - there are no cameras or security gates.
"An officer could be attacked in the dark corridors of Foyle House, and we could do little to prevent that.
"And, what will the loyalists say when they realise that 22 republicans are being given special treatment, because of a threat to kill Shoukri."
Added Mr Donaldson: "I am very concerned at the situation in the prison, and I believe the manner in which this segregation is being implemented, indicates that we will very quickly see Maze-style segregation with paramilitaries having greater and greater control in the prison.
"This is contrary to what (Security Minister) Jane Kennedy promised. The Government and prison authorities must not give in to these threats from republicans.
"I will be raising these issues in the House of Commons and demanding an explanation from the Government.
The Prison Service was unavailable for comment last night.
-IRISH police arrested three Northern Ireland men and seized a number of firearms yesterday as part of an ongoing operation against dissident republicans.
Posted 16 September 2003 - 05:16 PM
A GROUP of dissident republican prisoners was moved to separate accommodation at Northern Ireland's top security prison yesterday.
Around 20 republicans were moved after a review of safety at Maghaberry jail in Co Antrim recommended separating loyalist and republican inmates.
The prisoners were taken from the general population to a separate block at the jail after violent clashes between rival groups, and amid a ''dirty protest'' by dissident republicans who smeared excrement around their cells.
A Prison Service spokesman denied that it was treating republicans favourably and described the move as a ''sensible, interim measure'' ahead of full separation.
He also denied allegations that the move had been brought forward after a senior loyalist in the prison was threatened by republicans.
The spokesman said the report into safety at the prison found there were shortcomings at present and it was important to implement its recommendations as soon as possible.
He said prison staff were already working towards providing loyalists with their own accommodation.
"This is only a temporary step until such time when we can get everything in place to allow the complete separation of loyalist and republican prisoners who don't want to take part in the integrated regime.''
Ministers have said that ''separation'' was not the same as the ''segregation'' which operated in the now-closed Maze prison.
Security Minister Jane Kennedy said there would be no sliding back to the Maze days when inmates virtually ran their own areas.
Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he would raise the issue in the Commons this week after he accused the prison authorities of bowing to pressure from republicans.
Marion Price of the Irish Republican Prisoners' Welfare Association denied that the dissident republican prisoners were placed in well-furnished new cells.
"They were taken to Foyle House, the punishment section of the prison, by members of the riot squad who are now manning the wing,'' she said.
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