IRA collusion with prison warders revealed

Maze Prison.
Maze Prison.

A secret IRA document discovered behind a toilet at the Maze Prison in September 1984 indicated probable “collusion” between a prison officer and republican inmates.

The information was contained in one of “a major series of PIRA documents” printed by hand on toilet roll but uncovered inside the prison.

A confidential note by AK Templeton in the Prison Information Unit contained a detailed analysis of what had been found.

“This [IRA] note also contains what purports to be an extract from an internal prison notice to which prisoners do not have access,” he said.

“Parts are certainly authentic and have most likely been obtained through some type of collusion by a member of staff.”

Mr Templeton also speculated as to the reasons for the “paranoia” evident in the document. “The consistent over-estimation of our response - particularly as the notes relate to a period earlier this year - is curious.

“How far it represents a mistaken assessment of what was happening as opposed to a more subtle attempt to heighten the security awareness of the average volunteer in the wing by exaggerating our capability is not clear.

“On the positive side, it is obvious that the security department has made significant inroads into PIRA thinking.”

Another secret memo sent the same month from WJ Kerr, director of prison operations, also revealed fears of collusion between “bent” prison officers and the IRA.

The note, which came after the arrest and confession of prison officer John B Barr over his role in plans for a mass IRA escape, detailed how the plan involved the use of guns smuggled into the prison.

It said: “The existence of a ‘fifth column’ is deeply disturbing...The RUC have also been asked to look again into the question of staff collusion in the 1983 escape, now given important corroboration. The Governor has asked his staff for their urgent co-operation in defeating this threat from within.

“Clearly allied to the problem of ‘bent’ staff is the evident lack of difficulty with which PIRA expected to obtain firearms again.”