Maghaberry death threats ‘should end concessions to republicans’

Police and ATO at a security alert at Maghaberry Prison on Tuesday
Police and ATO at a security alert at Maghaberry Prison on Tuesday
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Death threats made against prison warders in Maghaberry should bring an end to concessions for republican inmates, unionists have said.

In the Assembly on Tuesday, DUP MLA Paul Givan said graffiti warning “David Black No2 very soon” had been written on the walls of the Roe House unit.

The message referred to a 52-year-old prison officer shot dead by dissident republicans as he drove to work at Maghaberry in 2012.

Mr Givan tabled an urgent oral question asking Justice Minister David Ford how order could be restored on the wing in the wake of a recent escalation of tensions regarding the regime.

Those tensions boiled over on Monday during a day-long stand-off within the separated accommodation block.

At an associated protest by supporters of the prisoners outside the gates on Monday night, the car of an arriving staff member was surrounded and damaged.

“There is no room for any such threat,” Mr Ford said.

Mr Ford told MLAs Monday’s incident inside Roe House was triggered around 10am when, following a period during which staff were “subject to verbal intimidation,” several prisoners were instructed to move into their cells or to a communal area.

“One prisoner who refused to comply was moved to his cell using control and restrain techniques, He was examined by a nurse who confirmed he had not sustained any injuries at that time,” he said.

Mr Ford said prisoners who were in a communal area at the time then refused to return to their cells throughout the day. He insisted prison authorities retained control of the landings throughout.

Mr Givan, who is the chairman of the justice committee, said the frequent protests in Roe House amounted to an “orchestrated campaign” to take control.

Mr Ford responded: “I would agree there appears to be an orchestrated campaign to take control of the landing ... but that is not being allowed to happen.”

Mr Givan’s DUP colleague Edwin Poots also claimed there had been a process of concessions making the authorities look like “lapdogs for the prisoners”.

Tom Elliott also asked the minister if he “regretted giving concessions to prisoners” through the recent Stocktake report process.

Police were called to deal with a security alert outside the prison on Monday night.

On Tuesday afternoon a police spokesman said: “A thorough search was carried out in the area and nothing untoward was found.”