LOYALIST GUN ATTACK AT MAGHABERRY JAIL
A group of loyalist prisoners in Maghaberry jail, County Antrim, last
night tried to kill a republican prisoner with a gun smuggled into the
The Irish Republican Prisoners' Welfare Association, which campaigns
for republican dissidents inside the prison, last night said a gun was
put to the head of John Connolly but the weapon jammed.
Connolly from Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh, who is serving 14 years
for arms possession, was then beaten by a group of seven loyalists.
Another prisoner, who came to his rescue, was also assaulted. Both
were later treated for injuries received in the attack.
Both republican and loyalist prisoners in Maghaberry are demanding
segregation. The demand has been resisted by prison authorities who
fear segregation would diminish their control within the jail.
Marion Price of the Irish Republican Prisoners' Welfare Association
said the situation in Maghaberry was now "extremely serious".
"John Connolly was returning to his cell after making a phone call
his family when a group of loyalists walked into his cell and put a gun
to his head.
"When the weapon jammed, they beat him with tins of food which were
his cell. Another republican prisoner who came to his rescue was also
assaulted. Tensions were already high in Maghaberry but are now at
"It is a matter of grave urgency that a gun is in the hands of loyalist
prisoners and they are prepared to use it."
Prison staff searched the jail for the gun today, but have so far
failed to locate it. All visits to that section of Maghaberry Prison
were suspended as the search continued.
Dissident republicans linked to the "Real IRA" and "Continuity
groups are also staging a dirty protest, smearing their cells with
excrement in a bid to force the authorities to separate them.
Commenting on an attack, Sinn Fein spokesperson on prison issues
Councillor Michael Browne said there were "serious issues of prison
safety" in Maghaberry, and that the recent establishment of a Review
Panel was a tacit admission of this.
"The attack on two prisoners by loyalists in the prison on Monday
evening makes the issue clear cut.
"It is clear that forced integration does not work. There is no logic
in trying to force politically hostile prisoners to live together in
He pointed out that the British government already operates a policy of
segregation in Maghaberry for individuals from within the various
factions involved in the ongoing loyalist feud.
Meanwhile, a delegation made up of Sinn Fein's five members of the Dublin
parliament today visited Castlerea Prison in County Roscommon to meet
with the five republican prisoners still being detained there.
Although the prisoners are all identified with the mainstream
Republican Movement and qualify for release under the Good Friday
Agreement, the Dublin government has so far refused to do so.
Speaking after the two hour meeting Sinn Fein Dail leader Caoimhghin O
Caolain said they found the prisoners "to be in good spirits"
was also "a deep sense of frustration", which he said was shared
TDs themselves, that the issue of prisoner releases had not yet been
"The Irish Government has a duty and an obligation to fulfill its
commitments under the Good Friday Agreement. It cannot cherry pick that
agreement. It must honour it in full. I would again, on behalf of the
five TDs and indeed the prisoners, call on the Taoiseach to release
these men immediately."