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Monday, May 11, 1998 Published at 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK

Prison warders walk out in protest
image: [ More than 100 warders protested outside the Maze ]
More than 100 warders protested outside the Maze

Prison warders in Northern Ireland spent the morning demonstrating outside jails following suggestions that they may be opposed to a peace deal.

Officers have taken offence at remarks made by the operational director of prison services in Northern Ireland, Martin Mogg, to a House of Commons committee.

Finlay Spratt: 'They are totally angry and furious' (2'36')
Mr Mogg is alleged to have told MPs that prison officers may try to subvert the peace process because an approved settlement could put them out of a job.

It is one of the conditions of the peace accord struck on Good Friday that paramilitary prisoners will be released early. The agreement will be voted on by the people of Northern Ireland next week.

[ image: Maze officers demonstrating outside the prison]
Maze officers demonstrating outside the prison
Mr Mogg is also alleged to have said that the peace deal may demotivate officers because of this.

Up to 400 warders took part in the demonstrations. More than 100 stayed away from duty at the Maze Prison, near Lisburn, County Antrim.

There were also protests outside Maghaberry Prison in Magilligan, County Londonderry, and the Hydebank Young Offenders Centre on the outskirts of Belfast.

Speaking from outside the Maze, Prison Officers' Association Secretary Finlay Spratt insisted that his members were not taking industrial action, and therefore their protests were not illegal.

He said officers are "totally angry and furious" about Mr Mogg's alleged statement and the association is calling for his resignation.

[ image: Finlay Spratt is calling for Martin Mogg's resignation]
Finlay Spratt is calling for Martin Mogg's resignation
"An irresponsible statement of this nature doesn't hold up for a person in his position and he's lost the confidence of the staff and all the Northern Ireland Prison Service."

Mr Spratt said most prison officers were aware that a successful peace deal could put them out of work.

"Most prison officers welcome the opportunity to have peace in our province," he said.

"As long as the government treat us right when they no longer need our services most prison officers will be happy to go."

'Protests are illegal'

Mr Spratt said their was no problem with staff morale and he stressed that the walk-out had been conducted responsibly by "surplus staff".

"There are people in the prison doing their job," he added.

The Northern Ireland Prison Service condemned the protests as illegal and said Mr Mogg was misquoted and his remarks taken out of context.

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