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Monday, December 29, 1997 Published at 18:55 GMT


Security to be tightened at Maze
image: [ Security will be tightened at the Maze prison ]
Security will be tightened at the Maze prison

The Government is to introduce weekly random searches in the Maze prison in Northern Ireland following the murder inside the jail of loyalist paramilitary, Billy Wright.

Wright was shot dead on Saturday by gunmen from a dissident republican group. Two guns were found at the scene. The Government said it was determined to stop such incidents happening again.

The Government is also extending an existing inquiry into procedures at the prison, which was set up after the escape of IRA prisoner, Liam Averill, earlier in December.

In addition, the Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, Sir David Ramsbotham, will undertake a full inspection of the Maze.

[ image: Northern Ireland Security Minister, Adam Ingram]
Northern Ireland Security Minister, Adam Ingram
The Northern Ireland Security Minister, Adam Ingram, who made the announcements on a visit to the jail, said Wright's murder had been very embarrassing for the Government, but there were no plans for resignations.

Northern Ireland Security Minister, Adam Ingram (17")
He said a new management team had been installed in recent weeks and he had complete confidence in it.

[ image: Finlay Spratt, chairman of the Northern Ireland Prison Officers' Association]
Finlay Spratt, chairman of the Northern Ireland Prison Officers' Association
However, Finlay Spratt, chairman of the Northern Ireland Prison Officers' Association, blamed the Northern Ireland prison management for the current situation.

He said the Senior Governor of the Maze, Martin Mogg, was not able to do his job properly because of his additional role as Director of Operations for Northern Ireland Prisons.

Finlay Spratt interviewed by the BBC's Claire Fox (2'35")
Mr Spratt said there should have been regular random weekly searches at the Maze, but there had not been a major search since July. He said cutbacks were to blame.

"We have lost 300 prison officers from the job over the past two years," he said. "They are now talking about reducing the staffing level in the Maze by 56. If they continue to do that we will not be able to carry out these searches and we do not have the resources to carry out those searches."

The announcements came as the Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam, was briefed by senior police and prison officers on the prospects of the cease-fire holding, following Wright's murder and a revenge attack on Sunday in which a former Republican prisoner was murdered.

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