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BBC NI's Tim Jenkins:
"The LVF threat could signal the beginning of paramilitary apartheid in Maghaberry"
 real 28k

Monday, 7 August, 2000, 21:17 GMT 22:17 UK
Prison officers oppose segregation
Maghaberry already houses some paramilitary inmates
Maghaberry already houses some paramilitary inmates
Northern Ireland prison officers have warned the government against any moves towards segregation at Maghaberry prison.

The Prison Officers' Association has said the government should not give in to threats from the Loyalist paramilitary splinter group the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

Members of the organisation were among 16 prisoners left in the high security Maze prison after the mass releases of paramilitary inmates under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, which culminated on Friday 28 July.

When the Maze near Belfast closes, its remaining prisoners will be moved to Maghaberry in County Antrim.

In the Maze H blocks, paramilitary groups were held in separate wings.

Hardline loyalist inmates have said they will attack prison officers and their families unless they are given their own areas in Maghaberry.

'Problems under the surface'

But Finlay Spratt of the Prison Officers Association said segregation at Maghaberry is not the way forward.

"On behalf of prison officers we would say quite clearly to these paramilitary groups - we are doing a job and we will carry on doing that job," he said.

"And to the management of the Northern Ireland Prison Service and to the government we would say think seriously before you go down this road again.

"We believed that there were going to be problems in Maghaberry. We believed that they were lying under the surface until the prisoners got out. This has now proved it," he added.

Mr Spratt added that there had been increasing violence in Maghaberry in recent years.

And he said that intimidation against prison officers was constant.

"We have had 59 staff assaulted within the past six months. We have had various fires [started by prisoners] and we have had officers homes attacked with petrol bombs.

"Prison staff are constantly under intimidation and threat from these groups."

There are currently 523 prisoners housed in Maghaberry.

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See also:

28 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Arms find 'bound for NI'
27 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Paramilitary killers in profile
28 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Mixed reaction to prisoner releases
15 Feb 00 | Northern Ireland
Prison officers apply to leave service
24 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Loyalist killer freed from Maze
27 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Victims' pain as paramilitaries walk free
28 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Mandelson defends 'bitter pill'
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