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The BBC's David Eades
"Question marks remain about its future"
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Finlay Spratt of the Prison Officers Association
"The Maze was a blight on our lives over the past 30 years"
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Saturday, 30 September, 2000, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
Maze prison closes
Maze prison
The Maze held NI's most notorious paramilitary killers
The prison which held many of Northern Ireland's most notorious paramilitary killers during the Troubles is finally empty.

The last four prisoners were transferred from the prison, just outside Belfast, on Friday night.

The prison is being closed as a result of the Good Friday Agreement peace accord's early prisoner release scheme.

I think it's been a blight on our life for the last 30 years and we'll be glad to see the end of it

Finlay Spratt
Finlay Spratt, from the Prison Officers' Association said the Maze was now effectively closed.

"It's the end of the era and I hope we don't return to the circumstances that we've had this last 30 years.

"I don't think a lot of people will be sad to see the close of the Maze. I think it's been a blight on our life for the last 30 years and we'll be glad to see the end of it."

The prison officers have accepted severance packages negotiated under the prison service's staff reduction programme.

The last major wave of loyalist and republican inmates left in an early release scheme on 28 July.

A Northern Ireland Office spokesman said part of the Maze would be mothballed.

He added that no decision had been made on the long term use of the prison.

In June 300 officers left their jobs, followed by a further 300 at the end of August.

A total of 1,093 prison officers are expected to leave the service by March 2000.

Appeal against transfer

The final four prisoners are appealing a High Court decision allowing them to be transferred to Maghaberry prison.

They claim they could be killed if they were transferred because prisoners at Maghaberry are not segregated into paramilitary wings like the Maze H-blocks.

However, prison officials argued that the temporary segregation they had arranged at Maghaberry would be sufficient to guarantee the prisoners' safety and allow their transfers to go ahead.

The transfer went ahead on Friday pending the outcome of the appeal which is expected next week.

Two of the four are loyalists Stephen McClean and Noel McCready, convicted of the double killing of two friends in a bar in Poyntzpass, County Armagh in 1998.

The others are republican Martin Corden from Lurgan, County Armagh and Alan Caulfield, a member of the loyalist splinter group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

There had been 11 prisoners in the Maze until Thursday, when seven were moved out.

Four were taken to Maghaberry, while three members of the Irish National Liberation Army convicted of murdering LVF leader Billy Wright in the Maze in 1997, were transferred to Magilligan jail in County Londonderry.

The republicans are to be held separately for security reasons until their release later this year.

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See also:

29 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Prison officers leave the Maze
28 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Prisoners moved out of Maze
07 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Prison officers oppose segregation
29 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Business makeover idea for Maze
28 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
NI prisoners savour freedom
28 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Mandelson defends 'bitter pill'
28 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
The prison that served its time
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