The personal details of a former Maghaberry governor were planted by a prison warder in a prominent republican’s cell at the County Antrim prison, it has been admitted.
Closed-circuit TV cameras confirmed a warder concealed a piece of tissue paper in a tube of toothpaste belonging to prominent prisoner Brendan McConville.
It carried governor Steve Rodford’s car registration number, which was later ‘found’ in a search.
The incident was intended to frame McConville and also make it appear the unpopular new prison governor, Steve Rodford, was under threat.
Within weeks of the September 2009 ‘find’, Rodford had resigned as governor of Maghaberry and fled the North with his family, and Brendan McConville accused of involvement in a plot to attack him.
The former Sinn Fein councillor is already strongly disputing charges that he was involved in a a Continuity IRA gun attack two years ago, in which a member of the PSNI died.
Earlier this year, it emerged that a British spy device recovered from his alleged accomplice’s vehicle was found to have been tampered with at a British Army base, by persons unknown.
Pauline McCabe, the Prisons Ombudsman who completed an 18-month investigation into the Maghaberry incident, fully exonerated Mr McConville.
Kevin Winters, the lawyer who represents Mr McConville, said that Ms McCabe’s report “completely vindicates the case made by him that he was set up to suit some wider sinister agenda”.
Mr Winters said the findings raise serious questions, and he called on Justice Minister David Ford and PSNI Chief Matt Baggott to carry out investigations.
He said: “My client doesn’t accept at all that one member of prison staff acted alone - he wants to know the full extent of the conspiracy to both frame him for a serious crime and at the same time remove a prison governor from office.
“This is a devastating blow to the credibility of the prison regime and we intend to raise the findings in the courts.
“The report will form the basis of an abuse of process application to challenge the integrity of the outstanding murder investigation against Mr McConville.”
Meanwhile, republican prisoners at Maghaberry have again called for public support to ensure prison authorities abide by an agreement reached in August to end strip-searching.
In a statement released through Republican Sinn Fein, the prisoners said: “Strip-searching is still ongoing with the practice of forced strip-searching and physical assaults on Republican prisoners.
“We have raised these matters with the facilitation group on a number of occasions over several months, our patience has run out over these matters.
“The BOSS chair is in place which removes the requirement for degrading strip-searching, but still the screws are forcibly strip-searching Republican POWs.”
The prisoners have decided to refuse to comply with “these degrading strip searches” any more.
“We will not stand by and let the screws renege on the agreement, we want this agreement introduced in full or we will be forced to take further action.
“Thirty years ago this year our comrades in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh resisted such criminalisation which resulted in the deaths of ten young brave men. Many others suffered unspeakable horror in their fight for political status. We ask the public, our comrades and supporters to remember them and ensure that this will not happen again.”