A prisoner in the republican wing of Maghaberry prison has been removed following a dispute with other prisoners in a row which has pitched two small republican political parties against each other.
Gabriel Mackle, from County Armagh, is a former member of the British Army’s Royal Irish Regiment who became involved in republican activity with the Continuity IRA (CIRA). In 2014, he was arrested and jailed, being housed in the Roe 3 landing alongside other CIRA prisoners.
With time spent on remand and remission, Mackle is due for release early this summer and has been previously granted periods of compassionate parole.
He had lately been serving his sentence on the landing known as Roe 4 after being accepted there by by prisoners linked to the new IRA, who are represented by the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (IRPWA).
He was removed after allegedly refusing to accept the collective nature of the prisoners’ legal efforts against the prison regime. He is now in isolation.
In a statement, Roe 4 prisoners said Mackle had been asked to leave the Roe 3 community “as a result of his behaviour there”.
“He was accepted onto Roe 4 conditionally, despite his history in the British Army’s RIR and his previous attitude and behaviour toward Republican Prisoners. His acceptance onto Roe 4 was based on the ending of this behaviour yet after a short time this continued.”
They accused Mackle of “systematic bullying”, of “making threats” against their number, and other actions which “jeopardised the community conditions without consulting the community”.
One issue they said was of particular concern was his individual approach to judicial reviews that could have had “detrimental repercussions” for all Maghaberry prisoners and not to him individually, as he is due to be released soon.
“The relationship between Roe 3 and Roe 4 has never been stronger and this individual is not welcome in either community,” they added.
Mackle refused to leave but was later forcibly removed from the landing by prison warders and placed in the isolation unit of the top security jail.
Republican Sinn Fein (RSF), which had been supporting Mackle, said he had been removed from Roe 4 after threats from IRPWA-represented prisoners.
An RSF spokesperson said: “These threats are coming from the very same group that purport to promote unity, they are showing the Republican people their version of unity but it has to be on their terms.”
It said Mackle had only returned from temporary release on Sunday night when he was approached by three IRPWA-supported prisoners who informed him that he had to hand over all legal papers to them, and have one of their prisoners accompany him on legal visits.
It confirmed Mackle declined to show legal papers to the IRPWA prisoners as he was represented by Cabhair, the CIRA representative group.
“Gabriel rightly refused to be bullied in this manner, stating he was not an IRPWA PoW, that he was a Cabhair-supported prisoner and would work under Cabhair-supported structures as he has been since being incarcerated,” RSF said in a statement.
They claimed the incident came on top of what it claimed was “membership poaching” by the IRPWA.
“It is not so long since the dirty protest when fellow Cabhair-supported PoWs took the lead in that protest and welcomed newly incarcerated PoWs. It seems the old saying ‘Eaten bread is soon forgotten’ never rang so true,” it said.