Segregation at Maghaberry prison underway

Moves to permanently segregate loyalist and Republican prisoners in Maghaberry jail are starting today.

The new measures by the prison service mean that all paramilitary prisoners will be totally separated within two weeks. The move follows increased tension at the prison, where loyalists and republicans have been jailed together.

There has been speculation by prison warders that the move will mean that Maghaberry will quickly become the new Long Kesh -- now closed and the proposed site for a museum.

Finlay Spratt, chairman of the Prison Officers' Association, said: ``I'm not convinced we will not go back to the Maze [Long Kesh]

``I believe they have been negotiating with paramilitary representatives.

``If you don't want a return to that scenario you shouldn't talk to these people, but they have already gone down that road.''

British security Minister Jane Kennedy declared today that extra warders and a revised prisoner agreement would ensure the jail remains under total control.

The government agreed to the separation scheme last September on the basis of recommendations made by a review panel headed by a former prison service chief, Mr John Steele.

Amid a campaign of dirty protests by dissident ``Real IRA'' prisoners and attacks on warders' homes by loyalists, the Steele group found separation should be implemented on safety grounds.

``Most of the physical work required in Maghaberry has now been completed and staff training is well under way,'' Ms Kennedy added.

``The Prison Service aims to achieve full implementation by the middle of March.''

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© 2004 Irish Republican News