The governor of the North’s main prison for political prisoners has resigned less than five months after taking up the post.
Englishman Steve Rodford took charge of Maghaberry jail in July after his predecessor was forced out in the wake of a scandal over the treatment of prisoners and the suicide of one prisoner
But the crisis continued under the new governor when another prisoner was found dead.
The already tense atmosphere within the jail deteriorated further following a ‘lock-down’ last month. Prisoners were denied food and fresh water for several days, while visitors to the jail were refused access.
The Crown Prison Service in the North said Rodford was “cutting short” his time in Ireland for “personal and domestic reasons”. Rodford is understood to have believed he has being targeted for potential attack by the breakaway IRA armed groups.
In South Armagh, the 32 County Sovereignty Committee held a protest for political prisoners in the North.
In Sunday’s protest on the streets of the town of Jonesborough, republicans called for the release of high profile Maghaberry prisoners Colin Duffy, still held on remand in connection with the attack on the Massareene British Army base in March, and Terry McCafferty, who was returned to the jail after his release under the terms of Good Friday Agreement was summarily revoked earlier this year.
Marking the traditional month of prisoner welfare efforts in December, protestors also called for an end to attempts to extradite Liam Campbell to Lithuania, where he faces arms-related charges.
Meanwhile, notorious loyalist mass murder Torrens Knight is likely to spend the rest of his natural life at Maghaberry after he was found guilty of violently attacking two sisters in a Coleraine bar in May 2008 on Wednesday.
Knight was released in July 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday agreement, whilst serving life sentences for 12 murders.
Eight of his victims were gunned down when killers opened fire on the Rising Sun bar, in the village of Greysteel, near Derry, in 1993.
That same year Knight was part of a gang which murdered four Catholic builders in the seaside town of Castlerock.
Knight was granted bail following his fresh conviction this week, but was immediately driven back to the jail following the hearing because his early release licence was suspended in October.
The Life Sentence Review Commissioners is set to examine the case to decide if the suspension of his licence was justified and if Knight should serve out the remainder of his murder sentences.
Knight is being supported by a member of Jim Allister’s extreme unionist TUV party, who has organised a petition for his release.