A republican prisoner at Maghaberry jail in county Antrim appears to have been the victim of a set up in a bid by prison warders to oust the new prison governor.
In September, a piece of toilet roll containing the governor’s name Steve Rodford and his car registration were found during a search of a cell occupied by Brendan McConville, who is charged with a Continuity IRA attack in Craigavon in March.
Last month, partly in response to the discovery of the note, Rodford ordered a massive four-day lock-down, stoking grave tension inside the jail.
He resigned two weeks ago because of fears that he was under threat.
It is now widely accepted that the note was planted by prison warders at the high security jail who are opposed to reforms he was trying to introduce.
The Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe is to investigate the case
Mr Rodford came from a high security prison in England to take over as governor at Maghaberry - but quit after less than five months. Rodford was appointed after a report called for the replacement of the entire prison mangagement as a result of neglect and abuse, including the death of a vulnerable prisoner by suicide.
A letter of complaint from Belfast solicitor Kevin Winters, acting for Mr McConville, says his client had no connection with the note and had volunteered to provide samples of his handwriting to police.
The letter says Brendan McConville makes the case quite simply that “there’s no coincidence between the departure of Stephen Rodford from his post consequent upon the alleged ‘finding’ of the offending piece of toilet roll”.
It also suggests that the note was planted in order to facilitate a “wider agenda within the prison”.
The letter said a number of other inmates at Maghaberry will provide statements confirming evidence of “open hostility” by prison staff to Governor Rodford.
It has also been pointed out that any armed group would not retain a note with intelligence about Mr Rodford inside the jail, where the information is of no use.
Meanwhie, Sinn Fein Policing and Justice Spokesperson Alex Maskey has slammed the findings of yet another report highlighting delays in the implementation of numerous recommendations within Maghaberry Prison since the death of prisoner Colin Bell.
“There has obviously been a huge deal of concern throughout the community as a result of Colin Bell’s death and the findings of the subsequent investigation by the Prisoner Ombudsman as well as this latest result,” he said.
“Unfortunately, it seems as though all the warnings have been ignored, recommendations have gone unimplemented and we have seen vulnerable prisoners die as a result.
“It is clear that a fundamental sea-change is needed within the Prison system.
“The latest findings indicate yet again that the Prison Service has to do substantially more to ensure the safety and wellbeing of prisoners being held in the system here.
“The findings also fly in the face of commitments made by British Minister Paul Goggins following the death of Colin Bell” that his death would be a ‘watershed’ for the North’s prisons.