Maghaberry prisoner targeted by murder plot

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A powerful loyalist ordered a hit on a republican prisoner currently serving a sentence in Maghaberry Prison, it has been revealed.

Malcolm McKeown, who was himself murdered as part of a loyalist criminal feud last year, had offered a bounty of £50,000 to whomever killed Lurgan man Luke O’Neill.

The details emerged when Mr O’Neill took legal action after being refused entry to the republican wing at Maghaberry Prison by British authorities.

After his arrest for an armed action in 2016, Mr O’Neill was held in the general prison population in Maghaberry Prison’s Quoile House. He was so concerned for his safety that he refused to leave his cell.

Since his conviction he has now been moved to Roe House, which holds republican prisoners.

The threat against Mr O’Neill was the subject of a prison report. The document reveals that a prisoner reported that a sum of money had been offered to him and other prisoners ‘to do in’ Mr O’Neill. The sum of money referred to in the report was £50,000.

O’Neill’s lawyer Gavin Booth, of Phoenix Law, said his client believes Malcolm McKeown was the source of the threat. McKeown is a member of an infamous loyalist family, with two brothers who were separately convicted of brutal sectarian murders.

He added that his client was “forced to barricade himself in his cell 24 hours a day which he attached to Malcolm McKeown placing that threat on his life”.

The legal move sought a declaration that the decision to keep Mr O’Neill in Quoile House was unlawful. But the High Court judge turned down an application for a judicial review, ruling that “because of the change in circumstances [the move to Roe House] that no useful purpose can be served by the continuation of these proceedings”.

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