Colin Duffy behind the stand-off at Maghaberry Prison (Belfast Telegraph)

High-profile republican ringleader of protest that came to an end last night

Prominent dissident republican Colin Duffy was the ringleader behind a tense stand-off between prison staff and inmates in Maghaberry Prison.

Around 30 republican prisoners had been refusing to enter their cells in the high security jail since Sunday.

They claim they are protesting against “regressive structural changes” to the landings which have “impeded” their movement within the republican wing at Roe House.

The Prison Service recently installed new security structures in Roe House following a number of threats made to prison staff by dissidents.

Dozens of republicans held a protest outside the prison last night, bearing placards calling for the end to “controlled movement”.

The protest ended last night with inmates back in their cells and prison staff back in Roe House.

A statement from the group Republican Political Prisoners said that the purpose of the structural changes was “to debase and disempower” them.

Finlay Spratt, chairman of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA), said that the protest was the latest attempt by dissident republicans to cause disruption.

“They are just not happy and not content and it is just the usual campaign they have been waging for some time,” he said.

“They are just doing their usual disruptive measures and propaganda.

“They have been trying to gain control of the landings the way it used to be.

“It is part of that old campaign. First of all they wanted separation then they are not satisfied, they want control.”

It is understood that some protesting prisoners are also refusing food. A security source claimed that high-profile terror suspect Colin Duffy was the main person behind the current campaign. “He is pulling the strings in there and trying to stir up as much tension as possible,” the source added.

Former justice committee chairman Paul Givan called on Justice Minister David Ford and head of the Prison Service Sue McAllister to remove all privileges from the inmates involved.

“Over the past couple of weeks the pressure has been increasing in Roe House with threats being made against prison officers,” the DUP Assembly Member said.

“Prison staff were anticipating trouble so this is not a surprise. The Prison Service and David Ford were warned that something like this was going to happen.

“The Prison Service, in good faith, relaxed the regime in Roe House.

“I warned them against rewarding bad behaviour.”

Prison staff are still under serious threat following the murder of warder David Black in 2012.

It is understood that a number of officers are currently on sick leave through stress brought on by the security threat.


There are 50 separated republican prisoners currently detained at Roe House within Maghaberry – including high-profile terror suspects Colin Duffy and Thomas Mellon.

Some prisoners went on a dirty protest in 2012, claiming that the prison authorities reneged on a deal brokered at that time to end a policy of routine full body searches, replacing it with electronic scanners.

Tensions within the wing heightened once again in recent weeks when new security structures were put in place to protect staff.


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