Fears for spread of prison 'dirty protest'

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Four Irish republican prisoners were last night taking part in the "dirty protest" at Whitemoor prison after two Irish National Liberation Army men joined the action started by IRA prisoners at the Cambridgeshire jail.

Irish Embassy officials in London were urgently seeking Home Secretary Michael Howard's permission to visit the inmates amid fears that the protest may spread, precipitating a crisis in the peace process. The four are understood to have started their action after being asked to do prison work and wear prison uniforms.