Loyalist warning over Maze protest

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The Independent Online
Loyalist paramilitaries warned the Government last night that if riot squads were sent in to deal with protesting inmates at the Maze prison outside Belfast "a price would be paid".

The threat from the Ulster Freedom Fighters, who have a reputation for shooting and beating prison officers, was sent to a news organisation in Belfast using a recognised codeword. It will not be taken lightly.

Loyalist inmates at the Maze staged rooftop protests yesterday in the wake of a proposed security clampdown arising from the recent discovery of an IRA escape tunnel at the jail.

Prisoners affiliated to the Ulster Defence Association set fire to two observation posts and broke out on to the roof of two "H-blocks" to display banners. Staff were withdrawn from nearby for their own safety.

The disturbances followed the introduction of extra security measures in the wake of the IRA attempt to stage a large-scale break-out. The measures include more random searches, twice-daily lock-ups and more head-counts. Ironically, IRA prisoners have accepted the new regime without demur, and yesterday gave no trouble.

John White, prisons spokesman for the Ulster Democratic Party, said unrest could spread outside the jail. He said: "The prisoners are very angry. They feel very strongly about it and are prepared to protest to prevent it happening, and so are the organisations on the outside."

It later emerged that Billy Wright, the Portadown loyalist recently jailed for intimidation, had joined the protest. He is associated with a small but militant breakaway loyalist group.