NI prison protest inmates return to cells

Prison authorities in Northern Ireland gained control of a block at a Co Antrim jail today where loyalist paramilitaries had barricaded themselves in.

Prison authorities in Northern Ireland gained control of a block at a Co Antrim jail today where loyalist paramilitaries had barricaded themselves in.

Shortly before 6am prisoners in Bann House returned to their cells in Maghaberry Prison after taking over for 10 hours.

Up to 15 officers had to be treated for smoke inhalation and shock in the prison health centre after a fire started in the block shortly before 8pm yesterday.

Around 35 loyalists barricaded themselves in Bann House where a suspect device also caused a bomb scare.

Negotiations took place throughout the night.

A Northern Ireland Office Prisons Service spokeswoman confirmed: “At around 6am staff regained control of the area affected by the disturbance last night and the prisoners involved are safely locked in their cells.

“There are no further reported injuries to staff or prisoners.

“There will be no visits to Maghaberry today. Visits to Hydebank Young Offenders Centre and Magilligan Jail may also be affected and people are asked to check with those establishments before setting out.”

Last night’s disturbances erupted as talks between prison staff, management and the British government over prison officers’ security ended for the night in London.

Prison officers in the UK have threatened a nationwide strike in support of their Northern Ireland colleagues if the British government did not respond to their security concerns.

The talks, which also involve the TUC, will continue today.

The exact motive for last night’s disturbances at Maghaberry are unclear, although there was speculation that it may have been connected to a decision by prison authorities to put a leading loyalist Andre Shoukri in an isolation wing.

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