Sunday Life

Mo blamed for wrecking clink

By Alan Murray

18 January 2004
A TOP UDA boss could be placed in solitary confinement in Maghaberry Prison, this week, because of last week's rioting and destruction.

West Belfast UDA leader, Mo Courtney has been identified by prison staff, as the leader of the inmates in Bann House, who caused an estimated £550,000 worth of damage to a dining area, landings and an office used by prison staff.

Heavy electrical wiring was destroyed by the intensity of the blaze, which gutted the office, even though it was protected inside heavy conduit trunking.

Prison staff suspect the UDA had planned to hold out in Bann House. in a siege-type situation, for up to seven days, while and conducting negotiations with jail bosses.

"After they were put back into their cells we found basic rations near a microwave oven, which we think they planned to use to provide basic food for a number of days," one source said.

"But, they were overrun by the specially trained TRG units and gave up," one source said.

The specially trained prison officers used welding torches to cut through metal barricades and walls in Bann House. Sources say thermos flask inserts, filled with lighter fuel and stuffed with rags, were recovered in Bann House, after the prisoners returned to their cells.

Said a prison officer: "We warned the management that permitting these flasks to be held by prisoners was a security risk, and we were right, they turned them into Molotov cocktails. Luckily nobody was burned with them this time".

The possibility of bringing criminal charges against the 36 prisoners, who barricaded themselves inside Bann House, has not been ruled out by the management of the jail, but there has been a reluctance to follow such a policy to date.

Whether Courtney will be subjected to a Rule 32 charge, and taken to the special segregation unit at Maghaberry, will be decided by the prison governor and the Prison Service Director General, this week.

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