Dissident republican prisoners are plotting to blow their way out of Maghaberry jail this Hallowe’en

EXCLUSIVE: DISSIDENT republicans are planning a massive break out of a powderkeg Ulster jail in the run up to Hallowe’en.

The Belfast Daily can reveal that the plan to grab global headlines for a huge jailhouse escape has been in the pipeline for the past year.

And prisoners are to use the deafening din of exploding Hallowe’en fireworks, bangers and rockets as a cover to mount their attempted breakout plan.

Explosives have been smuggled into both Magilligan and Maghaberry jails in recent months as inmates fine tune their daring escape plan.

And a veteran masterbomber who has developed the under car booby trap bombs (UCBTS) is sharing his knowledge with fellow inmates the Hallowe’een ‘spooktacular’.

We have learned that dissidents plan to mount a “major distraction operation’’ inside Magilligan prison.

“While the authorities are dealing with this incident, the dissidents are going to blow their way out of Maghaberry prison. Hallowe’en is the real danger,’’ a dissident republican source has told us.

Last month, a loud bang was heard inside Magilligan prison in Co Derry shortly after breakfast time as dissident prisoners were putting the final touches to a small device.

Magilligan Pirison which now houses up to 20 dissident republican inmates

A dissident source told us: “It was a mistake. It went off by accident. These are very dangerous times. The authorities need to be on alert.’’

In May this year, jail bosses in Magilligan prison received an intelligence tip off that dissidents were rapidly smuggling explosives into the Co Derry compound.

Following the high grade alert, visits were suspended and a security sweep was carried out of the jail during a five-day ‘news blackout’ but nothing was found.

“Just because nothing was found doesn’t mean to say there are not explosives in the jail already,’’ said a security source.

“There are a growing number of dissident republican prisoners now in Magilligan jail. They are obviously planning something.’’

The PSNI’s ‘C3’ Intelligence branch was also warned by an informant inside the renegade republican structure that explosives were already in Magilligan prison.

Five months on since the alarm was raised in May, dissident inmates in the two jails are now entering the finals stage of the breakout plan.

And they want to make it bigger than the 1983 ‘Great Escape’ by 38 Provisional IRA prisoners in the Maze jail.

A dissident republican source told us: “Only a handful of people in Magilligan and Maghaberry know the exact date of the breakout plan.

“All we have been told is that it will happen sometime in the run up to Hallowe’en. The bombs will go off while the fireworks are going up in the sky.

“It could be Hallowe’en night or it could a few days before. It is being kept very tight at the moment.’’

There are around 20 dissident republicans being housed in separate units throughout Magilligan prison with allegiances to the Real IRA, Continuity IRA, Saor Uladh and Oglaigh na hEireann.

One of them being housed in Magilligan is a cousin of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. Liam Hannaway, a one time leader of dissident group Saor Uladh, was formerly in Maghaberry prison where he was serving a ten year sentence for possession of explosives and ammunition.

Convicted dissident repubilcan terrorist and former hunger striker Liam Hannaway

In March 2010, Hannaway ended a 42 day hunger strike in protest at being housed in the jail’s vulnerable prisoner unit and not on a wing with other inmates. He is now in Magilligan because he has a round a year left to serve of his sentence.

Said the dissident republican source: “Hannaway did welding for a few years. He will come in handy for the operation.

“Magilligan is a joke at the moment. Imagine moving 20 or so dissidents into a low-medium security prison. There are at least four ‘Real Contos’ (Real Continuity IRA) and four or five others who have been placed around different houses in Magilligan for a reason.’’

On the morning of September 27, a loud bang was clearly heard in a part of Magilligan jail shortly before 10 am.

Even though it was a mistake, orders were sent in by the leadership of the dissident republican groups to forge ahead with the escape plan.

“They were told it was only a minor problem and to push ahead with the plan. That’s why they are all spread about Magilligan. They are all working together for a common purpose.’’

The loud jailhouse bang came in the same week a new ‘BOSS’ (body office security scanner) chair was unveiled in a pilot programme at Magilligan to prevent contraband items being smuggled into the Co Derry prison.

The following day, a fire broke out in Maghaberry prison in the dining room for Roe Houses 1 & 2 which is home to ‘ordinary decent criminals’ (ODCs).

Added the source: “The fire at Maghaberry was small and there were no injuries. It was a test to see how the response of the screws, to find out their reaction times and what else they do.

“Everybody involved in this plan has been given a specific task. There is an all out effort among the groups to grab the headlines globally.

“If you look at it, things are now coming together. One week there is an explosion in Magilligan. The next week the jail is in lock down. And then there is a fire in Maghaberry. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what it going on.

“This will be a concerted effort by dissidents in Magilligan and Maghaberry.Leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann who support the prison break out plan

“If you look at Maghaberry, that’s why a lot of dissidents aren’t in Roe House. They have moved around, with some going up to Magilligan.

“But they have a well worked out plan. They are all going to come together on the one night.

“The first will be a major distraction operation in Magilligan to take the focus off Maghaberry.

“And while they are dealing with the Magilligan incident, they going to try and blow their way out of Maghaberry.

“This has been a year in the planning. There has been a major restructuring going on among them both inside and outside the prisons.

“They are trying to get the focus back onto the jails again. That’s why they needed the hunger strike in Maghaberry resolved quickly and quietly.’’

One inmate who has a wealth of knowledge in bomb making is republican veteran Tommy Maguire.

Three weeks ago Maguire, of Suffolk Drive, west Belfast, pleaded guilty to having firearms and explosive components with in suspicious circumstances.

However, the 69-year-old denied possessing the cache with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property in August 2011. He has also denied possessing articles useful to terrorists and possessing other weapons

Belfast Magistrates Court has heard that police investigating dissident republican activity found Maguire’s fingerprint on a gun seized in Newry, Co Down in September 2010 after the discovery of a “small arms factory’’ in Aileen Terrace.

Anti-terrorist detectives arrived at Tommy Maguire’s home on August 4, 2011 to carry out a search.

However, the court heard that when Maguire seen police he panicked and drove off, sparking a major police chase.

A detective constable told the District Judge Fiona Bagnall that after Maguire was stopped and arrested police conducted a search of his home and found a number of guns.

Guns and explosives were also found in his car following the chase. In total, officers seized four hand guns, a coffee jar bomb, component parts for three hand guns and 100 rounds of ammunition were found concealed in the boot of his car.

Convicted bomber Maguire remains in custody and will go before Belfast Crown Court for a non-jury trial on a date yet to be fixed for the six remaining charges which he denies.

Said the dissident republican source: “Tommy Maguire is old school republican. He would have strong links with Liam Hannaway as he was in prison with Hannaway’s dad Kevin.

“Maguire and Liam Hannaway became good friends and were known to have been sharing around their bomb making skills.

“If the dissidents in Maghaberry wanted someone to build them a bomb, there would be no better man than Tommy Maguire. He knows bomb making like the back of his hand.’’

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