06 May 2006

North: Bomb hoaxer fails to halt prison service celebration


06/05/2006 - 13:49:54

A security alert today failed to disrupt celebrations granting the Freedom of the City of Lisburn to the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

At least ten homes in the centre of the Co Antrim city were evacuated while army bomb disposal experts examined a suspect object in a city centre road following a telephone warning.

Police decided to allow the ceremony to go ahead nearby as the security alert continued and after a controlled explosion the alert was declared a hoax.

Condemning those responsible, local police district commander, Chief Superintendent Ken Hennings, said: “It is despicable that there are those still willing to cause disruption and upheaval.

“I have no doubt that those responsible were intent on disrupting the ceremony taking place in the Civic Centre – thankfully were able to allow the ceremony to continue throughout the alert.”

Speaking at the ceremony the Director General of the Prison Service, Robin Masefield, said he was privileged to accept the honour on behalf of the service.

The honour bestowed by the city was “immensely appreciated”, he said.

The professionalism and dedication of prison staff displayed on behalf of the public during some of the North’s darkest days could not be questioned, he said.

The Lisburn area has been home to two of Northern Ireland’s main prisons – the infamous Maze Prison which closed in 2000 and Maghaberry which opened in 1987 and remains as the main jail in the province.

Mr Masefield recalled that between 1974 and 1993 29 prison staff – eight working at the Maze – had been murdered and many more injured on and off duty or had their homes attacked.

“Countless others had their lives uprooted, while they and their families were forced to relocate due to the terrorist threat.

It is on occasions such as this that we particularly remember these colleagues.”

Speaking at a ceremony in the council council offices he added: “While the attention of the world was often on the prisoners, many of our staff had to endure a daily routine of fear and intimidation.”

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