IRA Maze prison escape celebration condemned


Republican plans for a dinner-dance to celebrate an IRA mass escape from the Maze Prison 20 years ago were attacked today as "glorifying in acts of terrorism".

Up to 800 republicans and their families are due to gather at a Co Donegal hotel on Friday night to mark the biggest break-out in British prison history.

In September 1983, 38 IRA men shot their way out of the top security jail; some were swiftly recaptured, while 19 got away.

A three-course meal, music and dancing will be on offer to those attending the reunion. Guests are expected to include some escapees still officially on the run and still wanted in Northern Ireland.

Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson condemned the event. "I think that this celebration is totally inappropriate when one considers that a prison officer lost his life and others were left wounded and deeply traumatised because of the manner they were treated by the IRA."

The Lagan Valley MP called on gardaí to monitor the gathering at the Holiday Inn in Letterkenny and to arrest any escapees still wanted in Northern Ireland.

"I think to celebrate the Maze escape is glorifying in acts of terrorism and rubbing salt into the wounds of those who were victimised as a result," Mr Donaldson said.

According to an advertisement in the republican weekly paper An Phoblacht, the "true story" of the escape will be told by Mr Gerry Kelly and former IRA prison chief Brendan "Bic" McFarlane.

Mr Kelly was one of the escapees who went on the become the Sinn Féin representative for north Belfast in the now suspended Stormont Assembly.