Security review at Maze prison after break-in for TikTok videos

A security review was ordered for the former Maze prison after youths broke in to record TikTok videos. The intrusion is believed to have inspired copycat incidents in a social media-driven “competition for content”. There have also been attempts to use drones on the site, which has for years been closed off to the public.

Perimeter fencing was repaired and new padlocks and bolt bars added to building access points in a bid to deter further trespassing. A briefing document for a third-party security adviser was drawn up following the incidents and included a review of an existing security contract. Police also stepped up patrols.

The Maze/Long Kesh (MLK) was the site of the IRA hunger strikes during the Troubles and held some of Northern Ireland’s most notorious paramilitaries before its closure in 2000. Since 2013 most requests to visit the prison buildings have not been approved by Stormont’s Executive Office following a row between the DUP and Sinn Fein over a proposed peace centre. The security review was arranged last year amid concerns over “intruder activity”, according to documents seen by Belfast Live from the Maze Long Kesh Development Corporation.

Minutes of a security working group meeting read: “The main incident in mid-April was young people who appeared to be under the age of 20 breaking in to record and upload TikTok videos of the prison. “This is social media driven as they attempt to heighten the number of views/followers by releasing clips of them exploring abandoned buildings or other locations that the public do not normally have access to.” It was noted that similar incidents had occurred at other sites including an abandoned hospital.

The minutes added: “The element of competition for content has we believe encouraged other intruders to come on to site and target the prison. “On the back of this we have also had a couple of incidents of attempted drone use on site.” The working group discussed completing a briefing for a third-party security adviser.

They also discussed immediate actions taken, including a “repair of perimeter fencing” and the “addition of lugs and padlocks” to some access points. A visit to the site near Lisburn was scheduled for last June to review the security measures. A PSNI spokesman said: “Police received several reports of civil trespass at the former HMP Maze site, Lisburn between April and June 2021.

“Officers attended the area when reported and increased patrols were conducted to deter this kind of activity. Neighbourhood officers also liaised with security staff who were encouraged to report any issues.” The Executive Office and MLKDC were approached for comment.

Proposals for a multi-million-pound redevelopment of the wider MLK site have been in limbo for years due to political disagreement.

The row erupted in 2013 when then DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson halted plans for a peace centre after unionist critics argued it would become a shrine to terrorism.

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, then Deputy First Minister, responded by saying no further development would take place until the issue was resolved.

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