A massive search is currently underway in Maghaberry prison in Northern Ireland after it was suspected that dissident republicans smuggled a small quantity of the plastic explosive Semtex into the prison.

Hundreds of members of the Northern Ireland prison service and the PSNI are taking part in the search to find the exploisives.

Unconfirmed reports have revealed that a chemical used in the manufacture of Semtex was discovered in up to 15 locations around the prison. Semtex is notorious for it's ability to be undetectable, and the IRA reciecved a shipment of nearly thirty tons of the explosive in the 1980's from Libyas Colonel Muammar Al-Gaddafi.

The Governor of the prison, Steve Rodford, said the search was being carried out for the safety of prisoners, vistors and the Prison staff. It is believed that the explosive was smuggled into the prison during the summer and it is feared that it may be used by dissident republicans to destabilise peace in the North by killing staff or loyalist prisoners. The search was carried out this week as it was suspected that the rememberance day service on Sunday would present an ideal oppurunity for dissident republicans to make their mark.

Staff members were the subject of a thorough search  at the end of their shift on Wednesday and this action prompted Questions as to whether or not a staff member was suspected of colluding with prisoners.

A senior Prison Service official said that it was "standard practice" to do so and "that the evening before a search of prison officers is carried out before they leave the jail just in case inmates became aware of the plan and tried to get an officer to smuggle something out." 

The last time a major search of the prison was carried out was in the 1990's and that lasted three days. It is expected this search will continue over the weekend.

A prisoner officer revealed that it would a very thorough and meticulous search and added that “Everything from bunks to electrical sockets will be unscrewed, taken apart and searched. The Governor is correct when he says this is the type of thorough search that should take place periodically but at the moment the buzz is that they’re specifically searching for Semtex and other items that could make a bomb.”

As the search intensifies, the Prison Service has announced that the prison is closed to all visits until further notice.