Saturday 24 September 2016

Dissident prisoners use special privileges at top-security jail to enjoy luxury goods like fillet steak, smoked salmon and Ben & Jerry's ice cream

Gordon Deegan

Published 19/12/2015 | 02:30

The Midlands Prison in Portlaoise, Co. Laois
The Midlands Prison in Portlaoise, Co. Laois
Photo: Depositphotos

Fillet steak, smoked salmon, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Camembert cheese, and Magnum ice creams are just some of the luxury foods enjoyed by pampered dissident prisoners at the country's top-security jail.

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Dissident republicans at Portlaoise jail enjoy the special privilege of being able to order food in from the local shops in the Midlands town.

This is a privilege not afforded to "ordinary criminals", who can only use the tuck shop.

And the scale of the extravagance is revealed in 316 pages of food orders obtained through a Freedom of Information request for the months of January and June of this year.

There was a total spend of more than €6,400 on the goods in January alone.

The dissidents ordered in sirloin steaks, tuna steaks, Goodfella's pizzas, duck paté, and other fine foods. One handwritten order records that a prisoner requested "Green & Black's 80pc Plain Bar of Chocolate - if not available large Cadbury Bournville".

Another prisoner ordered fillet steak that cost €15.09, with one ordering a tray of smoked salmon that cost €5.50.

One prisoner ordered a "luxurious prawn cocktail" but the prison officer tasked with going around Portlaoise purchasing the items marked the order "N/A", or not available.

The prisoners pay for the goods themselves - but Michael Gallagher, who lost his son Aidan (21) in the Omagh bombing, said the system "makes a mockery of and undermines the criminal justice system".

He added: "You will only encourage subversive elements if you send the message to them that they are more important than other criminals in jail."

A spokesman for the Irish Prison Service (IPS) said: "I can confirm that subversive prisoners in Portlaoise Prison have a somewhat different regime to other prisoners, due to historical and political reasons.

"The facility to purchase goods over and above what is available in the tuck shop is not a new concession and has been available to subversive prisoners in Portlaoise Prison since 1973."

Fianna Fáil Justice spokesman Niall Collins said: "I think this will be a real surprise to the public. I don't think there's any merit at all in dissident republican prisoners getting special privileges."

Irish Independent

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