Gang wars threaten to spill into our jails, officers warn
Up to 18 crime factions are now among the prison population in Dublin's Mountjoy jail, leading to increasing difficulties for staff trying to stop them going to war with each other.
According to prison officers, certain factions are aligned to other gangs and enemies of different ones, making it difficult to manage the population.
It comes on top of the gang wars on the streets - such as the Kinahan and Hutch feud which has claimed five lives this year alone.
Speaking at the annual Prison Officers' Association conference in Athlone, POA president Stephen Delaney warned there is a real possibility that escalating gang warfare could also end up being fought within the prison.
"We have already seen one instance where a leading gang figure was attacked and nearly savaged to death, and three of our staff had to go in and rescue him. Without the actions of the prison officers he would certainly have been killed," he said.
Mr Delaney said more effort needs to be made to separate gang leaders from their gangs in prisons, to reduce the influence they hold over them and the general prison population.
At his address to the delegates, Mr Delaney also said assaults by prisoners are putting prison officers in hospital and on the breadline.
"Official figures show that there were 91 assaults of prisoner on prison officer last year which is approximately two per week," he said.
"In some quarters this reduced figure (down from 144 in 2014 and 154 in 2013) has been heralded as a triumph. It's not a major triumph for the 91 officers who were assaulted last year - believe me.
"In the past year several prison officers who were seriously injured and unable to return to work, on the advice of the chief medical officer, had their pay cut and consequently were unable to pay their household or medical bills," he explained.
The POA was also critical of some incentives, such as a garden being provided to prisoners in the Midlands prison who it says have a dangerous history of violence towards prison officers.
"This year we have a garden being developed for one of the most violent prisoners within the system - that's going to cost around €80,000. We have to ask ourselves, where do we go next? Is it a holiday in Spain for really maiming or really hurting one of our people?" asked POA general secretary Jim Mitchell.
The Irish Prison Service will claim the garden was proposed by the authorities and will be available for use by more than one prisoner.