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Saturday 10 December 2016

Portlaoise prison officers get €1m in 'danger money' back pay

Gordon Deegan

Published 05/04/2016 | 02:30

Gabriel Keaveney: warning
Gabriel Keaveney: warning

Officers at the State's only maximum-security jail have shared a €1m windfall in 'danger money' back pay for dealing with some of the country's most dangerous criminals.

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The Irish Prison Service (IPS) has confirmed that 178 prison officers at Portlaoise Prison have received €986,961 in the so-called 'environmental allowance' back-pay.

The payment in arrears to the officers at the prison that houses the country's subversive prisoner population works out at an average of €5,544 each.

The 'environmental allowance' is worth €30.97 per week to each prison officer.

The allowance was introduced in 1982 in recognition of the fact that the vast majority of prisoners committed to Portlaoise Prison were members of subversive groups, which placed abnormal tension and strain on prison staff.

Before the Civil Service Arbitration Board (CSAB), the Irish Prison Service (IPS) argued that the allowance should be abolished on the grounds that the number of subversive prisoners housed in Portlaoise had declined dramatically since its peak in the early 1980s.

The IPS said the working environment in the prison had changed considerably over recent years, with the number of subversive prisoners dramatically down from a maximum of 163 in 1984.

Subversives

However, along with subversives at the jail, prison officers also have to deal with some of the most notorious gangland figures, including the Dundon brothers, John, Wayne and Dessie. It also houses the criminal dubbed the country's "most dangerous prisoner", Leon Wright (27).

In response to the IPS, the Prison Officers' Association (POA) claimed that subversive prisoners in the jail continued to exert a great deal of influence and had excessive power in relation to the working environment and staff resources within Portlaoise.

Dissident republican prisoners at Portlaoise can order in their own luxury food items.

In its determination last year, the CSAB ruled that the allowance should remain in force for the present but should be reviewed again after a two-year period.

The assistant general secretary of the POA, Gabriel Keaveny, said the allowance was "absolutely merited".

Irish Independent

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