Prisons keeping lid on explosive gangland feud
Kinahan-Hutch death count would be much worse but for officers quelling jail violence
Prison Service security staff are playing a key role keeping the death and injury toll down in the Dublin gang feuding, it can be revealed.
Gardai, who don't normally praise their colleagues in the Prison Service, say that work being done to separate the warring factions inside jail is 'definitely' keeping the death toll down on the outside.
"We're amazed how they're keeping the lid on it," one senior garda source said about the prisons staff. "The worst on both sides are inside at the moment. They are set on murdering each other and that always kicks it off outside if someone is attacked in prison."
One of the main reasons for the attack by the five gunmen on the Kinahan gang at the Regency Hotel on February was an attempt to murder Derek 'Del Boy' Hutch in Mountjoy Prison last December. This came after the murder of his brother, Gary Hutch, in Spain in September by members of the Kinahan mob.
Derek Hutch was in a recreation yard in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin when he was set on by the rival gang. He was saved only when three prison officers intervened - sources say at great risk - and pulled him in from the yard. Derek Hutch suffered stab and slash wounds and could easily have been killed, sources say.
"That was a very brave action by those officers. The public don't know how much work and risk of injury goes on every day in our prisons keeping gangs apart and keeping the lid on," a prison source told the Sunday Independent.
"We have been very successful in recent years introducing new security measures stemming the activities of the gangs in terms of blocking and finding phones that are being used in gang activity.
"There is a great deal of work and effort that goes into arranging the accommodation of gangs so that violence does not break out. We don't want to say too much because the risks are always there."
Much of the spearhead work in the prisons is carried out by the Operations Support Group which collates information on gangs and ensures that, as much as possible, they are kept apart and under control.
The 'security staff' as they are known in the prison system works closely with gardai in monitoring and managing the gangs in jail.
"All prison staff work at this though," the source said. "Our aim is to protect both our own staff and our inmates and everyone plays a role in that. We have had a lot of success that we don't talk about but it is a difficult job."
Much of the work preventing violence inside the prisons involves keeping gangs apart in separate jails and in segregated wings within jails.
With over 3,700 inmates including the most dangerous and violent gang members the work in containing the violence is 'never-ending' the source said.
Only last month an inmate in Portlaoise Prison suffered severe stab and slash wounds requiring emergency treatment and 60 stitches to his wounds after he was attacked by a group of prisoners armed with home-made knives.
Garda sources say that an attack or killing in prison 'always' precipitates violence on the outside and the relative peace in the prisons has greatly helped keep the death toll in the current feud down.
Among those serving time in the prison system are figures known to have committed gangland murders but who are serving terms for firearms or drugs possession. Included in the 'Kinahan' prison population is the country's most prolific killer said to be responsible for at least 13 murders, some of which involved the torture and secret burial of victims.
The prison service also has to contend with relatively minor figures in the gangs who are trying to further their criminal careers by attacking rivals.
The current feud has the potential to be the bloodiest in gangland history as it involves the two biggest criminal organisations in the State, with the exception of the IRA. The Dublin southside cartel, referred to as the Kinahan gang but encompassing many other major criminal families on the southside of the Liffey is currently ahead in terms of murders by four to one. Garda sources say there is no end in sight with the southside gangs determined to 'totally destroy' their rivals.
The pressure cooker environment in the prisons system is expected to be discussed at the annual Prison Officers' Association (POA) conference which is being held this week.
Earlier this month the Irish Prison Service (IPS) has confirmed that it had come to agreement with the POA over back-payments of what is effectively danger money for 178 prison officers serving at Portlaoise Prison. The offices have received a total of €986,961 back-pay for what is officially termed 'environmental allowance'.
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 allowance is worth €30.97 per week to each prison officer.