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Sunday 21 January 2018

Soldiers and gardai training up to take over jails if prison officers strike

Michael Donnellan, director general of the Irish Prison Service
Michael Donnellan, director general of the Irish Prison Service
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

Soldiers and gardai are being trained-up to take over the running of jails if prison officers opt to embark on industrial action over pay and conditions, the head of the Irish Prison Service (IPS) has confirmed.

Michael Donnellan, Director General of the IPS, said they would be "reckless" as a prison service if they did not have a plan in place, highlighting how the Prison Officers' Association (POA) took industrial action last September in Cloverhill by leaving work for an hour.

"We always have to take a contingency plan," he said.

Mr Donnellan made his comments at the annual POA conference held in Dromoland in Co Clare where the Association's president Stephen Delaney warned that industrial action was not what prison officers wanted to resort to, but if all else failed they may have no choice.

Mr Delaney warned Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald that her officials had ignored agreed positions in relation to saving a further €3m after already making savings of €9m under the Haddington Road agreement which still has another year to run.

"They (the prison service) have also authorised and instructed senior managers to instruct and train gardai in how to do the job of a prison officer," he told delegates at the conference.

"Site visits by Gardai and the Army have taken place in all prisons throughout the country," he added.

Speaking in response, Mr Donnellan said the prison service is in a difficult period and a time of changes which are 'extremely difficult'.

"In relation to the pay issue we under Haddington Road agreed with the POA that there would be over €12m savings, we’re still shy of over €3m of that and all we are trying to do is implement the agreement," he said.

"That’s my job, That’s our job. I cannot run away.

"My pay and everyone else’s pay was deducted at source.

"Prison officers pay wasn’t and the agreement was that there would be a number of reforms and savings through the pay bill, and all we’re trying to do is implement that agreement," he added.

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