Sunday 15 September 2019

Wing of top-security prison on lockdown as 'there's too few officers'

The Midlands Prison in Portlaoise, Co Laois Photo: Collins
The Midlands Prison in Portlaoise, Co Laois Photo: Collins

Sarah Slater and Ken Foy

An entire wing of a top-security prison has been placed on lockdown after staff there were told they will be relocated, leaving the site dangerously short of guards.

Managers of Portlaoise Prison, which is home to a number of Kinahan cartel-linked criminals, yesterday informed 17 prison officers that they were being transferred to Cloverhill Prison in two weeks' time.

The move comes after employees at the facility staged a walkout last week, following the assault of an officer in wing C, where many gangland figures are currently detained.

A former top security manager told the Irish Independent the staff "have been concerned for some time over their safety and have voiced their concerns again and again".

"But the fact that one of them was assaulted last week was the final straw.

"They knew nothing about the proposed move until being informed yesterday," the source added.

It is understood the officers affected have been given until June 2 to prepare for the move to Cloverhill Prison, which is based some 79km from Portlaoise.

Two of the affected staff are understood to be senior prison officers.

"Many of those affected are particularly annoyed by this impasse because of the Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan being from the area," said the source.

"They believe he has not addressed their safety concerns despite them being voiced again and again.

"The reason behind wing C remaining on lockdown is because the prison doesn't have enough staff to deal with the prisoners now."

It is understood that meetings with the Prison Officers' Association and the Irish Prison Service were urgently convened at the Department of Justice to deal with the serious ongoing situation at the prison.

In March, it was revealed that four of the cartel's most senior alleged players in Mountjoy Prison, including Barry Doyle - who is serving life for the murder of innocent Limerick rugby captain Shane Geoghegan - were moved under armed transport to Portlaoise Prison.

Irish Independent

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