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Soldier's warning shot over gang jail phone smugglers

A warning shot was fired when two gang members breached security at Portlaoise Prison.

A soldier fired a shot as the pair broke into a perimeter area at the country's highest security prison last night.

The men ran from the area -- which lies between Portlaoise and the adjacent Midlands Prison -- after trying to throw phones and contraband into the Midlands Prison.

At least one phone may have made it into an exercise yard at the jail, sources told the Herald.

The shocking incident took place at around 7pm yesterday evening.

Three suspects were stopped in a car outside the town shortly afterwards, but they could not be linked to the incident and were not detained.

A major inquiry is under way today. Portlaoise Prison houses some of the most dangerous inmates in the country, including gangsters John Gilligan and Brian 'The Tosser' Meehan.

A source told the Herald: "The soldier shouted a warning but the men wouldn't stop as they ran to the Midlands Prison fence. They were throwing the bags as they ran.

"After the shot they stopped and ran back out.

"This is a serious incident. The phones were being thrown into the Midlands Prison but Portlaoise is right beside it, and that houses some of the country's biggest gangsters."

The intruders were attempting to smuggle seven mobile phones into the compound inside a 7up bottle, the Herald understands.


They fled the area after hearing the shot but dropped a bag containing the phones.

They had reached the rear perimeter wall of the Midlands Prison and had attempted to throw contraband over the wall.

It is understood they had cut through a fence with wirecutters and accessed the green area between the fence and the perimeter wall using a ladder.

It is believed they intended to throw the phones over a wall into an exercise yard at the Midlands Prison.

There were a number of inmates in the exercise yard at the time and one inmate was discovered with a mobile phone as he left the yard.

He was caught with the contraband after passing through a metal detector.

Prison authorities are investigating whether he picked up the phone after it was thrown over the wall.

Gardai believe the phones were destined for gangland figures in the prison.

The soldier, who was in a watchtower, spotted the two men who had breached the fence at the rear of the complex and had made their way through a field towards the Midlands Prison.

One of them was wearing dark clothing.

The soldier called on them a couple of times to stop immediately and make themselves known.

But when they moved closer to the wall of the prison the soldier fired a single round from his rifle into the air.


Notorious inmates Warren Dumbrell, James Cahill who killed bouncer Brian Fitzgerald, and convicted murderer Stephen Rock are also housed in the Midlands Prison.

The gardai, the Prison Service and the Defence Forces have all launched investigations into last night's incident.

More than 1,700 mobile phones were seized in Irish prisons in 2010.

The issue of mobile phones in prisons erupted four years ago when notorious criminal John Daly rang Joe Duffy's RTE Liveline show on a mobile from his cell in Portlaoise.

Daly was later shot dead shortly after he was released from jail.