Prison officers urge Minister to ‘take on’ jailed gang leaders

Prison Officers’ Association says inmates supplying drugs will seek to abuse new hotline

The conference heard that despite efforts by the Irish Prison Service to reduce the flow of contraband, a “drugs, drugs and more drugs” scenario was confronting staff daily

The conference heard that despite efforts by the Irish Prison Service to reduce the flow of contraband, a “drugs, drugs and more drugs” scenario was confronting staff daily

 

Prison officers have urged Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to “take on” gang leaders in jail and isolate them from the rest of the prison population, despite the threat of legal action.

The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) also said the inmates involved in supplying drugs would seek to abuse a new hotline system designed to encourage others with information on smuggling methods to come forward.

“[It] will only allow the gangs to subvert proper procedures by setting up some unwitting fool coming in as a decoy while some other method is employed,” said POA president Stephen Delaney.

Flow of contraband

“It is the gang leaders that should be properly isolated for the safety of all officers and prisoners alike,” Mr Delaney added. “We are told that any attempts to isolate these individuals will be resisted in the courts and will get significant support in some quarters.”

In remarks addressed to Ms Fitzgerald at the officers’ annual conference in Co Clare, he told her if she “took on” the gang leaders it would make the working environment safer for his members. She would enjoy the “absolute support” of all officers.

Mr Delaney was critical of the prison service’s director general Michael Donnellan, saying no action was taken against prisoners who made allegations about officers. He also questioned why no preliminary short inquiry was conducted when allegations made were clearly “bizarre”.

‘Walking away’

He said officers and management were returning to an adversarial relationship that would be marked by “conflict and failure”; the same as was in place before an improved situation during Mr Donnellan’s first period in charge.

In comments that reflect an apparent deterioration in the relationship, Mr Delaney borrowed the description of Lloyd George by Michael Collins. He used the reference to seemingly describe the prison service management team.

“I find him to be particularly obnoxious. He is all comradely, all craft and wiliness; all arm around the shoulder. Not long ago he would have had me at a rope’s end.”