Privileges enjoyed by dissident prisoners ‘mock justice system’

Fillet steak and organic yogurt among the luxury foods provided at Portlaoise Prison

Fillet steak, smoked salmon, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, organic yogurt, Camembert cheese and Green & Black’s chocolate are some of the luxury foods enjoyed by dissident republican prisoners .

The Portlaoise Prison inmates enjoy special privileges and can order from local shops, though so-called "ordinary prisoners" are limited to the prison's tuck shop.

Records released under the Freedom of Information Act by the Irish Prison Service show that the prisoners bought €6,400 worth of food supplied from outside in the first six months of this year, collected by prison staff.

Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son, Aidan, was murdered in the Omagh bomb massacre in 1998, said the privileges "make a mockery of, and undermine, the criminal justice system".


Saying the public would “be disgusted”, Mr Gallagher added: “You will only encourage subversives . . . if you send the message to them that they are more important than other criminals in jail.”

Trays of smoked salmon

In one handwritten order in January, a prisoner requested “Green & Blacks 80 per cent plain bar of chocolate – if not available large Cadbury Bournville”, while another ordered €21 sirloin steaks and trays of smoked salmon.

Another prisoner ordered a “luxurious prawn cocktail”, but the prison officer tasked with collecting it in Portlaoise finally had to give up, writing “N/A” (not available).

A third ordered six chicken breasts, Uncle Ben’s korma sauce and Texan barbecue sauce, shoestring chips, and Clonakilty black pudding, complete with a note stating: “All must be gluten- free, please – thank you.”

Saying the privileges had existed since 1973, the Irish Prison Service said the dissident republican prisoners in Portlaoise “have a somewhat different regime to others due to historical and political reasons”.