Prison officers' union was ready to provoke prison riots, said official


A Department of Justice official believed the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) was prepared to provoke prison riots during a dispute over proposed cutbacks in overtime in 1982.

Cutbacks were due to be implemented from November 13th. A memo written by the official, dated November 12th, 1982, said the prison officers’ union appeared to be prepared to risk “the very likely destruction of some of the prisons including Portlaoise”.

Portlaoise was then used chiefly to hold IRA prisoners.

“The Governor of Portlaoise is totally ad idem with the POA in opposing any cut-back on staff numbers and he would certainly argue before any tribunal of inquiry that they and not you or we are the professionals,” the note, written for then minister for justice Seán Doherty, said.

“The POA now appear to be prepared to push things to the extent of provoking the prisoners to riot.”

In early December gardaí were called into Portlaoise when prison officers refused to unlock cells for prisoners’ recreation. The action was settled within a few days.