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Riot squads were used at least once a day in Portlaoise Prison last year

A team typically would be made up of five or six wearing riot gear including a helmet and shield.

Midlands Prison in Portlaoise.
Midlands Prison in Portlaoise.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

PRISON AUTHORITIES DEPLOYED ‘Control and Restraint’ (C&R) teams in riot gear 373 times to deal with high risk prisoners at Ireland’s only maximum security prison at Portlaoise last year.

That is according to new figures showing that the Irish Prison Service (IPS) C&R teams were deployed more than once every day on average at the prison that houses some of the country’s most notorious criminals.

Victim impact statements for prison officers involved in one incident stated that there was fear experienced by their partners and spouses that the men are constantly at risk of assault.

One inmate, Leon Wright, has attacked over two dozen guards while in jail and left many with very serious injuries, necessitating the use of C&R teams for any interactions with him.

An IPS C&R team typically would be made up of five or six wearing riot gear including a helmet and shield to deal with prisoners or situations deemed high risk.

In a written Dáil reply on the usage of C&R teams in Irish prisons, the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan revealed that the deployment of C&R teams at Portlaoise is far greater than any other prison.

The figures show that C&R teams were deployed 273 times at Mountjoy last year – 100 less than Portlaoise – while they were used 102 times at Cloverhill.

The next highest is Wheatfield at 62 while C&R teams are rarely deployed in other prisons – just six times in the Midlands prison and on five occasions each in Castlerea and Cork.

C&R teams were not used in any other prison last year.

In his written Dáil reply to Sinn Féin deputy Jonathan O’Brien, Flanagan said: “As part of a Control & Restraint team a staff member, with a video recording camera, records footage of the event. The majority of the incidents in which a Control & Restraint team was deployed did not require the physical removal of the prisoner.”

President of the Prisoner Officers Association (POA), Stephen Delaney said that the high use of C&R teams at Portlaoise in 2016 underlines the risks faced by staff at the prison.

Delaney said that Portlaoise “is a particularly stressful environment to work in and this has been recognised with the payment of an Environmental Allowance to staff there”.

The payment of the Environmental Allowance or ‘danger money’ is in recognition of Portlaoise housing the country’s subversive Republican prisoners and they currently number 40 in jail there – down 32% from the 59 incarcerated five years ago.

The “environmental allowance” is worth €30.97 per week to each prison officer.

Last year, 178 prison officers at Portlaoise received almost €1 million in backpay from the IPS after winning a battle over the continued payment of the allowance.

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Gordon Deegan

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