POA chief warns gangs are running their operations - inside and outside jail - from their cells.
Thirty feuding gangs 'pushing Mountjoy Prison to breaking point'
There are 30 warring “factions” in Mountjoy Prison alone stretching the overloaded Irish prison system to breaking point, a top officer has warned.
John Clinton, General Secretary of the POA, claims his members are struggling to separate the dozens of prisoners engaged in violent feuds.
He has called on the Prison Service to declare Portlaoise as a specialist facility to house gangs – much the same way as they did with the McCarthy/Dundon Keane/Collopy Limerick feud.
He said: “Gangs in prison over the past number of years have become a huge challenge for people working in our prison system, currently we have up to 30 gangs in Mountjoy and the logistics of just keeping them separated apart is very, very difficult for people working on the floors of our prison.
“The impact is very, very difficult on staff. The logistics of keeping criminal gangs apart alone is a huge issue. One gang will want to get at the other gang, when they do our members have to intervene, and our members can get assaulted as has been pointed out, and injured during the course of their duties.
“The Prison Service has indicated they’re opening up a unit in the Midlands, however we believe it’s not big enough. The State responded in the 1970s to the subversive threat in this country, and they responded very quickly, they separated the people and put them into one area.”
Mr Clinton said that gangs were running their operations inside and outside the prisons from their cells. They have even hits on fellow inmates using their fellow lags.
He said: “We believe that they should not be able to control the general population in prisons as they are at the moment, with so many people on protection because of criminal gangs. We believe that’s not the way the criminal justice system should work.
“They control the prison population in the way they control their outside territories. They have plenty of influence, there’s quite a lot of them, they group together and a group of criminals can put their rule of law down on other criminals if that’s allowed to happen.
“The feud won’t go away inside the walls either so we can't under any circumstance have one gang member from one feuding faction anywhere near the other so the logistics of that are quite self-explanatory.
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“It’s quite difficult, you must keep them apart, and you know we have a duty of care to prisoners. We can’t just let one gang member get to another gang member and do what they do on the outside or we would have people lined up in bodybags coming out. It just can’t happen.”
Michael Donnellan, Director General of the Irish Prison Service confirmed that the service intend to use Ireland’s high security prison to deal with the gangs.
He said: "Our policy has been for the last number of years is to disrupt the gang structure, place them in several prisons around our estate, particularly in two or three, but we are intending to use Portlaoise more in the second half of the year for the very more serious people who are intimidating within the prison gangs.”