Over €5.6m paid to prison officers injured by inmates
MORE than €5.6m in compensation cash was paid to prison officers who were injured on the job, the Herald can reveal.
The figures for five years to the end of 2014 come as three prison officers were assaulted in Mountjoy Prison, two of them receiving slash wounds to the face.
And the Herald has spoken to one prison officer who has had teeth knocked out when struck on the face with a plank and, in another disturbing incident, received a death threat to his family from one the capital's most notorious killers.
The payouts were for dozens of incidents that arose causing harm to prison staff, including injury as a result of assault, stabbing, arson, being bitten by inmates and being exposed to saliva and blood.
Deputy General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association (POA) Jim Mitchell pointed out that as well as suffering physical injuries, warders are also left emotionally affected by the job.
One of the officers hurt in the most recent incident in Mountjoy may require specialised surgery to heal the wounds he received.
He was one of the officers attacked by aggravated burglar Eoghan McGarry (29) who lashed out as he was being removed from a high security cell at 8.30am yesterday.
Two of the staff received slash wounds to the face, with one also being cut across the side of the body.
A third officer was punched and grazed in the forehead.
The weapon was a 'shiv' made from a toothbrush handle with two razor blades melted into it to make it more difficult to stitch up the resulting wounds.
Serving a four-year sentence for aggravated burglary, it is likely McGarry will now be moved to the Midlands Prison after this violent assault.
Prison sources say McGarry has been a very volatile prisoner since he was first committed to Mountjoy.
"He's mad. He was actually being held in the medical unit and staff were full sure he would end up in the Central Mental Hospital someday," they said.
Compensation payments to prison officers come to €5,660,160 for the five years 2010 to 2014 with €977,718 paid out last year alone.
"Although the compensation figure looks quite high it doesn't reflect the severity of the injuries prison officers suffer," the POA's Mr Mitchell said.
"Most commonly they would incur injuries from assaults, intervening in fights and also the classic example of attempting to save a prisoner from being attacked," he explained.
"There are also scenarios that can have a mental and emotional affect on staff, such as discovering a prisoner in a cell who has died by suicide or from an overdose," he added.
Mr Mitchell described Ireland's prisons as a "difficult environment to work in" and added that there is "no other job like it".
There were 154 attacks in 2013 alone with 49 in St Patrick's Institution and 34 in Mountjoy. There has been a number of high profile incidents in recent months.
In February gardai launched a man hunt for serial armed robber Derek Brockwell, who escaped while attending a scheduled appointment at Tallaght Hospital.
Brockwell stabbed and severely injured two officers after collecting a knife left for him in a hospital cubicle.
Both of the officers required surgery, but are expected to make a full recovery.
Brockwell was subsequently caught outside a pub in Belfast more than 24 hours after the escape.
In a separate incident last month, three prison officials were hospitalised after two incidents in Midlands prison.
One officer required 14 stitches, while the other two suffered a twisted knee and a broken ankle.
The injuries occurred when two inmates attempted to stab a fellow prisoner.
One of the convicts involved in the fight was depraved Sean Thackaberry (22), serving a seven year sentence for raping a woman, who subsequently took her own life.