Six prison officers hurt in row with 18 inmates
Six prison officers were injured while breaking up a violent confrontation in one of Ireland's most notorious prisons.
The incident, which was described as "very serious" by prison sources, occurred at lunchtime on Sunday at The Midlands Prison in Portlaoise, Co Laois.
Prison officers were reportedly treated for injuries including broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder, while another member of staff needed stitches to his head.
A female prison officer was said to be one of the injured and she reportedly suffered ligament damage.
The row involved members of the Travelling community.
"The fight started between two prisoners but quickly escalated to a point where there were around 18 involved," said a source.
"It ended up with two factions against each other and the prison staff had to intervene.
"It took some time to quell the situation and, in the course of their efforts, six prison officers were injured and required medical treatment, including hospitalisation."
Five prisoners were later transferred from the jail.
All of the inmates identified as being involved in the confrontation will face disciplinary action.
Gardai have been informed and criminal proceedings may also be brought.
Last month the Prison Officers' Association raised the issue of having to deal with violent fights between prisoners at its annual conference.
Members claimed that they had no equipment, such as batons or pepper spray, to help them deal with increasingly violent situations involving prisoners.
"When two prisoners are fighting with blades, what do we do? We have to go in with our sleeves twisted up and talk to these people," said assistant general secretary Gabriel Keaveney.
"We talk about conflict resolution, about de-escalation; we do all that at the moment.
"We don't go into a row and jump in as a first issue. We do know how to de-escalate many situations, but why can't we be given batons and pepper spray and equipment?
"We are absolutely astonished."
The Irish Prison Service said it is implementing the recommendations of a recent State Claims Agency report on assaults on staff by prisoners.
When asked to comment on Sunday's fight, a spokesperson for the service said it commended the actions of the staff who managed to quell the disturbance.