17 guards to be moved after walkout over prison attack
An entire wing of a high-security prison has been placed on lockdown after staff there were told they will be relocated, amid fears for the safety of guards.
Managers of Portlaoise Prison, which is home to a number of Kinahan cartel-linked criminals, yesterday informed 17 prison officers that they were being transferred to Cloverhill Prison in two weeks' time.
The move comes after employees at the facility staged a walkout last week, following the assault of an officer in Wing C, where many gangland figures are currently detained.
A former top security manager told the Herald that the prison staff "have been concerned for some time over their safety and have voiced their concerns again and again".
"But the fact that one of them was assaulted last week was the final straw.
"They knew nothing about the proposed move until being informed yesterday," the source added.
It is understood the officers affected have been given until June 2 to prepare for the move to Cloverhill prison, which is based some 79km from Portlaoise.
Two of the staff members are understood to be senior prison officers.
"Many of those affected are particularly annoyed by this impasse because of the Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan being from the area," said the source.
"They believe he has not addressed their safety concerns despite them being voiced again and again.
"The reason behind Wing C remaining on lockdown is because the prison doesn't have enough staff to deal with the prisoners now."
It is understood that meetings with the Prison Officers' Association (POA) and the Irish Prison Service (IPS) were urgently convened at the Department of Justice, to deal with the serious ongoing situation at the prison.
Fears over the levels of dangerous violence have been plaguing the facility recently.
In March, it was revealed that four of the cartel's most senior alleged players in Mountjoy Prison, including Barry Doyle - who is serving life for the murder of innocent Limerick rugby captain Shane Geoghegan - were moved under armed transport to Portlaoise Prison.
In recent weeks it was revealed that armed gardai had been called in to protect staff in Portlaoise Prison after Kinahan cartel-linked inmates threatened to make "another Brian Stack".
It came after days of violence as members of the cartel tried to intimidate staff.