Ruthless criminals had planned to take a female prison officer hostage in a shocking incident which lasted for more than four hours in the Midlands Prison, the Herald can reveal.
Jail insiders have revealed that notorious criminal Jeffrey Morrow (38) is suspected of organising the disturbing event that ended when one of the four prisoners involved in it agreed to open a cell and exchange a weapon for Mars bars, Swiss rolls and tobacco.
Morrow, originally from Finglas, was jailed for 11 years last August for his involvement in the feud-related murder of dissident republican Vinnie Ryan in February 2016.
Sources say that he had been "running the drugs show" from the Co Laois jail's B landing but has since been moved to another area of the prison.
Four prisoners who had barricaded themselves into a cell on the landing had planned to take a female officer, who is aged in her 40s, hostage, a source at the jail said.
"Initially it was thought that this was an incident in which two prisoners had held another prisoner hostage at the point of an improvised weapon while a fourth inmate remained passive in the cell," a jail source said.
"However, this incident was all a sinister ruse to lure a female prison officer into the cell so she could be taken hostage.
"All the prisoners who were involved in the stand-off were to have their individual drug debts wiped clean.
"The female officer targeted has been especially proactive on a clampdown on drugs.
"The week before all this broke out, she was involved in organising around 20 different drug tests on prisoners and this caused some ill will toward her - of the prisoners that were asked to do it, all either failed the test or refused to do it."
Drug tests are not compulsory for inmates but they face sanctions if they refuse.
The incident happened at 4.10pm on February 20 on the B1 landing of the prison.
The Prison Officers' Association said: "All divisions were locked down and negotiations commenced on B1 landing.
"Shortly before 8.30pm staff forced entry into the cell and removed all four prisoners meeting considerable resistance."
Investigations have established that major league criminal Morrow "may have been pulling the strings".
Since then he has been moved from B2 landing to C1 and his activities observed.
"God knows what the plan was to do with the officer if they had got her," the source said.
"All four prisoners are suspected of getting involved because they owe money to Morrow's crew.
"They have also been moved and disciplined but it is Morrow that there is major concern about - he is running things in that jail."
Paul O'Beirne (37), from Colepark Drive, Ballyfermot, was sentenced to nine years and Morrow, with a last address at Burnell Court, Coolock, was jailed for 11 years for their roles in Vinnie Ryan's murder.
After a lengthy trial, the murder charge was dropped and both men pleaded guilty to another offence.
The Central Criminal Court heard they provided and destroyed a stolen Volkswagen Golf that the gunmen used.
Passing sentence, a judge said Morrow, who had 120 previous convictions, had shown a "reckless disregard for law and order when he was a young man".