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Talks over prison dispute stalled by call for strike vote

STALEMATE continued in the Mountjoy prison dispute today following the management's decision to cancel talks aimed at resolving the issue of the jail's segregation unit.

A member of the Prison Officers' Association (POA) executive was told bluntly that the Irish Prison Service (IPS) would not be meeting them if they were going ahead with a ballot on possible industrial action.

After a pledge from Governor Ned Whelan given on national radio yesterday to engage with the POA, the offer was withdrawn.

The POA President Stephen Delaney said today that staff at Mountjoy had reservations about the regime being operated in the segregation unit, even before the arrival of controversial prisoner Leroy Dumbrell on Tuesday.

They were of the view that the IPS had already broken the existing agreement and guidelines which applied to the restricted regime in the unit.

They were amazed that the IPS decided not to engage after the public pledge and even before a ballot paper had been printed.

A lengthy process had to be followed even before the issue of any type of industrial action arose.

Executive POA member Gabriel Keaveney was given the blunt message yesterday evening that there would be no talks if the union was going ahead with the ballot called for by the local branch.

The POA executive was today consulting with its members at Mountjoy and was highlighting the Public Service Pay Agreement guideline, which urges all parties to engage in talks before issues get to the stage of industrial action.

Meanwhile, Leroy Dumbrell, whom the IPS say is not a "disruptive prisoner" or one likely to cause trouble, is in the segregation unit which has a restricted regime.

The prison staff disagree with this classification.

He is one of 55 prisoners in the unit which the staff at Mountjoy say includes a number of prisoners with a real potential for disruption.

This was the issue to be discussed at tomorrow's planned meeting which has now been cancelled.



Ballot

"To our total surprise the reason given for the cancellation of this meeting is that the POA are in the process of organising a ballot of its Mountjoy members on industrial action; an industrial relations mechanism, which is well established and accepted," said the union.

"We ask the IPS to set small-mindedness aside and meet with us on Friday morning, as arranged, so that the serious safety issues at Mountjoy can be discussed and effective solutions found. Yesterday we asked [Justice] Minister Ahern to intervene in this dispute -- and we repeat this request again today."

Mountjoy standoff, p16-17