Soldiers at Portlaoise tell of ‘deplorable conditions’

An official complaint has been made to the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) about the dire conditions soldiers guarding Portlaoise Prison have to endure.

Soldiers claim there would be a riot if prisoners they are guarding had to endure the same conditions they do in their adjoining barrack compound.

A shower block is currently out of action after its ceiling collapsed a few days ago. Toilets often don’t flush, showers don’t work, and excessive damp has caused staining to walls, leading to the growth of mould and what soldiers claim look like mushrooms.

Water pipe bursts have caused floors to collapse and two soldiers have received minor injuries as a result.

PDForra health and safety officer, Ray McKenna, told the association’s annual delegate conference that on foot of complaints he has received, he contacted the HSA, seeking its officials to investigate conditions at the barrack compound: “They are deplorable conditions and it [the building] doesn’t comply with health and safety legislation.”

PDForra general secretary Gerry Guinan, said he raised concerns about conditions at the prison three years ago and is “extremely disappointed” nothing has been done since to address it.

A senior army spokesman said a service-level agreement has been signed by the Department of Defence and the Prison Service to build a new €1m barracks on the site. The spokesman said work will begin very shortly.

Meanwhile, PDForra has called for water quality tests to be carried out at all military installations. One delegate said there are fears old lead-lined pipes are still in use and claimed he has seen “dead rodents and pigeons” in water storage tanks.

Delegates also directed their national executive to seek urgent talks with Department of Defence officials to upgrade the quality and quantity of accommodation at military bases.

The conference also heard that young members of the Naval Service are sleeping on ships when off duty because they can’t afford rents outside the navy’s headquarters on Haulbowline Island in Cork harbour. 

PDForra has called on the Department of Defence to build proper onshore accommodation at the base.

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