‘Vicious prisoner rewarded with cake and cola’

Providing a prisoner who had carried out 150 attacks on staff with cake and minerals on his birthday and €65 for “a party” was described as outrageous by the president of the Prison Officers’ Association.

At the POA’s annual conference in Co Clare yesterday, POA president Stephen Delaney said that the cake and minerals were given to the prisoner on his birthday while he was on a punishment regime in Portlaoise prison.

Mr Delaney said that prison management at Portlaoise also put €65 into the man’s account “for the purpose of having a birthday party”.

Mr Delaney said that the man was recently involved in a violent incident at Mountjoy where prison officers had their heads slashed.

“This is extremely frustrating for our members when such acts of violence are almost rewarded by the prison management,” Mr Delaney said.

“The prisoner is on punishment after viciously assaulting two of our members and yet management facilitated him having a birthday party, that is outrageous.”

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He said: “How this prisoner was allowed to have such privileges is beyond me and it is completely unacceptable. In my time, this is the most damning indictment of the Irish Prison Service mindset.”

Asked to comment on the prisoner being provided with cake on his birthday, the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: “I am not familiar with the particular circumstances.”

However, she added: “ Obviously, I don’t believe that bad behaviour should be rewarded. You reward good behaviour.”

Chief executive of the Irish Prison Service, Michael Donnellan told reporters the claims around the birthday cake are not correct.

Mr Donnellan said: “The information I have from the governor is that this prisoner made a shop order for some toiletries, he also, as part of that order, ordered a Swiss roll for €1.99 and two bottles of Coke which were delivered to him through the shop”.

He added: ”Privileges can be withdrawn and our rules allow us to do that. But what we try to do is run a humane prison service and what we try to do is encourage people back. Individuals like this would be put in an isolation block but part of that is to encourage them back onto the road, so people would have a limited shop order on humanitarian grounds, and those are the facts of the case. He didn’t get delivered with a birthday cake.”

“I can absolutely see that, I can see from the optics that looking back now it might have been done differently. The reality is that’s what happened, that was authorised by the governor.”

In a combative speech at the Inn at Dromoland that received a standing ovation, Mr Delaney told the justice minister: “Marie Antoinette had the peasants eating cake but she lost her head. We are not waiting until one of ours loses theirs minister”.

He said: “It is for this reason that we are calling for mandatory consecutive sentencing for those who assault or injure prison officers in the performance of their duties.”

Mr Delaney said: “Hopefully, none of us will be confronted with the murder of a prison officer, while on duty and if senior IPS officials don’t face the stark reality of staff safety, this could easily be visited upon us.”

Ms Fitzgerald told delegates: “l want to be absolutely clear — no act of violence against staff is acceptable or tolerated.

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