THREE prison officers were hospitalised last night during a riot in the country’s largest prison involving up to 80 inmates.

The rioting in Mountjoy began shortly after 7pm when a group of prisoners, armed with steel bars, snooker cues, pool cues and snooker balls, barricaded themselves into a section of the exercise yard.

It is understood the inmates were also wearing hoodies which could pose difficulties identifying people on camera.

Staff in the ‘A’ division of the exercise yard — thought to have numbered just two or three — were forced to retreat.

At least two prison officers were injured in this stage of the riot — one was beaten over the head with a pool cue and the other with a snooker ball — and both were taken to hospital.

Back-up was requested from other prisons, including Clover Hill, St Patrick’s and Wheatfield. A number of off-duty officers also presented for duty.

In addition, the canine unit — composed of alsatians, known as “attack dogs” — was brought under garda escort to Mountjoy.

Back-up took approximately 45 minutes to arrive and prison officers then put on riot gear.

A third prison officer was injured when an attempt was made to regain control of the portion of exercise yard under siege. He was taken by ambulance to hospital.

The siege, which began at a time when prisoners were returning from recreation for tea before being locked up for the night, lasted just under three hours. Those not involved in the siege had returned to their cells as normal.

When contacted last night, Eugene Dennehy, deputy general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, said staff “quickly and professionally” took control of the area under siege once they went in.

“We were aware of the situation and were being briefed regularly by workers in Mountjoy. We are concerned for the officers who were injured and we compliment the staff for taking control,” Mr Dennehy said.

Brian Purcell, director general of the Prison Service, also complimented staff.

What triggered the siege was unclear. However, the prison has continually suffered from severe overcrowding, housing more than 600 prisoners when it was originally designed to take in not more than 450.

In July this year, a 56-strong riot team of prison officers attempted to restrain 77 prisoners in Mountjoy, during which a prison officer had his teeth and nose smashed by an inmate.


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