The safety of prison officers must be the number one priority for the Minister for Justice and the Irish Prison Service who are the employers of prison officers who work in our prisons throughout the country, according to Laois Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming.

Deputy Fleming commented: “Prison Officers cannot be expected to operate a safe prison system if their own safety is being compromised.

“A series of cut backs and shortcuts have contributed to the vicious attack on 5 different prison officers in recent weeks. Two prison officers were assaulted during an escape bid when they brought a prisoner to Tallaght hospital for treatment. 3 other prison officers were injured in the Midlands Prison, Portlaoise resulting in very serious stab wounds, cuts and broken bones being suffered by prison officers.

“Arising from the meeting with Minister Frances Fitzgerald and the Prison Officers Association we need to see action to ensure our prison officers can carry out their difficult work on our behalf in as safe a manner as possible.

“Everybody knows managing convicted prisoners is a very difficult issue but shortcuts and proper risk assessments by the Irish Prison Service are making matters worse. Anti-stab vests must be available to prison officers and any other resources that are deemed necessary for their safety should be provided.

“Prison officers, like all other public servants, have seen major reductions in their pay and changes to their work conditions. This must be recognised by the Minister. Adequate resources and systems must be put in place to safeguard prison officers who we want to guard prisoners on our behalf.”