Attorney General warns that crushing Kinahan crime group leaves room for other gangs to take their place


Minister of Justice Helen McEntee has warned that the collapse of the Kinahan organized crime group leaves room for other gangs to move into the space they have occupied.

s McWntee has vowed to provide additional prison space and assist the prison service in fighting gang violence.

With 79 members of the Kinahan group behind bars, she said the operations against criminal groups are having an impact on prisons and the prison officials who have to deal with them.

Speaking at the annual Prison Officers’ Association (POA) conference in Sligo yesterday, Ms McEntee said the number of prison officers had not increased in many years and she planned to address this later this year in the upcoming budget.

“I think there are obvious concerns, with high profile members of the Kinahan organized crime group being thrust into the limelight and the potential of what that means for them, there’s always scope for someone else to move into that space.

“I think that’s unfortunately what happens in circumstances like this,” she said when asked about the influence that senior members of the Kinahan gang have in prison.

She said dealing with prominent gang members in Irish prisons required effective prison management and the right “resources and structure” which was “significant work”.

“There are effective ways to deal with prisoners, especially when they are prisoners from two different gangs or organizations, and it is important that the prison service is supported in this,” she said.

She added that the Kinahan gang has brought untold misery to many communities and anyone else thinking of doing so should be aware of the repercussions.

Prison overcrowding was raised as a growing problem at the conference, with Ms McEntee saying it was “unacceptable” for prisoners to sleep on the floor due to overcrowding in Irish prisons.

POA Deputy Secretary-General Gabriel Keaveny said 10 per cent, or more than 30 inmates, at Cloverhill Prison now slept on mattresses.

“This is completely intolerable. The entire training session remains closed in Mountjoy.

“We have other cases at the Dochas Center and Cork Prison across the property where there are problems with overcrowding.

“That needs to be addressed. We need additional space as well as the reopening of the training area,” he said.

POA President Tony Power said overcrowding leads to increased tension and violence.

“We still need about 600 places in the prisons. We have about 4200, we need about 4800 or 5000. Because prisons are now reopening, the level of prisoner-to-prisoner violence has increased and we had a few incidents at Mountjoy last week where some staff were injured,” he said .

Ms McEntee said that in 2019, before she became Minister, a review of the capacity of the Irish Prisons Service was carried out and this resulted in the creation of around 140 new rooms in the system.

Looking ahead later this year, she said 96 new places would be made available when the training unit at Mountjoy Prison’s campus in north Dublin returned to service after the refurbishment.

A new refurbishment at Limerick Prison, also due to open later this year, would open 90 places for men and 40 for women.

Ms McEntee said she had recently met with the POA and the Prison Service and both had raised the issue of overcrowding with her and prison staffing.

The POA addressed the issue of an ongoing problem of false testimony by prisoners, leading to “unfair and unnecessary court appearances by prison officials.”

Mr Power said three years ago one of his members was in the dock of a district court accused of assaulting a prisoner and making false statements to Gardaí.

“The CCTV showed very clearly that the officer had done nothing wrong and the only false statement was that of the prisoner.

“This officer did his training to the letter, it was a textbook, straight from the Irish Prison Service Control & Restraint Manual, a manual which the judge said had no weight in his court, but a manual which is still in use today,” he said added.

“Despite the fact that two independent experts were willing to testify that this officer’s actions that day were exemplary and that the CCTV footage of the incident could be used as training video, the officer and his family endured the rigors of an entire trial , because the prison service refused to stand up and protect their employee.

“This officer stood in court and listened when his employer failed to offer him protection from the judge. The employer merely stated that the Irish Prison Service had no role to play. Luckily, the jury stood and found the officer not guilty,” he said.

“Everything a prisoner needs to file a Category A complaint and our members are being investigated for doing their jobs.

“The Prison Officers Association will continue to support our members in these situations, but the day is fast approaching when we must advise our members if there is a problem in our prisons to step down and simply call the Gardai.

“We don’t want to do that, but we have a duty to protect our members,” he added. Attorney General warns that crushing Kinahan crime group leaves room for other gangs to take their place

Fry Electronics Team

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