Drone lands on roof of prison block housing notorious Irish gangsters

NewsBy Eamon Dillon
Portlaoise Prison, where the drone incident took place
Portlaoise Prison, where the drone incident took place

A SECURITY alert at Ireland’s high-security prison was sparked by an aerial drone which landed on a cell block roof where several notorious gangsters are locked up.

According to sources, armed soldiers guarding the facility raised the alarm, but the remote-controlled aircraft managed to take off again before prison officers could reach it.

It is suspected that the drone had been launched from a vehicle parked in the grounds of the hospital located across the road from Portlaoise Prison.

The jail is the country’s only high-security status lock-up and is where dissident republicans and gangland criminals are serving time.

The roof of the jail’s main block is manned by heavily armed soldiers who operate under strict procedures as to when they can open fire to protect the jail or stop an escape attempt.

Sources said that military personnel would not necessarily be allowed to use their assault rifles or heavy machines guns to shoot down a drone.

The drone landed on the A Block, where infamous Crumlin gang leader Brian Rattigan is serving his life sentence for murder. Also incarcerated in the same block are three Dundon brothers, Wayne, John and Dessie and their sidekick Nathan Killeen.

Unmanned drones, which can be bought over the counter in electronics stores, are widely available and have the capability to carry small loads and even follow pre-programmed routes.

They can also be set up to take photos or videos of targets on the ground.

In June 2014 a plan to smuggle drugs into Wheatfield Prison using a high-tech drone was foiled by prison staff. 

The ‘quadcopter’, worth at least €2,000, was equipped with a video camera and was flown into a prison yard at the west Dublin jail.

A group of inmates ran to the drone to take a cache of drugs after it was spotted by prison warders.

The attempt to catch it sent the drone into a spin and it hit a wire over the yard, causing it to crash.

A number of prisoners were believed to have been waiting for the battery-powered drone when it landed. 

It’s not known what the purpose was behind last week’s drone flight into Portlaoise Prison.

However, moves have been made to improve communications and response times in the event of another similar aerial incursion, according to sources.