‘There is no expense spared and they’ll get the best of everything on the tax-payers’ money’
Although prison authorities are understood to have rejected claims the specially arranged dinners — which took place over last weekend and this weekend in the prison — are a ‘quid pro quo’, prison officers in the Laois jail are understood to be ‘deeply unhappy’ at the development.
“People can’t afford to heat their homes or pay their mortgages and we are feeding prisoners’ families,” a source told the Sunday World.
“These prisoners are a very short time into their sentences and the staff think this is not acceptable. There is no expense spared and they’ll get the best of everything on the tax-payers’ money.”
The first of the dinners took place last weekend when New IRA leader Kevin Braney was allowed to invite family members into the jail to enjoy a festive meal with his loved ones.
Braney was convicted in February 2019 of the “premeditated” murder of dissident republican Peter Butterly nine years ago.
Mr Butterly (35) was chased and shot dead outside The Huntsman Inn, Gormanston, Co Meath in view of students waiting for their school bus on the afternoon of March 6, 2013 in what the Special Criminal Court said was not “a spontaneous act”.
He died from gun shot wounds to his neck and upper back.
Braney (47), of Glenshane Crescent, Tallaght, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Butterly.
But, delivering judgment at the non-jury court, Mr Justice Paul Coffey said the court had been driven “irresistibly” to the conclusion that Braney was involved in the organisation and planning of Mr Butterly’s murder beyond a reasonable doubt.
In his opening address on October 4 last, prosecuting counsel Paul O’Higgins SC told the court that Braney “was said in effect to have been the man who gave the orders... and is shown to have had an extensive involvement”.
Two other men convicted of Mr Butterly’s murder are scheduled to enjoy pre-Christmas dinners inside Portlaoise with their families this weekend.
Edward McGrath (35), of Lanndale Lawns, Springfield, Tallaght and Sharif Kelly (47), of Pinewood Green Road, Balbriggan were both sentenced to life for the murder in April 2017.
McGrath was also found guilty of firearms offences dating from the same occasion.
He was sentenced to seven years for each of the offences.
During their 31-day trial, the court heard evidence that the car used in the shooting, a stolen silver Toyota Corolla, was being watched by members of the National Surveillance Unit.
Gardaí observed the Corolla drive past the Huntsman Inn before making a U-turn and returning to the pub, entering its car park.
The driver, McGrath, was wearing a black wig. The gunman was “crouched” in the back seat, behind McGrath. The window was rolled down.
The court heard that Kelly was waiting nearby with the getaway car. The gunman fired two shots at Mr Butterly’s car. One struck the bonnet and the other hit the windscreen.
Mr Butterly ran from the car, pursued by the gunman, who fired a number of shots, killing Mr Butterly.
A prison source told the Sunday World this week the meals had been organised as a reward to the dissident prisoners for agreeing to move on to the jail E1 landing — freeing up other landings on E-block for non-dissident inmates.
“There are only 12 dissidents left in the entire prison,” the source said.
The Irish Prison Service declined to comment.