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high security Prison workers get €1.16m in allowance for dealing with dangerous inmates

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Portlaoise Prison is home to the country's biggest criminals

Portlaoise Prison is home to the country's biggest criminals

Portlaoise Prison is home to the country's biggest criminals

Prison officers have shared more than €1.16m since 2018 in a special allowance for having to deal with inmates at the country’s high-security jail.

Officers in Portlaoise Prison are paid what is known as an “environmental allowance” due to the stressful working conditions at the jail.

According to figures from the Irish Prison Service (IPS), 317 individual officers earned €208,822 – or an average of €659 each – in the first half of last year.

In 2019, 330 prison officers were paid a combined total of €480,706 – or the equivalent of €1,456 each in the environmental allowance.

Altogether, €1.16m was paid throughout 2018, 2019, and the first half of last year.

The allowance was first introduced in 1982 as part of an agreement between prison bosses and the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) to compensate for the “abnormal tension and strain” of working in Portlaoise.

At the time, conditions at the jail were particularly difficult with a large number of republican paramilitary prisoners at the height of the Troubles.

The allowance is payable to all officers at the jail, including clerical staff based at the prison.

The payment was ceased in 2009 for officers newly transferred to the max security jail. However, a civil service arbitration board later ruled it should be restored for all.

A Prison Service spokesman said the payment was slightly different depending on when a prison officer had joined the service.

For staff that joined before April 1995, the payment works out at around €1,250 annually.

For other prison officers who began service after that, the rate is slightly higher – because of higher pension contributions – and is paid at the rate of around €1,470 per annum.

The POA said the continued payment of the allowance was fully justified given the harsh pressures of working in Portlaoise.

The jail is currently home to 218 prisoners, including paramilitaries and key gangland figures. Only a handful were on temporary release as of earlier this week.

General Secretary of the POA John Clinton said: “The allowance goes back to the eighties and it has been subject to arbitration. There are soldiers on the roof at Portlaoise and it is a totally different type of environment to anything else.

“The type of prisoner you have there are paramilitaries or those involved in extremely serious crime, including gangland activity. We have nowhere else with these conditions – and that’s recognised between ourselves and our employers.”

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