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jab frustration Withdrawal of goodwill by prison officers amid anger over vaccine priority list

Move may slow down prison escorts and could impact Court Services

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Prison Officers' Association general secretary John Clinton

Prison Officers' Association general secretary John Clinton

Prison Officers' Association general secretary John Clinton

 PRISON staff are preparing for a ‘withdrawal of goodwill’ amid anger over the roll-out of he Covid-19 vaccine.

Prison warders had originally been prioritised in under the Government’s initial vaccination programme, but the priority list has since been changed to immunize people by age.

In a statement the Prison Officers’ Association said it is “deeply concerned about the lack of clarity in regard to when its members will be vaccinated”.

It has directed its members to strictly adhere to prison rules in what has been described as a “withdrawal of goodwill”.

It comes just days after it emerged there are plans to vaccinate over 500 gardaí in certain districts and units.

The move is expected to lead to prison escort services being slowed down which may also have a knock-on effect on the Courts Service.

In a letter issued to its 3,200 members, POA General Secretary John Clinton said the safe working conditions for staff did not seem to be a priority issue.

Mr Clinton stated that the situation had deteriorated and that there was an unwillingness from “the official side to put in place adequate protective and preventive measures”.

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The move is expected to lead to prison escort services being slowed down which may also have a knock-on effect on the Courts Service.

The move is expected to lead to prison escort services being slowed down which may also have a knock-on effect on the Courts Service.

The move is expected to lead to prison escort services being slowed down which may also have a knock-on effect on the Courts Service.

This, he said, left the union with no choice but to direct its members to strictly adhere to orders by superiors during their working tour.

POA members have also been told to adhere to all Covid-19 preventative measures prior to and during working hours, both inside and outside the prison environment.

This has been described as a “withdrawal of good will” and follows the news this week that 526 gardaí will be vaccinated, despite the Government previously changing it’s rollout plan to prioritise people by age.

Gardaí working in districts where Mandatory Quarantine Hotels (MHQs) are based, as well as those in immigration services, public order units and stationed abroad in Greece, are to be prioritised for vaccination.

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This morning Mr Clinton said: “We have been reading media reports confirming that various sections of society will be vaccinated as part of various ‘numerical and age groups’, and yet the Department of Health has continually refuses to confirm that we are actually in Group9 of the schedule - and this continues to create confusion and concern.

“We are surprised that prison officers are not being provided with clarification in regard to vaccination, as all our prisons have had Covid outbreaks and prison officers by necessity had to continue working in these environments.

“Prison Officers are also working in full PPE on hospital wards after prisoners are admitted for treatment.

“We work in confined work spaces (congregated settings) with revolving communities, where all us are vulnerable to the spread of the virus, and whereas we are not seeking special treatment, we are seeking clarity and a response to our ongoing requests for information,” he added.

In the first three months of this year, 564 prisoners were brought to hospital involving 1410 officers on escort duty.

The POA said this involved a total of 7,415 hours “potential increased exposure to the virus”.

They also said over 6,000 prisoners have been placed in quarantine over the course of the pandemic which has been managed and supervised by prison officers.


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