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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 November, 2003, 09:58 GMT
Prison officers back on duty
Maghaberry prison is NI's high security jail
Hundreds of prison officers have returned to work at Northern Ireland's three main prisons after failing to report for duty on Friday.

All inmates were locked in their cells and police officers were called in to help with security during the unofficial dispute.

The normal regime was suspended at Maghaberry jail in County Antrim, Magilligan prison in County Londonderry, and Hydebank Young Offenders centre on the outskirts of Belfast, with visits cancelled.

The Prison Officers' Association has been involved in a long-running row with management over security arrangements for staff at their homes.

The union dismissed a recent meeting with the Prisons Minister Jane Kennedy as "a waste of time".

The Prison Service condemned Friday's action as "reprehensible".

This was to show government and management that they had had enough.
Finlay Spratt
Prison Officers' Association
Director General of the Prison Service, Peter Russell said the action, which he said was unofficial, would do nothing to resolve the issue.

"Staff were warned this morning of the consequences of leaving their posts. It is a breach of their terms and conditions of service and as such they will not be entitled to pay," he said.

"This action increases the potential for disruption in the prisons when there is already a volatile atmosphere."

Finlay Spratt, chairman of the Prison Officers Association, said he supported his members but added that he had not known of the action in advance.

"I fully support any decision they have made," he said.

"If they are stressed out and sick, they have my utmost sympathy. This was to show government and management that they had had enough."

Recently, dozens of cells were wrecked during trouble at the high security Maghaberry jail.

In September, a review of safety at Maghaberry recommended separating republican and loyalist prisoners.

The move was being introduced in the wake of violent clashes between rival groups in the jail and in the face of a "dirty protest" by a group of dissident republican prisoners.

As well as paramilitary prisoners, Maghaberry houses male and female prisoners, whether they are convicted or on remand, and a number of asylum seekers.




SEE ALSO:
Police called in to staff prisons
21 Nov 03  |  Northern Ireland
Warning over prison strike
04 Nov 03  |  Northern Ireland
Prison officers debate strike
07 Nov 03  |  Northern Ireland
Prison officers attacked
22 Oct 03  |  Northern Ireland


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