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Tuesday, 29 August, 2000, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Medal for NI prison staff
Staff from prisons such as the Maze will be rewarded
Staff from prisons such as the Maze will be rewarded
The Queen has granted approval in principle to awarding special medals to prison staff in Northern Ireland.

Secretary of State Peter Mandelson made the announcement on Tuesday.

He said it was a "well deserved recognition of their professionalism, bravery and commitment" over 30 years serving in a "difficult and often dangerous conflict".

Since 1976, 29 prison staff have been murdered in Northern Ireland.

The medal is to be known as the Northern Ireland Prison Service medal.

Further details about the honour are expected to be announced in the near future in the form of a Royal Warrant.

It is expected the medal will be awarded to all present and former staff who have served in Northern Ireland for at least five years.

Robin Halward: Welcomed announcement
Robin Halward: Welcomed announcement
Robin Halward, director general of the Prison Service, said staff and their families had lived under the constant fear of attack and intimidation.

"In spite of this they have continued to do their jobs with the highest levels of courage and professionalism in circumstances which are not paralleled in any other prison service," he said.

"I am delighted that their commitment and service is to be recognised by the award of this honour."

The widow of a prison officer murdered by the loyalist parmilitary Ulster Volunteer Force in 1993 has welcomed the news.

Jim Peacock, 44, died after a masked gunman shot him at their north Belfast home.

His widow Sandra said she cried when she heard the news about the medal for prison staff.

She said she "extremely pleased that staff were at last receiving acknowledgement of their good work".

However, the Prison Officers' Association said the award did go far enough to recognise the work of its members.

News of the prison staff medal comes just a few months after the Queen awarded the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary in tribute to the sacrifice and service of its members.

The honour recognised the force's bravery during more than 30 years of paramilitary violence in the province.

The RUC is the most decorated police force in the British Isles.

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See also:

19 Jan 00 | Northern Ireland
RUC renamed in sweeping changes
19 Jan 00 | Northern Ireland
RUC changes at a glance
23 Nov 99 | Northern Ireland
RUC awarded George Cross
07 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Prison officers oppose segregation
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