06/11/2002

Prison officers fight for better security measures

Prison officers have come to an agreement with the Police Service of Northern Ireland on ensuring better security measures for their prison staff after the IRA allegedly accessed personal files.

A major review of risk assessment is now under way after the names and addresses of up to 1,400 prison staff were found on documents recovered by the police when they raided republican homes in Belfast last month.

Staff can also now expect their applications to be processed in around one week as opposed to the normal six weeks.

Prison officers gathered outside three prisons in protest today at what they said were "inadequate security measures" for employees.

The one-hour protest on Wednesday morning took place outside Maghaberry in County Antrim, Magilligan in County Londonderry and the Young Offenders' Centre at Hydebank in Belfast.

It is unclear whether the protest planned for tomorrow morning 8-9am will still go ahead.

Finlay Spratt of the Prison Officers' Association said the protest illustrated how disgruntled and disgusted prison officers were that the Northern Ireland Office, in their view had ignored the safety concerns of their staff whose names were on the list.

He added: "This is all about management's inability to deal with the crisis and the total inadequate security measures and assistance they are offering prison officers."

Although, the Prison Service deemed Wednesday's protest as illegal, in a statement it acknowledged the "great anxiety amongst our staff for their own and their family’s personal safety".

Adding: "We have every sympathy with staff whose details have appeared on the list recovered by the PSNI and has been working extremely hard is assisting the police both in terms of their investigation and in terms of notifying those staff involved."

(AMcE)

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