Portlaoise Prison

Portlaoise Prison is Ireland's only high security prison. It is located in Portlaoise, Co. Laois, Ireland. It should not be confused with the Midlands Prison, which is a newer, medium security prison situated directly beside it. The prison was built in the 1830s, making it one of the oldest in the Irish prison system"it still operates to this day. It is noted as the prison in which people convicted of membership of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and other illegal paramilitary organisations are usually detained. Today most inmates are Irelands most dangerous criminals, members of dangerous drug gangs and criminals serving life sentences for serious crime. A number of Irish Republican prisoners are still in the old E Block. Anyone charged under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act must be sent to the prison because of its unique security measures . 80% of the inmates are there due to drug-related crimes .

The prison has a capacity for 399 prisoners, but because of the security sensitive nature of its inmates, it operates below this capacity and its daily average number of resident inmates was only 119 in 2009. A large number of well armed Irish Defence Forces soldiers guard the prison 24 hours a day, making it one of the most secure prisons in Europe. The security features include a army detachment consisting of approx Company strength, armed with assault rifles and anti-aircraft machine guns, who guard the prison complex. An air exclusion zone operates over the entire complex. The perimeter consists of high walls, cameras, sensors and acres of tank traps. Through the years there have been various high profile attempts to spring prisoners from inside the walls. In 1974 nineteen prisoners escaped in one day-light escape. In 1975 during an attempted escape by the IRA, Tom Smith of the IRA's Dublin Brigade was shot dead by the Irish Defence Forces. The prisoners had blasted their way through a door in the recreation area into the prison yard. As the prisoners entered the yard, Irish soldiers opened fire on the unarmed inmates, shooting Smith in the head. His funeral in Dublin was attended by thousands of republicans. In November 1985 an IRA mass breakout failed when the bomb, which had been assembled within the prison itself, failed to detonate at the prison gates.

In May 2007, an inmate named John Daly, who was serving 9 years for Armed Robbery called an RTÉ radio show called liveline. He called in to defend himself against Sunday World crime journalist Paul Williams who was speaking on the radio show at the time. Daly was on air for a few minutes before Prison Guards took the phone from him and ended the conversation. This phone call resulted in a major clampdown in all Irish prisons and over 1,300 pieces of contraband being confiscated. Items confiscated in the cell by cell searches included numerous mobile phones, plasma televisions and even a budgie which was smuggled into the prison by a visitor who hid the bird internally in her body. . John Daly received many death threats from fellow inmates after calling the show and as a result was transferred to other prisons twice before his release in October 2007. A few weeks after his release, he was murdered in Finglas after a night out.

Notable inmates

  • Angelo Fusco
  • Dessie O'Hare
  • John Gilligan
  • Michael McKevitt
  • Paul Magee
  • Shamus Whiles
  • Dominic McGlinchey
  • James McCann
  • Tommy Savage

See Also

  • Prisons in Ireland

Building Activity

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