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15 September 2005 Edition

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Fears expressed over safety of republican prisoners

A republican prisoner in Portlaoise Jail was spiked with a bloodstained syringe in an incident at the jail last week.

The prisoner from Dublin was playing football in the prison yard when he went to pick up the ball and was stuck with the dirty needle. The incident was reported to the prison authorities. As a result of being spiked with the needle the prisoner will now have to undergo HIV-tests.

Republican prisoners at Portlaoise have strongly complained about the fact that their health and safety are being put in jeopardy by the prison regime. They are forced to share space with drug-injecting criminals within the prison, including major drug barons.

Republican prisoners have complained about the situation of syringes lying around the yard in recent months and there are major fears for their safety and wellbeing. They have also said that the Prison Governor has been less than helpful in relation to this ongoing situation which has led to protests.

Concern

Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris has expressed his concern over the latest incident and has called for an end to the situation where the health and safety of republican prisoners at Portlaosie is being jeopardised.

Ferris said that he believes that the Prison Governor has not taken on board the seriousness of the situation and that this could lead to further protest action by republican prisoners. "This can be resolved if there is a willingness on behalf of the prison authorities. Republican prisoner have the right to live in a safe environment."

Meanwhile, the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle has established a campaign group to seek the release of republican prisoners. The group is to meet in the weeks ahead to devise a campaign strategy for the release of all republican prisoners.

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