‘Prison Service families deserve better for the price being paid’

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The targeting of a prison officer by republican terrorists once again demonstrates the intent and capacity of those in our society that seek to pursue their aims through violence. 

It has also highlighted the very real dangers that Prison Officers have to work and live under because of the uniform they wear. 

Prison Officers serve and protect our community by keeping criminals behind bars and when they are attacked it is an attack on all of us because our society has sent those people to prison for breaking the laws we have said must be obeyed.  

Working in the Prison Service is no ordinary job but it is carried out by extraordinary people. 

Every day you are dealing with people who challenge authority and are constantly on your guard for something untoward that could happen.  Failure by the Prison Service management and Department of Justice to recruit more personnel has left the organisation even more stretched, placing yet more pressures on those front-line officers. 

The appeasement of republican demands in Roe House at HMP Maghaberry is also providing the incentive for terrorists to use violence because it has been a tried and tested tactic that yielded results over the decades because of weak and capitulating leadership.  

The wider Prison Service family feel the pressure officers are under and the sacrifices made by them and their families is not fully understood and appreciated by the public. 

I know from personal experience what it is like growing up as a son of a now retired Prison Officer. 

Thankfully no-one in my family that served in the Prison Service lost their lives during the terrorist campaign but I know everyone that served and is still serving are under very real pressures and strains. 

Growing up in a home watching your father check under the car every time we got into it and having to avoid particular areas when we travelled was the normal routine but as I look back it was far from normal. 

We never talked much about my dad’s job as a family and he sheltered us from the reality of what it was like working in the Maze for example on the H Blocks when the hunger strike was on and the pressures he faced during the dirty protests.  When prisoners threatened to kill him my dad kept it from us and as a family we had a wonderful home but we knew our dad had a very different job to many other people. 

Prison Service families get on with the job in the face of adversity and they deserve better from the Department of Justice for the price being paid for that service.

Every member of the public can show their support and stand shoulder to shoulder with the men and women that put on the Prison Service Uniform to defend and protect us all. I have the greatest admiration for our Prison Officers who deserve unwavering support and we should all say thank you for your service and sacrifice.