A protest took place in Dublin on Monday to protest against the refusal by the 26 County authorities to provide Covid-19 vaccines to republican political prisoners in Portlaoise.
Prisons are recognised as among the most dangerous locations for a potential outbreak of the disease, yet little action has been taken at the high security prison in the Irish midlands.
Among those yet to vaccinated on the E Block of the prison is a 68-year-old man. The republican prisoners have condemned what they described as the “deliberate and vindictive” withholding of vaccines by the Dublin government.
At the protest, placards and banners were held up to draw public attention to the situation, and the following statement by republican prisoners at Portlaoise has been distributed to draw attention to their plight:
“The Irish Republican Prisoners on E3/E4 have been forced to highlight the fact that prisoners held in E Block have yet to be offered a Covid vaccine. This includes a man who is 68 years old.
Representatives for Republican Prisoners have met with local management, The International Red Cross, The Director of Nursing, and The Inspector of Prisons to relay our concerns but to date are no closer to securing Covid vaccines for Republican Prisoners.
While we are aware that all of those who wish to be vaccinated in the block could be done so within one sitting, lasting less than 90 minutes, we are only asking that there is parity in the distribution of vaccines with those on the outside of the same age.
What may be seen as a deliberate and vindictive withholding of vaccines by the Free State government, could have major consequences should Covid reach certain gaols. The latest outbreak in Mountjoy Gaol revealed close to 40 prisoners had contracted Covid; brought into the gaol through no fault of the prisoners as visits have yet to resume.
Should such an outbreak happen in E Block in Portlaoise, where almost half the men are 50 and over, some with underlying conditions such as diabetes and heart conditions, then this could have catastrophic consequences.
Republican Prisoners will not stand by and allow our comrades become the victims of Free State government ineptitude. This problem lies jointly on the tables of the Department of Health and the Department of Justice, and the onus is on those departments to ensure that the already uneasy atmosphere within the gaol does not escalate.”