Belfast Telegraph

Prison union boss Spratt loses his post after 31 years

By Allan Preston

The head of the Prison Officers Association (POA), Finlay Spratt, is to step down as chairman after losing the support of members.

This week members of the POA voted to replace the veteran negotiator, who has been in charge of it for 31 years.

In that time, Mr Spratt (70) became the key public spokesman for the staff in Northern Ireland's troubled prison system.

Taking over as chairman from January 1 will be Maghaberry-based Adrian Smith.

The decision to replace Mr Spratt comes after Prison Service staff recently voted in favour of industrial action - up to and including striking, which wardens are legally forbidden from doing.

"Of course I'm sad to leave, but that's the members' decision," Mr Spratt said. "The membership wish for someone else to take it forward.

"What advice can I give Adrian Smith? All he can do is his best for the members he represents, that's all I can say."

Last night, POA General Secretary Steve Gillan paid tribute to Mr Spratt's contribution to the association's work over the past three decades - a period which included some of the darkest days of The Troubles.

He added: "I'm sure Adrian will cope admirably with the challenges and, obviously, the membership have confidence in him."

Last month, 190 prison officers at Maghaberry and Magilligan started work late in a protest over pay.

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