Prison officers’ union chief resigns amid ‘whispering campaign’ claim
Rifts within the Prison Officers Association (POA) have plunged the organisation into disarray following the resignation of the chairman, who has claimed he cannot regain the trust of members.
Maghaberry-based Adrian Smith was voted in last December as union leader.
He replaced veteran Finlay Spratt, who had been in the post for more than three decades.
However, Mr Smith has now quit the role claiming he has been the victim of a whispering campaign, including an accusation that he struck secret deals with Prison Service management.
The row within the organisation, which represents warders, came to a head yesterday — just eight months after Mr Smith’s election — when he formally resigned, alluding to rifts within the association.
In his resignation letter dated August 7, 2017, which has been seen by the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Smith said he made the decision due to trust issues.
“I believe for trust to be regained will be too difficult a bridge for me to cross, and with all the current in-house disagreements, the membership are the ones who are suffering most,” he wrote.
“Another huge factor in my decision has been that I have lost the support of some members and anyone who is seen to support me is also being made a target, and I personally do not wish for this to occur.”
Mr Smith strongly denied making secret deals with management.
“I will accept that I have made some innocent mistakes due to my inexperience in the role as area chairman, but I can assure members that at no time have I had one-to-one meetings with senior management making secret deals for my own gain or anyone else’s, as this has been insinuated by others, to support their own agenda,” he wrote in his resignation.
He signed off his letter: “I wish my successor every success and hope he or she can get off to a better footing than I did and gain the much needed loyalty of all those concerned.”
It is understood that POA’s vice chair will act up in the interim before a new chair can be elected by members.
The national POA in London declined to comment on the row.
The Northern Ireland branch also said it did not wish to comment.
The resignation has sparked concern among POA members here.
The Prison Service is facing a number of challenges in Northern Ireland, including issues around security, staffing, pay and management.
The Belfast Telegraph revealed earlier this year that almost 80 warders were attacked by inmates during the past year.
They have also been targeted outside work.
Two prison officers have been murdered by dissident republicans since 2012.