A prisoner seeking compassionate bail to attend the funeral of a family member in north Belfast was refused after it was deemed too dangerous for warders to escort him.
The Prison Service ruled that it was too risky for staff to accompany the inmate to his grandmother's funeral at Holy Cross Parish Church in Ardoyne on Saturday over fears of attack by dissident republicans, the Belfast Telegraph has learned.
Inmate Joseph Kane from north Belfast, who is serving a two-and- a-half-year sentence in Magilligan for hijacking, dangerous driving and driving while unfit, had applied for compassionate bail to attend his grandmother's funeral service and burial.
It is understood that before a decision could be made on his suitability for compassionate bail a security check of the Ardoyne area was carried out by the Prison Service intelligence unit.
That check raised concern over a risk to the lives of the prison guards who would have to escort Kane to the Requiem Mass and the Prison Service refused his application to attend the funeral service.
However, he was permitted to attend her burial at Roselawn cemetery under guard by warders.
"This case puts to bed the myth that there are no no-go areas in Northern Ireland for members of the security services," said Paul Givan, chairman of Stormont's justice committee.
"This is a demonstration of the very real threat that prison officers have been living under for a number of years now.
"Concern over the safety of prison officers and their families is very real," the DUP man added.
"This case will lead to people asking how well the security forces are tackling this threat when Prison Service staff are told they are not safe to go into certain areas.
Prison officers have been under threat from dissident republicans for a number of years, with some being forced to move home as a result.
In November 2012 prison officer David Black (52) from Cookstown, a father-of-two, was murdered by dissident republicans who shot him dead as he drove to work at HMP Maghaberry along the M1 motorway. He was the first member of the NI Prison Service to be murdered in almost 20 years.