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Portlaoise Prison, Thursday 22nd September 2016 at 10.00am
I am honoured to be present here today at this ceremony in honour of the late Governor Patrick (Paddy) Powell. I am pleased to welcome his wife Esther and all the members of the Powell family for this posthumous presentation of The Stack Medal for Patrick Powell.
Our prison staff are well respected by the Irish people and deservedly so. I too have the greatest of respect for prison staff and management. All prison staff perform a difficult job on behalf of the State and they perform it well, coping with the unique challenges that the job entails.
Working in a prison is a very rewarding but challenging role. Working in a prison, caring for prisoners, brings risk to the staff member that would not be associated with most other professions. There are times when our staff are called to deal with the most challenging of situations and today we recognise the brave and heroic actions of then Assistant Chief Patrick Powell who stood firm, with his colleagues, in the face of extreme adversity.
We have just heard an account, in Patrick’s own words, of the extreme danger that he and his colleagues were presented with on 24th November 1985 when armed terrorists attempted to escape from Portlaoise Prison. Yet, even in the face of extreme danger, Patrick Powell and his colleagues stood firm, did their duty and the escape ultimately failed.
I would also like to acknowledge the families of our prison staff including Esther and the Powell family who also would have been affected by the events of this period in Irish history. I am also mindful of the Stack family and Chief Officer Brian Stack, after whom this medal is named, and who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service of the State.
While this presentation recognises the heroic actions of Patrick Powell I would also like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to all staff who serve or have served the State in Portlaoise Prison, most especially those who served during the years of the Troubles.
Finally, I would like to thank Michael Donnellan, Director General of the Irish Prison Service and Governor Martin Mullen for arranging this ceremony and I will now present to Esther The Stack Medal for her husband Patrick which I have awarded to him as the citation says –
“In recognition of his brave and heroic actions at Portlaoise Prison on 24th November 1985 when as an Assistant Chief Officer he responded to an attempted escape by armed prisoners on the E Wing”.
I acknowledged the exemplary manner in which Patrick conducted himself showing great resilience and bravery in the face of adversity throughout what was a traumatic ordeal.