Why has there been a recent surge in Irish inmates attending church services in their prisons?

According to a High Court in Belfast; to deal and purchase drugs.

On Thursday a High Court in Belfast heard that prisoners were attending mass in Magilligan Jail, Co. Derry so get their fix.

A ruling at the court has banned some prisoners at the jail from attending religious services.

However prisoners were not going down without a fight.

Inmate Stephen McAree, from West Belfast, challenged the application asking for a judicial review but it was dismissed by Judge Treacy.

A prison governor told the court: “The movement and transfer of drugs between prisoners occurs most frequently at times and places where prisoners congregate in large groups.

“For that reason, prisoners transferred to the Harm Protection Unit (HRU) are restricted in accessing situations where prisoners gather en masse.

“Regrettably, it has been the experience of senior management that attendance at Mass is one of the instances used to transfer contraband materials between prisoners. For that reason, the prisoners in HRU are not permitted to attend Mass within the prison population.”

The prison's chaplain, Fr. O'Hagan had offered private mass services for McAree and other prisoners in the unit but reclined his offer after he was abusively confronted by three inmates who accused him of siding with prison authorities.

The court had been told that the Roman Catholic chaplain Father O'Hagan had offered to conduct a separate Mass for McAree and other prisoners in the unit, but then declined after he was confronted by three prisoners who subjected him to hostile abuse about his alleged co-operation with the prison authorities.

“The decision of the chaplain to withdraw his offer is attributable directly to the applicant's inappropriate conduct and that of the inmates who accompanied him,” said the judge.