Feeling of “failure” of the system when a prisoner is killed – former governor of Mountjoy

Former warden Mountjoy said there is a feeling that the system breaks down when a prisoner dies in an attack.

John Lonergan, who was governor of Mountjoy in Dublin for more than two decades, said the death of a prisoner could lower morale and upset staff and prisoners.

He spoke after Robert O’Connor, 34, was attacked and fatally shot at Mountjoy prison on Friday.

It is known that he was attacked in his cell.


Robert O’Connor was attacked and fatally shot at Mountjoy prison on Friday (Haydn West/PA)

Mr Lonergan told RTE Morning Ireland that the “primary purpose” of the prison service and the top priority of the prison service is the safe custody of prisoners.

There are more than 400 protected prisoners in Irish prisons, about one-tenth of the total prison population, according to Mr. Lonergan.

“I personally have always felt that this is a failure of Mountjoy and the system, including myself, when someone dies, especially dies, because this is the limit that can happen.

“So in terms of management and staff, this is a depressing development that certainly lowers morale and certainly upsets people because, again, culture is about keeping people safe.

“When that happens, there is a sense of failure.

We have failed to meet our number one priority, the safety of the prisoners.John Lonergan, former governor of Mountjoy

“We failed to meet our number one priority, which is prisoner safety, but unfortunately the reality is that you can never guarantee that this will never happen again in a prison.”

He said that prisoners should expect their safety in prison to be guaranteed.

“The reality is, of course, that there is always a risk factor, and unfortunately in rare cases it actually materializes, and people get seriously injured, and often a very small number of cases die,” he added.

He also said the attacks are “frequent”.

He said the feud between gangsters and drugs was the biggest contributing factor to the rise in prison violence.

“Over the past 20 years, there has been a massive increase in violence in prisons, despite huge resources being devoted to security and prevention,” Mr. Lonergan added.

“The staff is well trained and a lot of attention is paid to reducing the ability of prisoners to arm themselves with weapons.

“There is intelligence that would identify prisoners at risk, as well as prisoner movements and prison conditions.”

He reported that 400 protected prisoners have been removed from the main prison areas and are on restricted and reduced security.

“Ireland operates on a so-called basis of free association, which means that prisoners are generally able to socialize and socialize in prisons,” he added.

“Free association comes with the risk that if one prisoner or a group of prisoners decides to harm another prisoner, that possibility will exist.

“There is a very gangster drug-related environment and anyone who is involved in this type of activity on the outside, it is almost inevitable that the specific activity will continue on the inside because the gangs end up in jail.

“They settle in all prisons.”