Mountjoy governor to retire in June


Governor of Mountjoy Prison John Lonergan is to retire next month after 42 years in the Prison Service, it was unexpectedly announced today.

In a brief statement, the Prison Service said it had been notified of Mr Lonergan’s intention to step down on June 5th next.

Director of the Prison Service Brian Purcell thanked the governor for his years of service and wished him well in his retirement.

A spokesman for the Minster for Justice Dermot Ahern added: “The minister also wishes him well in retirement.”

Fine Gael justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan said Mr Lonergan has been an outstanding prison governor and made a vital contribution to the criminal justice system. "He was both compassionate and humane, and worked consistently to steer Mountjoy through some very difficult times," he said.

Mr Lonergan’s decision to retire comes less than a month after his colleague in the woman’s prison, Kathleen McMahon, announced plans to step down.

Ms McMahon, the former governor of Ireland’s female prison – the Dóchas Centre in Mountjoy Prison – claimed the Prison Service had countermanded her philosophy on certain issues, such as the temporary release of low-risk prisoners for confirmations and communions.

Ms McMahon claimed she could have worked “for another seven years” if conditions had been different. She said she could have stayed on if there had been more support and respect for her position.

“All of these issues forced my resignation. We’re not talking about constructive dismissal, but they forced my resignation,” she said.

Ms McMahon said she resigned because of the “serious undermining” of her position and an “overall lack of respect by senior personnel in the Irish Prison Service,” adding that she had been excluded from a recent decision to put bunk beds into rooms designed for one prisoner.

Mr Purcell said he did not accept the claim by Ms McMahon that she was forced out of her role, claiming Ms McMahon had been consulted and her views were taken into consideration.

Mr Purcell inisted she would have been present at a number of contingency planning meetings where the issue to deal with increased numbers in the system and the issue of having to put bunk beds in to keep prisoners in the system that we perceived would be a threat to public safety were discussed.

Mr Purcell categorically rejected that it was inappropriate for a senior official of the Irish Prison Service to visit any prison unannounced.

“The senior official in question is a serving governor with 35 years experience and is well used to all the issues that are involved. . . . Announced and unannounced visits are part and parcel of the oversight role and I make no apologies for this”.