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Prison Governors: Why the inhumanity? Why the Block in Cork? Do we tolerate the Birch in Ireland
rights, freedoms and repression |
Friday November 17, 2006 21:08 by Kevin T. Walsh - Social Justice; Ethics, Inclusion
Since when? I thought Never.....What about 3 R's?
IRISH PRISONS AND HUMANITY
Open Letter to: Governor John Lonergan.
You became Governor of Mountjoy Prison in the 1983. You replaced Paddy McFadden from Belmullet in Co. Mayo. McFadden according to sources in the Department of Justice was given 6 hours notice that he was going to be replaced by a handpicked person – yourself John. It is alleged you come from Banshee, Co. Tipperary. You are a former bus conductor. You have a passion for hurling and your known to have the odd flutter on ‘Shergar’.
In the last number of years you have become the most high profile Governor – thanks to media and TV appearances.
have been in Simon 17 years. On behalf of the homeless prisoners and some ex-screws that you personally sacked for taking too much sick leave (and who became alcoholics) and homeless. There also were at that time in the `1980’s a number of staff suicides due to stress and compulsive overtime occurred. Some of the people I met on the street told me about the abuse they received under Lonergan’s Regime at that time. They said they could hear the screams at night from the basement of Mountjoy Prison from people being kicked and assaulted. You see John – we don’t just have a serious Garda corruption issue but we have a problem in the prison service also.
You appear on the TV to pass off well and as a humanitarian but John it is only a perception and I will detail the reasons why:
You speak of the inner city and that over 60% of prisoners at Mountjoy come from there. You are now 23 years the Governor in Mountjoy but what really is your record on the word Humanitarian. You mention no resources – no infrastructure – yet you close down workshops. For a brief period you left, and went to Portlaoise Prison as Governor. I am sure you witnessed the strip searching and abuse that was practiced there. You have spoken on radio, TV and many papers, newspapers, conferences etc. but I am asking you John – Who are you? With the time you have had as Governor you really could have made a contribution to the lives of some young people through rehabilitation practices.
In 1990 John, I am sure you remember, a Roscommon lad was on report by a prison officer. This lad was given 2 years for an assault on his neighbour. It is reported by some decent staff in Mountjoy that you sent him to Cork – to the Block, and had him incarcerated for 6 months in his boxer shorts in Solitary Confinement. Some staff, whom I have spoken, and who devote time to Simon, say never cross Lonergan – he holds a grudge for life and this goes for prisoners and staff – some say as many as 90% of staff have no respect for you Governor – now why is that?
I have tried on contact you on a number of occasions – but you have refused. The perception of being humane, John baffles me – because the truth is so often hidden. You have major input to the Department of Justice re. Promotions? I ask why is this so?
I walk the streets of Sean McDermott Street and Summerhill at least twice a week. I witness overt poverty, alcohol abuse and of course ‘Drugs’. You joined the prison service in 1963 and began in Limerick – that is almost 40 years ago John. What is your legacy really? Is it your appearance on TV as a male version of Mother Theresa as one male prisoner put it - really the version is that you are a little Hitler? Yes, I am being critical. Simon thought me a lot about people, poverty and most of all about lack of humanity
The POA fought long and hard to stop McDowell ending their massive overtime bill (some Euros 75 m p.a).
John – the European Union funding; particularly back to education grants etc. provided you with opportunities that earlier governors never had. What has been done for the rehabilitation of offenders in Mountjoy, and more importantly, perhaps you can state the successful outcomes. These disadvantaged background programmes now yield a considerable number of people in Law, BESS, Social Work – from deprived areas like Fatima Mansions, Pearse Street, Ballymun to name but a fiew……
What about the 3 R’s? Ireland has an unreasonably high proportion of people who cannot read or write. No doubt you have the figures who enter prison without the skills and if so, it is pure negligence not to encourage prisoners to attend structured classes. We have leading academics in Ireland from England and other countries. Professor Robertson (Psychology - Trinity) is one of the these exceptional people. I presume you have heard of NALA (Literacy) no doubt funded by EU but it is his research team that has progressed this method of teaching life skills, reading and writing.
Free of charge – the book provided is comprehensive (it is also suitable for those who lose abilities due to head injury etc…..) This data is on the web and more importantly it is on the TV. Note – the research of the Team, Trinity and other sources, works on the visual part of the memory and with techniques like the Association (visit Zoo). A far cry from school!!!
Education is about empowerment. As I heard someone say – possibly Howard Kilroy Silk on an interview panel. Punishment is about the crime. Anything in excess is not acceptable. Lord Archers new book ‘A cat with 5 tales’. No doubt you have read it……..What inspiration and hope? Lord Archer shared his cell……with many an infamous character. As Archer said himself – some of them would have made great governors – they had compassion. You see John – I don’t condemn any crime against the citizen but I will not endorse any breach of basic Human Rights.
Ironically in the last couple of months, I have not heard a word from you in relation to that young man (child) murdered in a six man cell. In my opinion the five others were spineless to let it happen but then John fear is a strange thing. You see John there are beatings daily in Irish prisons but like the Industrial Schools of yore the secrecy and denial pervades. What every changes in Ireland? Prisoners I have met also in hostels and homeless. They mention a Governor Scannell in Castlerea who they refer to as a complete gentleman. Yet – he gets no TV appearances or Radio.
You are John the complete monopoly of the Irish prison service. I ask why? Some months ago on Questions and Answers two members in the audience (later I found out were prison staff) asked the question – Isn’t time for a change in Mountjoy prison – they were referring to you John. I can’t understand the various Government agencies around Ireland not opening their eyes about you John and raising some serious questions. Again I will end by asking:
Why do you send young men to Cork – to the Block – and for punishment. They are away from their families, their children….. I would plead with Joe Duffy, Pat Kenny, Prime Time to research the Block in Cork i.e. punishment block. Some of the homeless people I have met refer to it as the Irish Guantanomo Bay…….
Paedophiles on other hand tend to get a cosy cell in Arbour Hill and a TV. Ray Burke shared a prison with some of them.
Why is there a punishment block within the Irish prison system.? Where is the legislation that covers this. I have spoken to young men who have been confined to this Block – their underpants and a Bible. Fr. Michael Kidney is the prison chaplain in Cork prison – he may be a cousin of a Munster rugby coach but who gives a shit John. This priest has never condemned the conditions nor his Church of this prison block.
The Catholic Church most complex network linking from Maynooth to All Hallows and onwards………please consider the conditions of young offenders being treated in a most inhumane way….
People John say that you may be going forward for Election for Fine Gael. Personally, I dread the thought of someone like you going forward to Minister for Justice. It would reek of the 1980’s and Sean Doherty i.e. transition Garda to Minister for Justice.
In my research of 11 years, what intrigues me most – how you skillfully sold RTE the illusion of the John Lonergan that does not exist. I condemn all crimes against people. I realize governors have a very responsible job but why are you the only governor that gets the limelight of media Some prisoners I have spoken to on the streets said like Bertie – you are the most devious of them all. I applaud Judge Kinlan – I hope he reads my letter and investigates the block in Cork. You see John – to be kind is to understand not to bluff as you and others so successfully do!
Some quotations to dwell upon
'We had the experience but we missed the meaning....' T.S. Eliott
'What we do not understand we do not possess'
‘I live as if I am going to die tomorrow and I learn as if I am going to learn for the rest of your life’
'If you teach a man anything, he will never learn, Learning is an Active Process........' (now we promote life long learning for all....
'Never waste time thinking about peoiple you don't like'
Diversity John is the same as Gandhi's saying 'To see the change in others, first see the change in yourself. - so that's why John I am so disilluioned - 24 years is too long.