Saturday 23 September 2017

'People still selfish after Celtic Tiger' - ex-prison boss

Retired Mountjoy Prison governor John Lonergan. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Retired Mountjoy Prison governor John Lonergan. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Alan O'Keeffe

Public sector unions who are "bursting to get more" from the public purse are showing signs of Celtic Tiger selfishness, according to retired Mountjoy Prison governor John Lonergan.

Meeting such pay demands meant there would be less money to pay for badly needed housing for children living in poverty, said Mr Lonergan.

He spoke about the effect of childhood poverty and trauma on people later in life and how the nation's prison population predominantly comes from the poorer sections of society.

People should ask politicians what are their priorities to help the most vulnerable in society, including deprived women and children, he said.

"At the moment, every union is bursting to get more," said Mr Lonergan.

"Back to the bad old days again of selfishness. People don't know when they're well off. People don't know the meaning of 'enough'.

"People are still selfish after the Celtic Tiger.

"I would love to see the trade union movement for once forgetting about their own direct members and forgetting about their own selfish interests," he said.

He suggested that unions say things like "in the interest of society, we are demanding the elimination of child poverty. That would be a wonderful gesture by the trade union movement."

The Government's public housing policy continues to be "a total disaster" and far more resources must be allocated, he told the Safer Ireland seminar in Dublin on domestic violence.

He spoke of seeing the "dead eyes" of prisoners who suffered trauma, neglect and violence all their lives - and how a little compassion and kindness could bring a sparkle back to them. Children born into poverty were somehow expected to grow up the same as everybody else and to compete with others which was impossible, he said.

They were at "a massive disadvantage from the day they were born to the day they die", he said. They could end up resorting to violence, he added.

"There are huge issues as to how we might go about trying to prevent it because that is the challenge.

"Of course, we need to respond when somebody is violated, a child, a woman, a man... But it's too late because that person now has become another victim.

"Much better to prevent it happening in the first place."

Irish Independent

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