Thursday 22 February 2018

Mountjoy riot ringleaders are transferred as probes begin

Tom Brady and Barry Duggan

THIRTEEN ringleaders of the riot that left four people injured have been transferred out of Mountjoy prison to other jails.

The moves were made as the prison authorities and the gardai began separate investigations into the stand-off, which lasted two-and-a-half hours.

A large number of other prisoners are also expected to face disciplinary charges.

As tension remained high in Mountjoy yesterday morning, the authorities decided to keep 250 inmates locked in their cells on the A and B wings. But they were allowed out after lunch.

Three prison officers and one inmate, who all received injuries during the confrontation on Thursday night, were discharged from the Mater Hospital after medical treatment.

One of the officers had been hit on the head several times with a pool cue while another was struck on the back of the head with a pool ball.

The third officer sustained spinal injuries when he fell as 120 officers, dressed in riot gear and backed up by control dogs, rushed into a recreation yard where 74 inmates had gathered.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern yesterday praised prison staff for their handling of the incident and denied claims by Fine Gael's justice spokesman Alan Shatter that overcrowding was responsible.

However, Mr Ahern admitted that the number of prisoners had jumped dramatically in the past few years and attributed this rise to extra gardai on the streets, more criminal prosecutions and longer sentences.


He argued that what had taken place on Thursday night was an isolated incident that had escalated into a stand-off.

But Mr Shatter said the disturbances were proof that the minister had failed to exert any control over a prison service in crisis. He described Mountjoy as grossly overcrowded and riddled with drugs.

Six of the suspected ringleaders were transferred to Portlaoise and the Midlands prisons late on Thursday night and another seven were moved out yesterday.

Disciplinary action against others will depend on the CCTV footage of the disturbances as prisoners armed themselves with table and chair legs, parts of goalposts, snooker and pool cues and balls.

This week, Mountjoy held about 670 prisoners, 70 above the recommended limit. Pressure on prison space generally will be eased with the opening on Monday of a new block, containing 176 cells and potential accommodation for 200 inmates, at Wheatfield Prison in west Dublin.

Last night, the Prison Officers' Association called on the authorities to take urgent action. The staff have been pressing for rioting prisoners to be held in segregation.

Officers reckon that a hardcore group of around 30 prisoners was responsible for the disturbances.

Thursday's trouble was sparked off by an attack on an officer by an inmate, who was refused permission to enter the recreation yard. He returned with a pool cue and began hitting the officer.

Staff said that while 120 officers were eventually deployed to bring the disturbances under control after personnel had been brought in from St Patrick's Institution, Wheatfield and Cloverhill, there were only three officers on duty in the wing when the initial assault was carried out.

Irish Independent

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