Sunday 22 September 2019

Unique work: Philly has 'huge impact on prison'

Keynote speaker: Dublin football star Philly McMahon talked of how ‘suffering makes you stronger’ at the Zeminar youth forum at the RDS yesterday. Photo: David Gannon Photography
Keynote speaker: Dublin football star Philly McMahon talked of how ‘suffering makes you stronger’ at the Zeminar youth forum at the RDS yesterday. Photo: David Gannon Photography

Dublin footballer Philly McMahon says his weekly visits to prisoners at Mountjoy Prison are helping to turn their lives around.

The 31-year-old businessman and GAA star, from Ballymun, who has racked up six All-Ireland medals, has been mentoring inmates at the prison's progression unit twice a week since last spring.

He believes his work has been making a difference.

"The idea is to try to change the individual's belief system so that we can impact on the culture in the prison," McMahon said.

"It's very unique and it's the first of its kind.

"What we're trying to do is to shine a light on the good culture.

"It's restorative justice so we're basically looking at these guys and try to make sure that when they reintegrate into society that they don't go down the same route.

"We're having a huge impact on the prison," he told the Irish Independent following his talk as a keynote speaker at the Zeminar youth forum at the RDS yesterday.

"There's some really good stuff that's been done already and there are a lot of people in there that have a really good mindset about being open to helping these people, but also knowing where the limit is and making sure they do their job," he said of his colleagues at the Irish Prison Service.

Meanwhile, he urged young people to learn from the school of hard knocks.

Despite his success on and off the pitch - in which he runs several gyms, owns a health food company and published his autobiography 'The Choice' last year - he has also suffered major losses along the way.

He lost his older brother John to a fatal heroin addiction in 2012 followed by the loss of his father Philip Sr to cancer last summer.

Yet despite the losses, McMahon said the key to his success is using adversity to his advantage.

"With every pain and suffering you have, it makes you stronger," he told students aged 15 to 20 attending the annual conference.

Irish Independent

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