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What the prison officer saw: a life among criminals

What is it like to guard some of the State’s most notorious inmates? From John Gilligan to Dessie O’Hare, a new book outlines one man’s experience working in Ireland’s prisons

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Former prison officer David McDonald. Picture by Mark Condren

Former prison officer David McDonald. Picture by Mark Condren

Some of the prisoners McDonald came face to face with during his career

Some of the prisoners McDonald came face to face with during his career

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Former prison officer David McDonald. Picture by Mark Condren

For more than 30 years, David McDonald worked in Ireland’s biggest prisons. He started out in 1989 at Mountjoy, before returning to his hometown two years later to Portlaoise Prison, which — due to the presence of IRA and other subversive prisoners — was then the most secure jail in Europe. He then moved on to the new Midlands P rison, where Ireland’s emerging class of serious gangsters were housed.

In a new book, Unlocked: An Irish Prison Officer’s Story, he describes encounters with some of Ireland’s most notorious criminals.

John Gilligan


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