| 6.9°C Dublin

Mountjoy prison chief wins fight to stay on after 60

MOUNTJOY governor Ned Whelan has won his fight to stay in the job after reaching the retirement age of 60.

Mr Whelan succeeded John Lonergan in the top job at Mountjoy and has earned kudos for his no-nonsense security approach.

Despite the Croke Park agreement and a High Court refusal to allow a top garda to continue in the force, the over-60 rule in the prison service has been set aside.

At the heart of the issue, which has caused controversy in the prison ranks, is a clause which can permit a prison officer to continue in the job after reaching 60, if this is " in the public interest".

This loophole does not extend to the Garda -- three years ago Assistant Commissioner Martin Donnellan lost a High Court challenge against his compulsory retirement at 60.


In the prison service case several senior officers -- including some anticipating promotions -- opposed the idea of the governor continuing in his role at Mountjoy jail.

"It was a probably a combination of self-interest and a belief that no one is expendable which has fed the opposition in this case," according to a senior source.

"The Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants had not agreed any age extension and there were many experienced people in the ranks who could replace him".

The Irish Prison Service said: "The maximum retirement age for all prison officers and governors is 60 years of age as provided by the Superannuation (Prison Officer) Act 1919."


But, crucially, a spokesperson added that "sanction can be sought from D/PER to extend service on grounds of public interest which is covered in Paragraph 7 of Circular 13/752".

Other senior officers, including two governors, have resigned from the prison service well in advance of their 60th birthday because of the cuts to lump sums and pensions.

Opponents of the retention of the Mountjoy governor after his 60th birthday say this criteria should also apply to the prison service.