Publication of the Report on Mountjoy by the Inspector of Prisons and the announcement of a review of the Thornton Hall Project by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Mr Alan Shatter T.D. today announced publication of the most recent report on Mountjoy Prison by the Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly which was presented to the Minister on 24 March 2011.

The Inspector has reported a sea change for the better in many aspects of the prison, particularly as regards cleanliness and hygiene. The Minister would like to compliment the prison staff working in Mountjoy and especially the new Governor Mr. Ned Whelan for the work done in improving conditions in the prison and for implementing the recommendations of the Inspector. "One of the first things I did on becoming Minister was to visit Mountjoy prison. I was impressed by the commitment and level of professionalism shown by the staff in the challenging environment of a prison. Significant improvements can be achieved even in an old prison such as Mountjoy with committed staff under good management. "

An issue of major concern raised in the report is that the management response to allegations of excessive use of force by prison officers has been less than satisfactory in the past. The Minister wants to make it clear that a culture of impunity cannot be allowed to develop in our prison system. Prison officers do a difficult job but abuse of their position is not acceptable. The Inspector acknowledges that the Director General of the Irish Prison Service has taken prompt action in addressing the issue of serious complaints by prisoners. The Director General has now implemented all the recommendations of the Inspector and of the enquiry team established to look into the matter. This includes the necessity to keep proper medical and other records. Within the next month the Minister intends to place on a statutory footing new procedures for the investigation of serious complaints by prisoners. This will include provision for prison officers to wear identification.

Investigations are ongoing in relation to the specific cases referred to in Paragraph 3.17 of the Report and it would not be appropriate to make any comment on the details of the incidents.

The Inspector made a number of other recommendations all of which are being pursued. As recommended, a value for money audit of the educational services is underway. The Irish Prison Service are also examining options to provide more treatment facilities and drug free units in the Mountjoy complex and will continue to take vigorous measures to prevent drugs being brought into Mountjoy.

A refurbishment project is also under way in the basement of the C–wing at Mountjoy prison which will result in an additional 36 cells with in-cell sanitation coming on stream by mid 2011. In addition, the Irish Prison Service (IPS) recently awarded a contract to provide in-cell sanitation in the remaining 74 cells on the same wing. Depending on the findings of a post project appraisal, the IPS will consider installing in-cell sanitation facilities in the remaining cells of that prison.

The Minister expressed his gratitude for the high standard of the Inspector's reports, stressed the importance of the role of the Inspector of Prisons and stated his intention to ensure early publication of all the reports presented to him.

The Minister along with publishing Inspector of Prisons report on Mountjoy also announced the establishment of a committee to review the Thornton Hall Project in line with the commitment in the Government Programme for National Recovery.

The Programme for Government states that "we will review the proposal to build a new prison at Thornton Hall and consider alternatives, if any, to avoid the costs yet to be incurred by the State in building such a new prison." The Minister announced that he has established a four person committee to examine the need for new prison accommodation and to advise by 1 July 2011 whether work on the site at Thornton should proceed. The Minister speaking on the formation of this new committee said "This review will be expeditious and cost effective and I intend to publish this review once it has been completed."

The four persons are:

Brendan Murtagh - a partner in LHM Casey McGrath

Tom Cooney - Lecturer in Law UCD and now advisor to the Minister

Brian Purcell - Director General of the Irish Prison Service.

Catherine McGuinness – retired President of the Law Reform Commission

They bring a diverse range of experience to the process at minimum cost to the taxpayer and will take into account a range of factors including those identified by the Inspector of Prisons in his report on Mountjoy.

5th April 2011




Note for Editors




Terms of reference for the committee to examine the need for new prison accommodation

To examine the need for new prison accommodation and to advise by 1 July 2011 whether or not the development of new prison accommodation at Thornton Hall should proceed

taking into account

- current and future prisoner numbers of both men and women;

- the need for an adequate stock of prison accommodation that meet required standards including in particular, in cell sanitation, adequate rehabilitation, educational and work training facilities for prisoners as well as facilitating contact with family members and other standards identified by the Inspector of Prisons and relevant international bodies;

- the potential of alternatives to custody including legislative measures already proposed (Fines Act 2010, Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2011) to reduce the prisoner population;

- the relevance of Thornton to the existing prison structure and, in particular, to the Dochas Centre;

- the plans for prison developments at Thornton and elsewhere;

- any significant changes in circumstances since previous decisions were made on a development at Thornton;

- work already carried out in relation to Thornton and related expenditure;

- the views of interested parties including non governmental agencies;

- the cost effectiveness of providing additional prison accommodation on other sites;

- current and future construction costs;

- the economic constraints facing the State.



Information on the four members of the committee.


Tom Cooney

Lectured in law at UCD School of Law. Lectured in a range of subjects, including Constitutional Law, EU law, and co-taught Jurisprudence (Legal Philosophy) with the late John Kelly TD. Introduced into the curriculum, and taught, the Law of Armed Conflict, Planning and Development Law, and Medical Law.

Trained as a solicitor under Dan Sullivan in Malone & Potter, Solicitors, where he acquired experience in areas involving labour law, civil litigation, prisoners’ rights and Travellers’ rights.

In the 1990s was Chairperson of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, a voluntary, independent civil liberties organisation. Chaired the Working Party of Child Sexual Abuse, and co-edited (with Ruth Torode of TCD) its report on the need for reform of services and law. Contributed to the literature of civil liberties, including (with Orla O’Neill) in the field of mental health law.

Is a former member of the executive of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and a member of its Legal Sub-Committee.


Brendan Murtagh

Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (FCCA)

Founding partner of LHM Casey McGrath with responsibility for leading the Assurance function within the practice, specialising in professional services, financial services and information technology and communications.

Council Member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) from May 2000 to September 2010 and President of the Association from May 2009 to September 2010. Served on the following Association task forces and committees:
1. Audit Committee 5. Nominating Committee (Chair)

2. Finance Committee (Vice Chair) 6. Chief Executive Selection Panel (Chair)

3. Governance Committee 7. Governance Review Task Force

4. Remuneration Committee (Chair) 8. Pension Review Task Force

Partner in LHM Chartered Certified Accountants 2001-2004, Farrell & Murtagh 1994-2001, Manager in Caplin Meehan Chartered Accountants 1985-1994.

Has had published various articles in professional journals on topical professional issues, authored newspaper articles, given conference presentations and participated in radio and TV interviews in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean on topical professional and economic issues.

Brian Purcell
Graduated University College Dublin, 1979 BA Degree, MSc ( Mgmt) Degree, Trinity College Dublin, 2005.

Joined civil service in 1979. Served in the Department of Industry and Commerce 1979 - 1985. Transferred on promotion to Department of Social Welfare where he served from 1985 - 1991. Transferred on promotion to the Department of Justice where he worked in the Prisons Division ( Human Resources and Operations), Crime Division ( Drugs and Organised Crime Policy), before being appointed as Director of Operations in the Prison Service in October 2001. Appointed Director General of the Irish Prison Service in July 2004.


Catherine McGuinness

Catherine McGuinness recently retired as President of the Law Reform Commission (2005 – 2011)

Was Senior Counsel - Former Judge of the Circuit Court (1994 – 1996), High Court (1996 – 2000), Supreme Court (2000 – 2006)

Chaired the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation

Former member of the Adoption Board