A Great Irishman John Lonergan retires as Governor of Mountjoy Prison

John Lonergan is to retire as governor of Mountjoy Prison after 42 years in the Prison Service. John is an Irish hero in my estimation. He has a clarity of purpose and a humanity about the role of prison officer that augers well for the professional standing of prison officers. He is a humane liberal man and preserved his integrity in very trying circumstances at Mountjoy where repeatedly the Prison Visiting Committee members voiced their objections to conditions. Put bluntly, the place is awful.

He has great leadership qualities and his attitudes often evoked
professional jealousy in others. On the other hand many senior prison
officers speak kindly of him and have told me of his personal kindness to
prisoners and concern for their welfare. He often helped them financially
when they were leaving the prison and was aware of family and other
difficulties that arose among inmates. The shop in the prison turns over a
fair few bob and John made sure that the profits went back to serve the
prisoners at Christmas and on special occasions.

Publicly, John spoke out about the damage that prison can do to people and
of the drug culture and violence that was endemic. He was especially
concerned with the culture of crime passed through the generations and said that early behaviour and social circumstances make imprisonment virtually inevitable in some areas. The inmates in Mountjoy overwhelmingly came from areas of physical and social deprivation and the pattern repeated itself down the generations. Investment in prevention is massively better than incarceration and is hugely cost effective. Pat Carey TD knows that and
should stand up for people to make sure that youth services and the prison
aftercare services are properly funded. Like the Skibereen Eagle,Bill is
watching you Pat!

I had the privilege of sharing a platform with Governor Lonergan in St
Vincents School in Glasnevin and the contents of his speech and the data he
presented were compelling. John retained a distinct rural accent and a great
sense of humour. I had occasion to ask him for special release for a Finglas
man to attend his brother’s funeral and John allowed the prisoner out for
the removal and funeral. The man’s mother was delighted and the prisoner’s
father delivered the man back to Mountjoy as agreed. (I was relieved myself
as you can imagine!)

I wish John a long, healthy and happy retirement.