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  • Northside West

Former Governor of Mountjoy is honoured by Red Cross

Thursday, 21st November, 2019 8:00am
Former Governor of Mountjoy is honoured by Red Cross

Mr Lonergan was praised for his pioneering work with prisoners at Mountjoy.

Former Governor of Mountjoy is honoured by Red Cross

Mr Lonergan was praised for his pioneering work with prisoners at Mountjoy.

THE former Governor of Mountjoy, John Lonergan, has been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Irish Red Cross for his work in Irish prisons over four decades.

When he walked into his first day of work in Limerick on March 8, 1968, he couldn’t have known he was embarking on a 42-year-long career in the Irish Prison Service. There were 47 people in Limerick Prison on that first day and 660 across the whole island, compared to a figure of 4,000 today.

After three years in Limerick, Mr Lonergan moved to Shanganagh Castle in Dublin, which was an open detention centre for boys aged between 16 and 21. Following this, he worked in a number of prisons and institutions, including Loughan House in Co Cavan, which accommodated teenagers.

In 1984, he was appointed Governor of Mountjoy Prison and four years after that, in 1988, he was transferred to the high-security prison in Portlaoise to deal with the complexities arising there from the incarceration of people involved in the Troubles. Mr Lonergan served as Governor of Portlaoise Prison until 1992 when he moved back to Mountjoy and held the position of Governor until he retired in 2010.

Irish Red Cross chairman, Pat Carey, said: “John Lonergan brought humanity into the prison system and had a profound effect on Irish society in terms of its understanding of who was in prison - and why.”

While Governor of Mountjoy, Lonergan’s analysis revealed that 75 percent of Dublin-born prisoners were from six small communities in the city. He was one of the first people to draw the public’s attention to the origins of crime in Ireland, and the connection between criminality and the social, economic and educational circumstances of prisoners and their families. This was a wake-up call for Irish society and the Government.

He was avant-garde in his rehabilitative approach to managing prisons. He recognised the importance that mental health and having hope for a better future played in prison life and he set about making the regime more humanitarian by enhancing and promoting opportunities for education, training and building self-esteem.

He opened up Mountjoy to facilitate contact with the outside

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