Mountjoy Prison (Irish: Príosún Mhuinseo), founded as Mountjoy Gaol
and nicknamed The Joy, is a medium security prison located in
Phibsborough in the centre of Dublin, Ireland. It has the largest
prison population in Ireland. The current prison warden is Brian
3.1 Main Prison
3.2 Medical Unit
3.3 Controlled Behavioural Unit
3.4 Separation Unit
4 Mountjoy Campus
5 People associated with Mountjoy
7 See also
9 External links
Mountjoy Prison, seen from Devery's Lane.
Mountjoy was designed by the British military engineering officer,
Captain Joshua Jebb,
Royal Engineers and opened in 1850, based on the
design of London's
Pentonville Prison also designed by Jebb.
Originally intended as the first stop for men sentenced to
transportation, they would spend a period in separate confinement
before being transferred to Spike Island and transported from there to
Van Diemen's Land.
A total of 46 prisoners (including one woman, Annie Walsh) were
executed within the walls of the prison, prior to the abolition of
capital punishment. Executions were done by hanging, after which the
bodies of the dead were taken down from the gallows and buried within
the prison grounds in unmarked graves. The list of prisoners executed
Mountjoy Prison includes:
Annie Walsh from Limerick, who was found guilty of murdering her
husband, was executed in Mountjoy prison on 5 August 1925. She remains
the only woman ever executed by the Irish State which was founded in
After being convicted of murdering a Garda officer, Charlie Kerins,
former Chief of Staff to the Anti-Treaty IRA, was hanged at Mountjoy
Prison on 1 December 1944.
The last execution carried out in the Republic of Ireland, that of
Michael Manning, took place in
Mountjoy Prison on 20 April 1954.
Some Irish leaders involved with the
Irish War of Independence
Irish War of Independence and
Irish Civil War
Irish Civil War were held there. On 14 May 1921, an IRA team led by
Paddy Daly and
Emmet Dalton mounted an attempt to rescue Sean McEoin
from the prison. They used a captured armoured car to gain access to
Mountjoy, but were discovered and had to shoot their way out.
The Fenian poet, author of the popular song "Rising of the Moon", John
Keegan 'Leo' Casey was imprisoned here during the 1860s; subsequently
in the 20th century playwright and IRA activist
Brendan Behan was also
On 31 October 1973, it was the scene of a spectacular escape by a
hijacked helicopter by three Provisional Irish Republican Army
Seamus Twomey and J.B O'Hagan.
By 2006, a 60-hectare site had been acquired for €30 million at
Thornton Hall, Fingal, where a replacement for Mountjoy was to be
constructed. The new facility was intended to accommodate 1,400
prisoners. The site was planned to include court facilities,
video-conference links, medical and therapeutic facilities, but due
to government cutbacks these plans have now been sidelined.[citation
In August 2006, prisoners who were normally separated from the rest of
the population for safety were mixed together for a night with
mentally ill inmate Stephen Egan. Prisoner Gary Douche was killed by
Egan who was found not guilty of murder due to a lack of
responsibility. This prompted the Minister of Justice to seek a
limit of 520 inmates on the capacity of the prison.
In October 2010, the prison was placed under lockdown after a night of
violence and rioting involving more than 70 inmates. It started when a
number of prisoners attacked three prison officers with pool cues and
balls during recreation. Reinforcements were brought in from around
Dublin to quell the riot and a number of Alsatians from the riot unit
were also deployed.
In 2016, figures were released showing that
Mountjoy Prison saw a
disproportionate number of prisoners hospitalised due to assaults and
self-harm. In response, the Irish Penal Reform Trust said the
"ongoing levels of violence and intimidation in Irish prisons,
particularly in Mountjoy Prison, must be addressed".
Mountjoy Prison is constructed along a radial design with four main
wings, A through D, each of which have three landings, as well as an
underground basement landing. The wings are connected to a central
circle, known simply as 'the circle'. When originally built in 1850 it
had 500 cells each of which was designed for single capacity. Many
parts of the original building have either been renovated or
destroyed. At the time of the 2009 inspection, there were 371 cells
in the main unit of the prison. These are the original cells which
were built in 1850 for single occupancy. Their size varies from 3.91m
x 2.06m to 3.43m x 2.06m. The prison was built with in-cell sanitation
but this was removed in 1939 when it was deemed that 'prisoners were
using too much water'. However, all cells in the main jail have
in-cell sanitation following refurbishment in the period 2010 to 2015.
These cells contain a toilet, a sink, a television and a small
Facilities in the prison include gymnasiums, computer classes,
carpentry, masonry and a wide variety of school activities such as
music, drama and cookery. Prisoners can undertake to complete academic
exams in the school such as Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate
and even Open University. Additionally, there is an on-site kitchen
and bakery where trusted inmates are given employment under
The Medical Unit, otherwise referred to as the drug detoxification
unit, is a three storied structure. It provides accommodation for
sixty prisoners in forty-eight single person cells and three cells
that can accommodate up to four people. All the cells in this unit
have in-cell sanitation facilities. It is equipped with medical
facilities, classrooms and kitchen facilities. The Inspector of
Prisons reported in 2009 that this unit was bright and clean and did
not suffer from overcrowding.
Controlled Behavioural Unit
The Controlled Behavioural Unit, known as the CBU or the Block, is
used for unruly prisoners or those on punishment and is located in the
'D' Base, underneath the D wing. This includes 24-hour lock-up, with
the exception of one hour of open air exercise, and no integration
with other inmates.
The Separation Unit had 35 cells. It also had kitchen facilities a
shower block and a laundry. In the late 1980s, inmates diagnosed with
HIV or AIDS were housed in the separation unit. This policy was
brought to an end on 1 January 1995. Following the unit's
refurbishment in 1997, all cells had in-cell sanitation. The
separation unit was closed indefinitely in 2014 following an
inspection by the Inspector of Prisons.
The Mountjoy Campus is home to three other separate penal facilities.
St. Patrick's Institution
People associated with Mountjoy
A former governor was Charles Arthur Munro, brother of the Edwardian
The schizophrenic French surrealist playwright
Antonin Artaud was
briefly detained in Mountjoy before his deportation from Ireland as "a
destitute and undesirable alien".
Carey, Tim : Mountjoy – The Story of a Prison :The Collins
Press : 2000 : ISBN 1-898256-89-6
Prisons in Ireland
Loughan House, a low security open centre in Co. Cavan also run by the
Irish Prison Service.
Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison, located in Kilmainham in Dublin,
which is now a museum.
Executions during the Irish Civil War
^ a b CPT (2011). Report to the Government of Ireland on the Visit to
Ireland Carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of
Torture and Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment from the 25
January to the 5 February 2010 (PDF). Strasbourg. p. 18.
^ The Helicopter Prison Archived 17 December 2005 at the Wayback
^ "Annual Report 2006" (PDF). National Development Finance Agency. 28
June 2007. p. 10. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 November
2007. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
^ Witnesses identified in Douche inquiry, Irish Times, 23 April 2009
^ "Irish prisoners hospitalised for assaults, self-harm and drug
incidents". Irish Legal News. 9 January 2017. Retrieved 11 January
^ "Hospitalisations of Mountjoy prisoners branded 'shocking'". Irish
Legal News. 10 January 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
^ a b c d Inspector of Prisons (2009). Report on an Inspection of
Mountjoy Prison (PDF). p. 8.
^ Inspector of Prisons (2009). Report on an Inspection of Mountjoy
Prison (PDF). p. 9.
^ Annual report on prisons and places of detention: 1985. Dublin:
Department of Justice. 1987. p. 43.
^ O'Brien, Oonagh; Stevens, Alex (1997). A question of equivalence: a
report on the implementation of international guidelines on HIV/AIDS
in prisons of the European Union. London: Cranstoun Drug
^ "Minister Fitzgerald announces the closure of the Mountjoy Prison
Separation Unit". 14 September 2014. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
^ Introduction p24 of The Unbearable
Saki by Sandie Byrne, Oxford
University Press, 2007
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mountjoy Prison.
Minister announces site for new Mountjoy complex — from the official
Irish Prison Service
Irish Prison Service website
Inspector-General of Prisons and Places of Detention, 3rd Annual
Report – 2005
Mountjoy Prison Visiting Committee 2004 Annual Report
Mountjoy Prison Portraits of Irish Independence: Photograph Albums in
the Thomas A. Larcom Collection
Coordinates: 53°21′42.3″N 6°16′2.8″W / 53.361750°N
6.267444°W / 53