Lonergan: 'changes will be made'

Justice minister Dermot Ahern has indirectly criticised the recently retired governor of Mountjoy Prison, John Lonergan, about the amount of drugs that were available in the jail while he was in charge.

Since Lonergan's retirement, a new get-tough regime has been introduced aimed ridding the jail of drugs.

Ahern said changes are under way to tackle a range of problems since Ned Whelan became governor of Mountjoy and Dóchas last Monday week.

Ahern said in a response to a Dáil question from Fine Gael's Charlie Flanagan: "I spoke to the new governor and can assure the deputy that the situation that pertained previously will no longer pertain in that prison because I am assured by the new governor and management that changes will be and are being made there in the way the prison is being run."

Horizontal netting across the D and A yards in Mountjoy is to be erected this week, as well as one of the yards in St Patrick's institution. Both prisons have significant problems with people throwing drugs in packages over the prisons walls to inmates.

Whelan has launched a get-tough approach to drugs at the jail since he took over and all visitors to the prison are searched to prevent contraband getting in. Whelan is also addressing the cleanliness of the prison, and the way complaints from prisoners are investigated. He was responsible for introducing strict security measures in Portlaoise prison after an inmate infamously phoned RTé's Liveline programme from his cell in 2007.

"Throwing packages of drugs into the prisons is a popular way of getting drugs into the prisons. We already have vertical netting which catches some of the contraband coming in. The new horizontal netting will make it impossible for drugs to get in this way as the nets cover the yards' entire horizontal area," said a spokesman. The cost of the netting, which is a type of mesh wire, is €290,000.