Sunday, 29 October 2006

'All out war' expected in Mountjoy after attack on crime boss

Sunday Tribune

Prison of"cers predict 'terrible bloodshed' after The General's brother, Michael Cahill, is singled out
John Burke Crime Correspondent
PRISON staff at Mountjoy jail are predicting a state of "all out war" among hardened prisoners following an attack in recent days on one of the most feared Dublin crime bosses by a Limerick prisoner. The attack is just one incident in a dramatic surge in violence at the north Dublin city facility in recent weeks.

The Sunday Tribune has learned that armed robber Michael Cahill . . . brother of murdered gang leader Martin 'The General' Cahill . . . was brutally assaulted by a prisoner from Limerick.

One well-placed prison source said that the attack was "hugely significant."

Cahill's status among inmates is akin to an Italian mafiosa 'made man' and nobody has dared attack him previously.

The incident occurred in the 'circle' area . . . the open central hub of the prison . . . indicating an unprecedented boldness to the violent assaults among inmates. However, it is understood that while the prison service recently spent thousands of euro installing new CCTV in the circle area, the camera type put in place was a 'roving camera' and the incident was completely missed by the recorded footage.

Senior prison sources told the Sunday Tribune that the attack on Cahill (47) is expected to spark a major outbreak of violence and tit-for-tat attacks . . . with many fearing that a fatal incident is now almost inevitable. "This guy has never been touched before. Nobody would have dared.

Officers and prisoners are expecting terrible repercussions and bloodshed, " one officer told the Tribune.

Cahill is serving sentences for assault and armed robbery, including one incident in which he spat vomit at a garda. He has over 26 convictions for offences, including firearms possession and drugs offences.

The renewed fears of violence come just two-and-a-half months after the murder of prisoner Gary Douch, who was beaten to death by a fellow inmate in an overcrowded cell. Douch was resting on a mattress on the basement cell floor when his attacker began to punch and kick him without provocation. Douch's killer then challenged the other five cellmates to attempt to sexually assault him.

The inmate who carried out the fatal attack had been released from the Central Mental Hospital back into the care of Mountjoy prison just weeks before the killing.

Just five days before Douch was beaten to death in the basement of Mountjoy, Nigerian national Goodwill Udechukwu was stabbed and assaulted by a group of up to 10 men on the first day of his life sentence for the murder of his wife.

Since the murder of Gary Douch, it is understood that an average of one violent incident per day . . . approximately 80 since the 21-year-old Dubliner's killing in August . . . has been logged by prison staff. The day after the attack on Michael Cahill, prison officers recovered a prison-made knife, which had a seveninch blade, in one inmate's cell. It is suspected that this may have been intended for use in a reprisal attack. Other knives recovered in recent weeks include some with blades as long as 12 to 15 inches.

While some knives are illicitly manufactured inside the jail, many are thrown over the wall and collected by inmates.

One prison source said that it was important to note that the knives recovered were found after making their way into prisoners' cells. "These were not intercepted by prison officers at the point of entry. We got lucky in recovering them, but it is just a matter of time before someone throws a gun and ammunition over the wall for pre-arranged collection. The problem is that serious, and prison officers are intensely fearful for their safety and the safety of the prisoners."

The present escalation in violence is being driven by a number of factors, wellplaced prison staff told the Sunday Tribune. Rival Limerick factions who have been transferred to Mountjoy, including bitter enemies among the DundonMcCarthy and Keane gangs, have allied themselves to rival factions among a number of Crumlin and Finglas groupings.

However, one of the main driving forces behind the rising violence is the suspension of prison activities, in particular workshops and other activities. TheSunday Tribune has learned that the jail library opened for just three days during the entire month of July, for example. Major tensions have arisen as prisoners congregate in open areas, without diversions and activities to occupy their time.

It is estimated that of the 420 to 430 prisoners in Mountjoy, only around 50 are occupied with activities, including seven in the kitchen and a few dozen in the only functioning workshop area under D Base.

The present tension increases the likelihood that prison officers will proceed with industrial action. The Prison Officers' Association (POA) and the Irish prison service (IPS) met on 26 July last to discuss what staff believed was a significant lack of resources being invested in manpower and security measures.

The IPS gave staff representatives assurances that extra officers would be drafted into the jail at that emergency meeting.

However, it is understood that, while over a dozen prison officers have left Mountjoy in the past two months, none of the 23 training graduates who were deployed into the prison service in the same period were sent to the jail.

Following the murder of Gary Douch in August, the POA sought the declaration of a state of emergency at Mountjoy to allow extra staff to be drafted in to counter escalating violence. However, the IPS refused the request. The IPS is currently refurbishing wings A2 and A3 in Mountjoy, which had been previously declared as uninhabitable. However, it is understood that no in-cell sanitation is being put in place in the refurbished wings, which means that prisoners will continue the practice of slopping out. At the time Gary Douch was killed, there were over 520 inmates in the jail. This has recently been reduced to around 430. However, one well-placed prison staffer told the Tribune that tackling the overcrowding issue "only scratches the surface of the [violence-related] problems" in the jail.

Governor John Lonergan has also recently been critical of conditions at Mountjoy. In an interview with the Sunday Tribune near the time of the Douch killing, he said that 80% of inmates in Mountjoy were addicted to heroin.

It was "almost impossible" to restrict the distribution of drugs amongst the prisoners, he said. "Mountjoy is 156 years old and the building has not changed one bit since 1850, " he said.

"There is no way it is an adequate prison for the year 2006."

A spokesman for the Irish Prison Service (IPS) yesterday said that the figures compiled independently by staff did not tally with IPS records. "Flashpoints will occur in a system in which over 60% of people are in prison for violencerelated offences, " he said. The spokesman added that new measures to commit prisoners to Wheatfield and the Midlands jails, as well as 24-hour security arrangements for prisoners under threat of assault, were among major recent enhancements to prison security.
October 29, 2006

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