Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Justice Dara Calleary has expressed his alarm at the deeply disturbing revelations surrounding the transfer of a dangerous criminal to a low security prison and his subsequent escape from that prison.
Deputy Calleary was reacting to the Loughan House Report regarding the circumstances surrounding the escape of convicted garda killer Martin McDermott to Loughan House Prison in Cavan.
Deputy Collins said: “This report provides absolutely no reasonable explanation for why Martin McDermott, who was serving time for the manslaughter of Garda Gary McLoughlin, was transferred to an open low security prison.
“The very fact that he was transferred to this prison after he had already escaped from it demonstrates the whole approach to this case. Every single criteria for the legitimate transfer of a prisoner to a low security facility was ignored in this case. This is nothing short of alarming, and is exceptionally upsetting for the family of Garda McLoughlin.
“The bottom line is that the public were put at risk by a series of failures in this case and people are justifiably concerned that this is not an isolated incident. The Prison Service has confirmed to the Oireachtas Justice Committee today that there are currently 16 prisoners on the run from low security prisons in the State. These figures are astonishing and clearly demonstrate that there are problems within the system.
“While I accept that the prison system is under severe pressure at the moment, this cannot be used as an excuse for taking serious risks by putting dangerous criminals in low-security facilities. The criteria for such transfers must be reviewed and must then be strictly adhered to.
“Minister Shatter’s response to this report has been totally inadequate. He has failed to detail any specific actions that will be taken ensure that this never happens again.”
Director General of the Irish Prison Service, Michael Donnellan, has apologised to Gda McLoughlin’s family and his colleagues today.
But Damien McCarthy, president of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), said the Justice Minister had to prove he is not soft on crime.
“We are disturbed to discover the full facts and case history surrounding the soft sentencing and subsequent absconding of a convicted garda killer who had served only the early stage of his sentence,” Mr McCarthy said.
“We requested this report and are astounded by its contents. It raises more questions than it answers … if this escape had not occurred, we would never know how the sentence was being served.
“This report is not enough to rectify the serious wrongs in the criminal justice system.”
Mr Shatter said today: “The fundamental point is he (McDermott) should never have been seen or perceived to be a candidate for transfer to an open prison,
“The director of the Prison Service has, on behalf of the Prison Service, apologised for what has coccured.
“Arrangements have now been put in place to ensure there’s no repitition, and as Minister for Justice, I’m sorry that this event occurred, it should not have occurred, and I will ensure, as best I can, that there’s no such repitition.”