A former inmate who was left overnight in an external prison exercise yard is suing the State for the injury and distress he says it caused.

Martin McDonagh, aged 20, from Mahon in Cork, said “his back is fucked” since the incident at Cork Prison on the night of March 1.

Mr McDonagh was at the time serving concurrent sentences for separate burglary and trespass offences in Cork and Kerry.

“It was the worst night of the year. It was teeming rain. My back and lungs aren’t the same after it — I was lying on the ground for 18 hours. This isn’t even about the money. I done an offence, and that was wrong. I went to prison to be punished,” he said.

“But there are people in there doing life who didn’t get punished the way I got punished.”

The Irish Prison Service confirmed yesterday that it has received legal correspondence on the case but declined to comment further.

A spokesman said the governor of Cork Prison had apologised to Mr McDonagh at the time, and has implemented changes to standard operating procedures at the state-of-the-art prison, which opened earlier this year, to ensure such an incident doesn’t happen again.

Mr McDonagh, who was released from prison last week, spoke about his ordeal on Cork’s RedFM yesterday. He told presenter Colm Moore that on the day in question, he was brought into an outdoor prison yard to get some fresh air at around 5.30pm.

“At 7pm, when it was time to go back to the cells, no one came for me. The sky went black and there was thunder and rain, it was an awful night,” he said. “There are only so many star jumps you can do in the rain.”

He was discovered missing from his prison cell at 7.30am the next day.

“When they found me, no one asked me if I wanted to see a doctor. I was just taken straight to court for a hearing,” he said. “In a prison of over 300 cameras, someone must have seen me out in the yard.”

Mr McDonagh, a member of the Travelling community, who has also served time in the former and now decommissioned Cork Prison, praised the conditions and food in the new jail, but said he felt disrespected by some staff on occasions because of his ethnic background.

The Irish Prison Service said its staff are constantly reminded of their responsibilities in relation to respecting the dignity of all inmates, and that a complaints procedure is in place.

It is understood that Mr McDonagh did not avail of the complaints procedure while in jail.


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