Pressure was mounting on Michael McDowell today following the suicide of an inmate at Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison.
Calls were made for a fresh inquiry into conditions at the city jail, and the Minister for Justice was urged to publish findings of a recent report on the institution.
Opposition parties are demanding action after the death of a second inmate at the prison within a month.
A 38-year-old was found hanging in a single cell early this morning after been moved for his own protection.
Gary Douch, 21, was beaten to death in a communal holding cell in front of other inmates just weeks ago. He had also been moved for his own protection.
“While the initial reports of the circumstances of the death point to the prisoner having taken his own life, there must be a full investigation into all the circumstances,” said Brendan Howlin, Labour Party spokesperson on justice.
“Prisoners are punished by the courts for their offences by being deprived of their liberty, but the opportunity for rehabilitation, education and training must also be part of the prison regime. It is virtually impossible to provide these under current conditions in Mountjoy.
“The death places a particular obligation on the Minister for Justice to publish the report of the Inspector of Prisons, Dermot Kinlen, which he received several weeks ago and which he is still refusing to publish.”
Fine Gael’s Jim O’Keefe called for Mr Kinlen to conduct another investigation into facilities at the institution.
“This is another example of the difficulties being experienced in Mountjoy, which have reached a peak in the last few months,” said the party spokesperson on justice.
“Whereas the killing of Gary Douch was a direct result of overcrowding, this case seems to point to a gap in the facilities available in the prison.
“The Prisons Inspector should be asked to conduct an independent assessment of the current situation in Mountjoy, with a particular focus on rehabilitation services, sport and recreation facilities, and medical and psychiatric services.
“It must always be remembered that the state has a duty of care to protect all offenders in its penal institutions.”
The Irish Prison Service confirmed the latest fatality was observed just before 3am and found hanging half an hour later.
Despite attempts to resuscitate him at the scene, he was pronounced dead at the nearby Mater Hospital shortly after 4am.
A prison officer said the inmate found hanging was liked and not considered to be at risk of taking his own life.
He added that the man, who was serving an 18-month sentence, was moved to a single cell following a small fight in the jail yesterday which had been broken up quickly by staff.
A post mortem exam is due to be carried out today.
New measures to protect inmates were introduced in the wake of the murder of Mr Douch, who was buried on Tuesday. Anyone now requesting protection is housed in a single-occupancy cell for at least 24 hours.
An independent inquiry was launched into the circumstances surrounding his tragic death.