New figures from the Irish Prison Service (IPS) have revealed the most dangerous prison in the country for prisoners - and prison staff.
The numbers show that the number of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in Mountjoy totalled 110 for 2018.
They account for 26% of the 418 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults across the entire prison system last year, but the numbers are three down on the 113 assaults under the same heading in 2017 at Mountjoy.
The next highest number of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults at 76 took place at Castlerea with 54 recorded at Cloverhill; 44 at the Midlands prison and 42 at Cork prison.
The 418 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults are one more than the 417 that took place across the prison estate in the previous year.
The figures show Mountjoy was also the prison which recorded the highest number of assaults by prisoners on prison staff at 24 last year, the next highest number took place at Cork where 15 assaults on prison staff occurred.
Deputy General Secretary with the Prisoner Officers’ Association (POA), Jim Mitchell said today: “Mountjoy is a particularly difficult environment to work in for prison staff due to the number of gangs in the prison.”
Mr Mitchell said that the presence of gangs contributes to tensions in the prison which prison officers try to keep a lid on.
Mountjoy is one of the largest prisons in the country and Mr Mitchell said that the “sheer numbers” in the prison also contributes to the number of assaults.
He said: “Prison staff are at the forefront of keeping the peace in prisons and a good number of the 418 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults would have required prison officer involvement in order to quell any disturbances.”
Mr Mitchell said across the prison system assaults on prison staff include staff being “kicked at, punched, bitten, scalded, head-butted, hit with chamber pots.
"There is a wide variety in the assaults on prison staff,” he said.
“There is no respect for gender in the attacks as female staff across the prison estate have been victims of assault."
“Prison staff are under no illusions - we know we are not in charge of Teletubbies - some of the prisoners that our members come across are people who have committed very serious violent crime - and our ambition is to reduce the number of assaults by prisoners on prison staff to zero”.
The number of assaults by prisoners on prison staff at 110 in 2018 was the highest in four years and compares to 104 in 2017, 98 in 2016 and 91 in 2015.
However, the number of assaults represents a sharp drop on the 151 assaults carried out on prison staff in 2014.
Mr Mitchell said: “We never put much emphasis on statistics as it takes only one assault to disfigure a prison officer.”
Prison Service statistics also show that that the number of restraint interventions last year increased by 50% from 91 to 137 with 21 taking place at Mountjoy male prison and the highest number taking place at Wheatfield prison at 23.
Mr Mitchell said: “I believe that the actual numbers of such restraint interventions are much higher."