IRA, Gilligan, Kinahan all feature in new book by retired Portlaoise prison officer

A new book has been published on the Irish prisons which it is claimed is a jaw-dropping and authentic account from a prison officer of life in the toughest of workplaces.

Unlocked by David McDonald, with Mick Clifford, is the prison officer’s account of over thirty years serving in Ireland’s biggest prisons. McDonald is a retired prison officer from Portlaoise. He was Assistant Chief Officer in the Midlands Prison. Unlocked is his first book.

A press release from Penguin Books says that as a young officer, McDonald got a baptism of fire in Mountjoy.

“In 1989 it was a chaotic, pungent and overcrowded place. He talks about one of the first ever jobs he was given: supervising the prisoners coming out with their chamber pots full of urine in the morning to empty them into a big trough. However, the most harrowing task of all came when he was assigned to a segregated block for prisoners dying of AIDS, ” said the statement.

Two years later, he entered Portlaoise Prison, and, say the publishers, was amazed to discover the power the IRA prisoners had there.

“From 200 steaks landing in from a local butcher on a Friday night to conjugal rights, supervising ‘subversives’ was a different ball game. Portlaoise, and later the new Midlands Prison, were also where Ireland’s emerging class of serious gangsters were housed. McDonald dealt with notorious household names like John Gilligan, Christy Kinahan, Dessie O’Hare and, more recently, killers like Graham Dwyer, in his average working day. He remembers Brian Meehan, who was convicted of Veronica Guerin’s murder, approaching him to shake his hand after hearing of the death of David’s brother in a car accident,” say Penguin.

The book also recounts his work in a specialist team that led to him  calling for action.

“David’s work in a specialist security unit trying to stop drug trafficking into prisons sometimes brought him into conflict with his bosses. He questioned aspects of an often brutal and under-resourced system, particularly around how the bodies of those who die by suicide in the system are treated. Ultimately, concerns about poor handling of key issues led to him becoming a whistle-blower,” he said.

Penguin say Mick Clifford, award-winning Examiner journalist, brings incredible pace, colour and humour to this story.

“Together, they brilliantly describe the boredom, the constant tension, the flashpoints of extreme violence, and the moments of comedy, tragedy and surprising humanity that are part and parcel of working in prisons,” says the publisher.

Clifford is Special Correspondent for the Irish Examiner. He has been working in print and broadcast journalism for over twenty years. He is the author of three non-fiction books, including Bertie Ahern and the Drumcondra Mofia (with Shane Coleman), A Force for Justice: The Maurice McCabe Story, and two crime novels. He was named the newspaper industry’s Journalist of the Year in 2016. 


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *