The Governor of Mountjoy Prison John Lonergan is to retire next month. Mr Lonergan has spent 42 years in the Prison Service.

Director of the Prison Service Brian Purcell has thanked Mr Lonergan for his years of service and wished him well in the future.

Speaking today after announcing his retirement, Mr Lonergan backed the stance taken by the former governor of the Dochas women’s prison.

Kathleen McMahon stood down from her position at the end of April claiming her position had been undermined by the Irish Prison Service.

John Lonergan said today that he was very sympathetic to Ms McMahon's concerns and shared them.

He said that when Ms McMahon talked about her frustration and anxiety, her words were soundly based and legitimate and it would only be right and responsible for the Irish Prison Service and the political system to take note of them.

However, Mr Lonergan said that he was not retiring now, after 26 years in charge of Mountjoy prison, in sympathy with Ms McMahon or as a protest against conditions in Mountjoy.

He said he was not so naive to believe that it would make one bit of difference if he were to resign in protest, and people would not care if he went or stayed.

Mr Lonergan, who has worked in the prison system for 42 years, said the greatest scourge he has had to deal with was overcrowding at Mountjoy.

He said overcrowding has been at the root of everything else that was wrong in the prison.

Mr Lonergan said Mountjoy never benefited from the extra prisoner accommodation provided elsewhere in the system.

Criticising the current penal system, Mr Lonergan said that there is more 'warehousing' taking place in our prisons than rehabilitation.

He acknowledged that in more recent times medical, education, probation and psychiatric services did improve.

But in a reference to the recent cutbacks to prison rehabilitation and activity programmes, he said that the biggest source of frustration was the lack of innovation shown by the system.

Mr Lonergan said that while there were no drugs in prisons when he joined the service, today they are a scourge which have done huge damage to prisoners and their families.

Drugs, he said, had undermined all the positive elements of prison life.

The governor said he hopes he will be remembered for taking a genuine interest in prisoners and in having a fair and just regime.

But he said just like society has become tougher and less compassionate, so too have prisons become crueller and tougher.