Director of the Prison Service Michael Donnellan has said that the practice of "slopping out" will be eliminated from Mountjoy Prison by September.

Mr Donnellan said the process will be eliminated from every prison in the country over the next three years.

Slopping out in Mountjoy Prison has taken place since 1850.

Every inmate will have in-cell sanitation over the next three years.

Mr Donnellan said that as part of the capital programme, work will begin on the new Cork prison by the end of the year.

Earlier, the Prison Officers' Association called for the establishment of a special prison to detain criminal gang members.

The association said criminal gangs control and put pressure on other criminals and would be easy to manage within a separate facility.

The Prison Service accepts that the activities of criminal gangs in Ireland's prisons is a serious problem, but Mr Donnellan it would not be solved easily.

He told the POA annual conference that over 600 inmates are under protection, with a third of them under 23-hour lock up.

However, he insisted that the prison service can protect people.

The POA claims that there are at least seven criminal factions in Mountjoy Prison.

It said the gangs seek to control the prison landings and force other inmates to smuggle in drugs and mobile phones.

Deputy General Secretary Jim Mitchell said prison officers are not afraid of these individuals.

He said prison officers as professionals have been dealing with violent and dangerous criminals and subversives for decades.

The POA claims that a special detention facility would make it easy to manage these people and reduce the malign effect they have on the prisoner population.

Meanwhile, the Prison Service said the number of mobile phones seized in the prisons has dropped by almost half in the past four years.

It said that there has also been a reduction in assaults by inmates on other prisoners.

The POA called on the Government to expedite the closure of St Patrick's Institution, as prison officers are not trained to deal with children in detention.

It is due to close as a juvenile detention centre at the end of next year.