A MAJOR criminal was behind the night of mayhem at Mountjoy jail, in which three officers were savagely attacked.
The prison was under lockdown today after a night of violence and rioting involving more than 70 inmates.
The country’s largest prison fell into chaos after thug Zachary Ryan-Coughlan started the riot, in which a mob attacked three prison officers with pool cues and balls during recreation.
The officers were beaten about the head and were lucky to escape with their lives.
Up to 40 prisoners are expected to face charges, including criminal damage and affray, for their part in the chilling disturbances.
One of the officers was hit violently over the head with a cue while another was smashed in the side of the head with a snooker ball.
A third officer, who was injured after a fall, and a prisoner who received minor head injuries were also hospitalised.
The main instigator in the riot is a vicious Limerick gangster who is known as an unruly inmate.
"This guy was openly hostile to officers and charged at them when they tried to subdue him," a source told the Herald.
"He never once tried to hide his identity and we have him on CCTV. The three officers attacked are relatively new."
Seven prisoners were transferred to the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise following the incident. Reinforcements were brought in from around Dublin to quell the riot which involved 74 inmates and a number of Alsatians from the riot unit were also deployed.
The attack is believed to have been made to counteract the new 'get tough' drugs policy being enacted by Mountjoy governor Ned Whelan.
The incident began at around 7pm in the prison's A-wing when a prisoner confronted an officer after he refused admittance into a recreation area.
He returned with a group of inmates carrying cues and snooker balls and launched his attack. The officer was hit in the side of the head with a snooker ball and an attempt was made to drag him into the recreation yard and officers believe he may have become a hostage had it not been for the intervention of colleagues.
Another colleague was then attacked by inmates before up to 70 prisoners went to the recreation area and refused to leave. Prison sources said the rioters were armed with improvised weapons such as snooker and pool cues and balls, broken goalposts and table legs after barricading themselves in when reinforcements began to arrive.
A perspex wall was also broken up and razor sharp implements were created by the inmates, larger pieces were used as shields.
"They wrecked the recreation yard, goalposts were torn down and damage was done to a fence which separates the yard from another prison building," the source said. "There were fears that they were going to scale the fence or pull it down. D-wing may house our most high profile prisoners but A-wing has become the most dangerous."
Officers from Cloverhill, Wheatfield and St Patrick's and as far away as the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise were drafted in to restore calm. Gardai cordoned off the entrance to the jail and armoured prison vans, ambulances, fire engines, and detectives arrived.
A number of 'control and restrain' teams totalling 120 officers backed up by Alsatians confronted the rioters in the recreation area at 9.30pm.
According to a source officers were still being returned to their cells at 11.30pm last night.