Belfast Telegraph

Grieving jail demo family in plea for mental health unit in Maghaberry

Family and friends of Daniel McConville protest outside Maghaberry
Family and friends of Daniel McConville protest outside Maghaberry
Daniel McConville
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

The father of a 22-year-old man who died while being held in Maghaberry has called for a mental health unit to be established in the prison.

Daniel McConville, a dad-of-two from Lurgan, died on August 30, 2018, the day before he had been due in court charged with possession of cannabis resin.

His father Paul, who has been staging weekly protests outside the jail since Daniel's apparent suicide, last night vowed to continue his "campaign for justice" until he gets a full explanation of what happened to his son.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr McConville said he wants an inquest into Daniel's death "as soon as possible" and vowed "never to stop" until he gets "justice for my son".

"My life ended the day he died," he said.

"I'm only existing now. I'm waiting to die.

"We can't bring Daniel back but I want to help other people who find themselves in a situation similar to the one he was in before his death. I'm doing this for others. I want to be part of the solution."

Mr McConville led a two-hour protest comprising of 40 friends and family members including his wife Michelle (44) and their other children Michael (21), Paula (20) and Christine (12) at the prison gates yesterday to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.

He added that he wanted "to raise awareness of the 22 suicides and 11 overdoses in Maghaberry from 2007 until now" and he called for a mental health facility to be set up.

Describing his son as "a lovely lad who touched everyone he met", Mr McConville said Daniel had learning difficulties and suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

"Daniel was bubbly and he got on with everybody," the 52-year-old said, adding that he "lived for his children Ethan (4) and Ella-Rose (18 months)".

"I remember one particular day when myself, him and his brother Michael were doing a concreting job in Portadown," he said.

"He was laughing and joking. Now I can't pass that place without thinking about him."

Mr McConville claimed that he has had no contact with the Prison Service since shortly after Daniel's death, and he told how a priest came to the family home to break the devastating news.

"We live in the country, so when someone comes to your door at 5.30am you know that something's wrong," he said.

"I was told that Daniel was considered a prisoner at risk and had been carefully monitored in the run-up to his death, but I need more information."

He added: "I find it so hard to believe he took his own life; we all struggle with that."

The case is under investigation by the Prisons Ombudsman.

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