THE governor of Cork Prison turned up in court last week to object to a decision to house two people with suspected monkeypox in jail.
But Judge James McNulty, sitting at Bandon District Court, told Peter O’Brien that he wasn’t dealing with ‘Ebola’ when he expressed concern about admitting the two people with suspected monkeypox to two different prisons.
Mr O’Brien said that he had serious concerns about admitting both Jerry Foley and Paula Canty to Cork and Limerick prisons respectively, after the duo claimed they had the monkeypox virus.
Both had been convicted the previous day at the same court in relation to public order offences that occurred on Wednesday September 14th in Riverstick and Belgooly.
The court heard that when gardaí attempted to arrest Ms Canty of 1 St Eltins Crescent, Kinsale, she resisted arrest and threatened them with monkeypox as she told them she had it, and that they and their families would get it too.
They had been due to be sent to prison following their convictions, but ended up remaining in Bandon Garda Station due to the prison governor’s concerns.
Mr O’Brien said when he was alerted to the status of the prisoners he contacted infection control within the Irish Prison Service and their operations director was also notified.
They then contacted the Department of Health.
‘They advised us not to accept them until it is verified what contagious disease they have,’ he told the judge, having travelled from Cork to address the court.
He said the advice was against allowing the pair into a confined building due to the risk of infection spreading across a vulnerable population.
Judge McNulty commented on the fact that Mr O’Brien was not legally represented to which Mr O’Brien replied it was ‘probably naivety’ on his part.
Mr O’Brien said that they would seek the release of both prisoners to access further medical testing ahead of any admittance to prison.
However, Sgt Trish O’Sullivan said the matter had been concluded the previous day and that the gardaí had done their part.
The couple’s solicitor Tony Greenway said that both of his clients had been tested by the HSE on September 8th and were negative for monkeypox.
He did note that he had seen sores on their hands and that they had spent three days in the Mercy Hospital and were given antibiotics.
Judge McNulty said Ms Canty’s claim may have been either ‘a false alarm or manipulated ruse’ and he told Mr O’Brien: ‘It’s not Ebola but monkeypox’ they are dealing with it.
He also said that the Prison Service coped admirably with Covid during the pandemic, that monkeypox is spread in a different way, and that the pair could be put in isolation cells.
‘There is no point in making a crisis out of a difficulty,’ said Judge McNulty, who added that the court order could not be ignored.