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'What happened to my boy?' - Family of man who died in unexplained circumstances in Cloverhill Prison demand answers

Ivan Rosney died in Cloverhill Prison at the end of last month.

Ivan Rosney
Ivan Rosney
Image: Family photo

THE FATHER OF a man who died while in custody in Cloverhill Prison has demanded to know what happened to his son in the hours leading up to his death. 

Ivan Rosney died following an incident which led him to being restrained by prison officers on 28 September. 

He had a history of mental health issues and was in Cloverhill for breaching a barring order after he had become physically aggressive with his father. 

However, speaking to TheJournal.ie, Ivan’s father Des said that despite his son’s problems, Ivan loved his family but was tormented by mental health problems which started when he was in his 20s. 

“Ivan was sick. No doubt. We think he was schizophrenic but he was never diagnosed. What he was diagnosed with was bi-polar disorder as well as some other personality disorders.”

Ivan, who was 36, had been living with his family in Offaly at the time of the incident which resulted in his arrest. Social workers had previously advised Des to take a barring order out against Ivan, which he did. But the relationship between Ivan and his father had improved greatly and Ivan was back living at home with Des.

However, he had “taken a turn” according to his dad. On the day he was arrested, Ivan started to become aggressive to his father and a physical fight started between them, leading to another family member calling gardaí. 

Des described it as “a few digs” and said when Ivan had his dad on the ground “he looked into my eyes and realised what was happening and what he was doing and stopped”.

“The last time I saw him, he was being put into the back of a garda car and that was that,” said Des. “I want to know what happened to my boy.”

Des explained that gardaí were often called to his home in Offaly when Ivan was becoming too much to handle. He said that the gardaí “always did a great job by Ivan” and brought him to the hospital when he needed to go or placed him in the cells “when it was the best thing for him”. 

Ivan had been in Cloverhill before for similar reasons, his family explained, so there “should have been a record of his illnesses and that he was on medication”, Des said.

In the weeks leading up to Ivan’s death, the Rosney family had noticed Ivan was becoming more and more unstable and was getting aggressive more easily. 

“This time around, they took him away for the barring order,” Des explained. “He was put in Cloverhill and he was to appear in court via the videolink.” 

However, on the day Ivan was due to go to court there was an incident which led to him having to be restrained by prison officers. 

He was pronounced dead a short time later. The cause of death is not yet known as the autopsy was inconclusive. Further tests are currently being carried out to determine how Ivan died. 

The autopsy found no evidence of heart attack, stroke or brain haemorrhage, according to Des.

WhatsApp Image 2020-10-20 at 18.08.04 Des (front) and Ivan (back).

Des Rosney says prison authorities have questions to answer about his son’s death.

Ivan, he said, “was a caring man who loved his kids – but he was sick”.

Des said he wanted to know if his son was taking his medication for all six days before his death. 

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Was he getting help? If he was just a couple of days off his medication, he’d have been getting angry or a bit unstable. So, six days would be a different situation altogether.”

A spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service said it did not comment on internal investigations but added:

“All prisoners are medically assessed on committal to prison. This includes a mental health assessment which can be employed to develop an individual care plan.

“Where clinically indicated, the prisoner is referred to a forensic clinician who, subject to his/her findings, may make certain recommendations to the [prison] Governor for the care of the prisoner.”

The prison service said that “as with all deaths in custody, the Irish Prison Service, the Inspector of Prisons and An Garda Síochána will be investigating the incident”.

The Rosney family described how, despite his serious mental health problems, Ivan adored his children and texted them every night “no matter was going through his head”. 

“It didn’t matter what had happened, he’d send a text to them saying “I love you. Good night,” Ivan’s aunt Anne told TheJournal.ie

Ivan had been an in-patient at a number of hospitals across the country. On numerous occasions, he was discharged from hospital with no plans for his accommodation, no medication plan and no future treatment dates, according to the Rosney family. 

“Ivan was let down by the mental health services in this country. We want people to know what happens in situations like these,” Des added.   

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