The joy of Mountjoy – Christmas lunch with the Irish convicts

Many years ago I made the mistake of booking a trip to Dublin for Christmas. I love Ireland and I love visiting Ireland – though I haven’t been back for a few years now – however it’s not really a good place to be on Christmas Day because everyone is with their family.

Literally everyone. There isn’t a bar or restaurant open on December the 25th so it’s difficult for a visitor trying to experience the city. Now this may all have changed in recent years, but 20 years ago Dublin was like a ghost town on Christmas Day. The only place to eat and get a drink was in the hotel you were staying in.

I went out there for Christmas with my girlfriend. We tried going out for Christmas lunch at a few nice hotels on Christmas day, but found that they were all just accepting residents for lunch – we would only be able to eat in our hotel.

So we went back and started on lunch. It wasn’t bad and there was a group of Australians in the restaurant all determined to have a party so the drink and conversation was flowing.

Then I noticed a couple of old homeless looking guys walking into the reception and quickly getting escorted out again by the security staff. I called over to the hotel staff and said ‘don’t worry about them; let them in for Christmas lunch and I’ll pay for whatever they order…’ I’d probably been enjoying the Christmas spirit quite a bit by then to make such a rash offer.

The two old guys were delighted. They came and joined our group and regaled us with some outlandish tales of their petty crime in and around Dublin. They claimed to be on Christmas day leave from Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, which we all doubted for a long time, but eventually one of them produced a document stating exactly that – they were prisoners who had been let out to enjoy Christmas day! They had to report back to jail the next day…

We let them continue enjoying the afternoon anyway and had a lot of fun talking to the two of them, however they both eventually passed out – probably from not having a drink on the inside then suddenly finding a free bar. The hotel staff carried them out and called a taxi to take them back to the jail that evening.

It was a crazy experience, but a very memorable Christmas day in Dublin.

OFF LICENCE - MUNSTER STREET

Photo by William Murphy licensed under Creative Commons

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