Irish Penal Reform Trust

Ebulletin #68

14th March 2012

In this edition:

  1. Introduction
  2. Seminar & Launch: Prisoner Rights and Prisoner Complaints Mechanisms
  3. Prison Law Seminar
  4. The Old Triangle: A Celebration for the Benefit of IPRT
  5. Crime & Social Exclusion – launch
  6. IPRT in the News
  7. Irish Prison Service: Exhibition of Art by Prisoners
  8. Upcoming Events


1. Introduction

After our hugely successful celebration of prison education and the arts at the Abbey Theatre in February, IPRT is having a swift change of gear to the very concrete issues of prisoner complaints and access to information about rights in detention.  We have a number of events coming up over the next few weeks which will focus on empowering prisoners and advancing accountability within the prison system.  In April and May we will be bringing our work in this area and also work we are doing on the rights of families of prisoners around the country with regional events in Limerick and in Cork.

At the broader level, there is a real sense of optimism in the prison system at present, with the promise of a new Strategic Plan for the prison system to be launched shortly and positive steps towards ending overcrowding at Mountjoy and towards developing a new prison to replace Cork.  At the same time, these changes may produce new strains on the system in the short term – particularly at Mountjoy where we remain concerned about the levels of overcrowding while renovation work is ongoing.

Within IPRT, we also are delighted to welcome Michelle Martyn on to our staff team as Research and Policy Officer, covering Jane Mulcahy who is on maternity leave at present. Michelle previously worked with IPRT as an intern and has also recently worked with the Probation Service and with the School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science at UCD.

Liam Herrick, Executive Director

Keep up to date on IPRT news and activities between e-bulletins:

W: / Tw: / Fb:


2. Seminar and Launch: Prisoner Rights and Prisoner Complaints Mechanisms

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is delighted to announce that Northern Ireland Prisoner Ombudsman, Pauline McCabe will be the keynote speaker at our upcoming seminar on prisoner complaints mechanisms, which takes place at 11am on Friday 30th March, 2012 in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2.

A new publication, the Know Your Rights – Your Rights as a Prisoner pack, produced in association with the ICCL, will be launched at the event. This is the fourth pack in the Know Your Rights series, a public information project of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), designed to inform people in clear and accessible language about their rights under various key areas of the law in Ireland. Produced jointly with the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), the Your Rights as a Prisoner pack aims to help prisoners understand the rights they have while in prison. It is written in everyday language and is informative and easy to use.

The event is free but places are limited. To register, please contact Mary Gaffney at or call 01-874 1400.


3. Prison Law Seminar: Prison Complaints and Obstacles to Prisoner Litigation

On Thursday 29th March, IPRT will co-host the latest in our series of Prison Law Seminars on the topic of Prisoner Complaints and Obstacles to Prisoner Litigation. The Seminar will explore the challenges facing prisoners and their representatives in raising complaints or concerns about their treatment in custody, both within the prison system and through the courts. The seminar will hear presentations from John Ward BL, barrister and former Assistant Governor at Mountjoy Prison and Dara Robinson, partner at Sheehan and Partners and one of Ireland's leading experts on prison litigation. 

A significant portion of the seminar will be set aside to hearing from other practitioners about the obstacles and challenges to prison litigation which they have encountered in their own practice; and IPRT will be using the seminar to help develop proposals to the Minister for Justice and Equality and to the Courts to address some of the obstacles identified by practitioners.

The seminar will qualify for CPD points and entry to the seminar is free. To register please sign up online or contact Mary Gaffney at or 01-874 1400.


4. The Old Triangle: a Celebration for the Benefit of IPRT

The IPRT is happy to announce that our event “The Old Triangle”, hosted at the Abbey Theatre on 26 February, was a glowing success. Between the artists who graced the stage with vibrant performances, the celebratory atmosphere created by our hosts Theo Dorgan and Paula Meehan, and the incredible sense of support lent by the presence of President Michael D. Higgins, it was a night of community, compassion, and productive conversation about penal reform. Nothing could mean more, however, than the words of one of the attendees, who wrote to say that “…by maximising the range of artists and types of artistic endeavour, it sent out and reinforced the message that we need to recognise the potential for creativity and innovation in us all, whilst simultaneously protecting the rights and promoting the needs of those incarcerated in our prisons. An inspiring, moving event filled with hope.” We send our sincere thanks to all the performers, Shaz Oye, Tony Curtis, GREENSHINE, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Eddie Cahill and Brian Maguire, Karan Casey and Niall Vallely, Peter Sheridan, Leanne O’Sullivan, Jimmy Kelly & Tom Crean & Brian McCarthy, and Christy Moore, each of whom waived their fees for evening.

Please enjoy watching “The Parting Glass”, the last song of the event.

For pictures from the event and more information about the evening, please visit:


5. The Vicious Circle of social Exclusion & Crime: Ireland’s Disproportionate Punishment of the Poor

On 2 February, the IPRT and the Community Platform hosted an event in the Carmelite Community Centre which focused on the connections between social exclusion and crime. Speakers at the event included John Lonergan, the former Governor of Mountjoy Prison and patron of the IPRT; Kathleen Lynch, Professor of Equality Studies at the UCD School of Social Justice; Tony Geoghegan, the CEO of Merchants Quay Ireland; Orla O’Connor, the Head of Policy at the National Women’s Council of Ireland; and Brid O’Brien, the Head of Policy and Media at the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed. The event explored questions such as, “How can the criminal justice system move to a more fair and equitable administration of justice in society?” and, “Which areas of public spending are most sensitive to crime and need to be protected?” Perhaps most to the point, speakers discussed how to ensure that the social and economic cost of crime is fully considered in social policy development and in the budgetary process.

Launched at the seminar was a new IPRT position paper, The Vicious Circle of Social Exclusion and Crime: Ireland’s Disproportionate Punishment of the Poor. The publication examines penal reform in the context of the impact of increasing levels of social exclusion on crime, and how the problem of crime disproportionately impacts marginalized communities. To download the paper, please visit:


6. IPRT in the News

  • In December, the tragic death of Shane Rogers, who was imprisoned at Cloverhill on suicide watch at the time of his death, prompted the IPRT to emphasise the need for a prisoner ombudsman. Executive Director Liam Herrick spoke with The Irish Times about the fact that the current method of investigating deaths in Irish prisons is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, and RTÉ's Morning Ireland.
  • Bringing in the New Year was renewed attention on St. Patrick’s Institution, where minor boys (aged 16-17) are held in the same facility as adult prisoners, a clear violation of international standards for the detention of minors and a topic that brings repeated criticism to the Irish government. See the Irish Examiner and
  • Much attention was paid on 17 and 18 January to reports about the unhygienic conditions of Limerick Prison, prompting a response from the IPRT on necessary improvements. Liam also spoke to Newstalk FM, RTÉ News, the Irish Examiner and Limerick Live FM on the issues.
  • 23 January saw responses to the Report Card 2012 issued by the Children’s Rights Alliance. The IPRT welcomed the report in a press release detailing the grades given to the Irish government, which included a C+ for children’s rights and an F for teenage detention practices at St. Patrick’s Institution. Comment was included in the Irish Examiner,, RTÉ News, and News at One
  • IPRT’s paper on Crime and Social Exclusion was referenced by the news on TV3 during their piece “Ireland’s Gun Crime Crisis” on 15 February.
  • On 17 February, Liam Herrick was quoted by the Irish Examiner in response to reports of thousands of weapons seized in Irish prisons. The numbers from St. Patrick’s Institution were of particular concern. 
  • On 22 February, Executive Director Liam Herrick was on TV3's 'Midweek' to discuss the need to reduce the prisoner population of Ireland. Liam argued that many of those incarcerated would be more effectively and affordably punished outside the prison system, in community programs for education, rehabilitation, and health treatment.
  • On 29 Feb, IPRT issued a press release in response to the strategy document Unlocking Community Alternatives – A Cork Approach, which outlined a plan to build 150 new prison cells with full in-cell sanitation on a site adjacent to the current Cork prison by 2015. Executive Director Liam Herrick spoke positively about the proposals, but noted that more information was still needed regarding a, “detailed strategy for addressing some of the most serious problems at Cork while the new building is under construction, including the need for adequate visiting facilities for families attending the prison.” See the Irish Examiner and The Irish Times.

For a full list and links, click here.


7. Irish Prison Service: Exhibition of Art by Prisoners

The Irish Prison Service will be presenting a National Prison Art Exhibition at Kilmainham Gaol called, “The Crushed Bull.” This exhibition is an opportunity for the Irish Prison Service to put on public view a sample of the many excellent items of art work being produced in each of the Prison Education Centres every day. The creator of the eponymous piece explains, “The Crushed Bull is an image of a flattened Red Bull can. The painted image of the crushed can is a political and satirical statement on the down turn in the Irish economy, the consequences for us as individuals, and the effects this has on our national psyche. The wings of the next generation have been clipped, hopes and dreams lost, families separated, like the red bull can, all flattened.”

Opening on 15 March at 7PM in a special showing, the event will run from Friday 16 March – Sunday 15 April.  The exhibition will then travel to the Raggle Taggle Gallery in Limerick on invitation from the Hunt Museum, 26th of April until 10th of May, 2012. See also a great preview of the event on RTÉ’s Nationwide

Please contact the press office at for further information. Also see the IPRT’s website at


8. Upcoming Events

  • Ireland’s civil society UPR campaign, Your Rights Right Now, hosts live coverage of Ireland’s next appearance before the United Nations Human Rights Council, on Thursday March 15 from 11am, at Liberty Hall. Full details of this event are available here.
  • Applications for the position of Children’s Rights Policy Officer with the Children’s Rights Alliance are due on Friday 16 March at 12 noon. For a complete job description, job specification and further details, please visit their website or direct queries to
  • There is a call for papers for the International Scribani Conference, “Re-imagining Imprisonment in Europe: Common Challenges, Diverse Policies and Practice.” The conference will take place at Trinity College, Dublin on September 5th to 7th 2012. Abstracts for 20-minute papers and 90-minute workshops should be sent by 13 April 2012. If you have any questions regarding the call for papers/workshops please contact Claire Whelan, Scribani Conference Coordinator at or by phone on 01 8556814.
  • On 26 April, the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights (CCHJR) at University College Cork will host the 6th Annual Postgraduate Conference called, “Transformation and Reform: Structures and Mechanisms for Rights-Based Protections.” The conference is aimed at researchers working in the areas of criminal law, criminal justice and human rights. For further information and registration details please visit:
  • The Newport Centre for Criminal and Community Justice is holding its eighth conference on 27 April at the University of Wales in Newport. The conference is titled, “From Victim Policy to Victim Oriented Policies: theory and practice for different victim groups.” For more information, please see the conference website.
  • On 28 & 29 June 2012, the North South Irish Criminology Conference will take place at University College Dublin on the theme of ‘Economy, Crime and Punishment’. Please submit paper abstracts to criminology@ucd.ieby Friday 30th March 2012. To register for the conference, email as soon as possible.

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Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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