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IPRT Congratulates President Elect and Calls on Government to Respond to Concerns on Imprisonment of Children

1st November 2011

MEDIA ADVISORY

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) this weekend congratulated President Elect Michael D. Higgins on his election as ninth President of Ireland. The President Elect was invited to become a patron of IPRT this year in recognition of his longstanding commitment to prisoners’ rights and penal reform, both through his career as an academic and as an elected representative.

Speaking today, IPRT Executive Director Liam Herrick stated:

“Throughout his career, Michael D. has always shown great courage and conviction as a defender of human rights.  He has consistently stood up for the rights of prisoners in Ireland and abroad, often when this was deeply unpopular and controversial. His work, in particular, with the McBride Commission of Inquiry in the Prison System was critical in framing the problems in Irish prisons as human rights concerns.”

As part of his campaign theme of inclusiveness, the President Elect singled out the on-going detention of children in Ireland’s adult prison system as one of the most important human rights challenges facing the State. Other Presidential candidates also supported this view. In line with the President Elect’s comments, IPRT today calls on the Government to take urgent action to finally end the detention of children at St. Patrick’s Institution, and to fulfil its own commitments in this regard, as set out in the Programme for Government. 

Over the coming months, IPRT will step up our campaign to ensure that no child is detained in prison and that Government puts in place the necessary policies and resources to ensure that any children detained by law are held in appropriate child-centred facilities with full access to all necessary supports and accountability mechanisms.  The key issues in this campaign will be:

  • We will be seeking clarity on the Government’s commitment to build appropriate detention spaces for the boys currently detained in St. Patrick’s Institution within the context of the capital spending programme.
  • We will be seeking a clear commitment and plan of action to phase-out the detention of 16/17 year-olds at St. Patrick’s by diverting new committals to more appropriate facilities.
  • One key element in reducing the number of boys detained in St. Patrick's and in the child detention system more generally is to look at the high number of children detained on remand.
  • The exclusion of the boys detained in St. Patrick's from the complaints mechanism of the Ombudsman for Children must be removed immediately.

For all media enquiries, please contact:

Fíona Ní Chinnéide,Communications Officer, Irish Penal Reform Trust - T: +353-1-874 1400; M: +353-87-181 2990

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

1. IPRT Briefing Paper on St. Patrick’s Institution

Available at: http://www.iprt.ie/contents/1703

2. The McBride Commission of Inquiry in the Prison System

The McBride Commission of Inquiry in the Prison Systemwas an independent body established by the Prisoners’ Rights Organisation and the Jesuits, which reported in November 1980.  It was chaired by Sean McBride, former Minister for External Relations, former President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and also Chairman of both Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists. Also among the members of the Commission were outgoing President Mary McAleese and former Fine Gael Minister Gemma Hussey.

3. Figures

Last year, there were 74 children aged 16 and 145 children aged 17 committed to St. Patrick’s Institution, which accepts prisoners between the ages of 16 and 21. The 16 and 17 year-old boys are generally segregated from the older prisoners but may be housed together when on protection. On average there were 35-45 children detained in St. Patrick's on any given day.  The Inspector of Prisons has identified that up to 25% of these boys are on protection at any time.

4. COE/UN Recommendations

Ending the practice of detaining children at St. Patrick's has been recommended by numerous Council of Europe and UN bodies over several years. The commitment to end this practice is included in the current Programme for Government. The Ombudsman for Children recently published a report on the experiences of boys in St. Patrick's Institution: http://www.oco.ie/assets/files/St%20Pats%20Report.pdf

5. Children held on Remand

The Office of the Minister for Children and Children and Youth Affairs published a report on remand of children in 2008 which made a number of practical recommendations on how this number could be reduced: http://www.dit.ie/cser/media/ditcser/images/Young_People_on_Remand_Study_261108.pdf

6. Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) | www.iprt.ie

IPRT is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort.

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