Irish Penal Reform Trust

Party manifesto analysis: Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin launched their party manifesto for the 2016 General Election, 'For a Fair Recovery' on Tuesday 9th March 2016. The manifesto can be accessed here. Here IPRT analyses proposals included in the 'Community safety and justice' section, which begins at p. 46.


Sinn Féin put forward a number of proposals relating to Garda numbers, re-opening of Garda stations, and Garda oversight. IPRT does not have a policy position on policing, but supports proposals for increased accountability and transparency across all areas of the criminal justice system.

Justice system & sentencing

In the manifesto, Sinn Féin addresses prison costs, sentencing and repeat offending directly. A detailed examination of relevant policy commitments follows:

  • We will establish a Criminal Justice Inspectorate based on the model in the North of Ireland that would be primarily responsible for the oversight and the effectiveness and efficiency of the workings of organisations within the criminal justice sector.

Independent oversight is crucial to ensuring human rights abuses do not occur out of sight behind prison walls, and IPRT has long campaigned for improved prison accountability mechanisms in Ireland.

However, IPRT has reservations about proposals for a combined Criminal Justice Inspectorate, and believes the Northern Ireland model cannot easily be transferred to the Republic of Ireland. For example, there are currently no plans to engage HIQA in prison health inspections (a function carried out by RQIA in Northern Ireland) and no independent prisoner complaints mechanism exists (a function of the Northern Ireland Prisoner Ombudsman).

IPRT believes that public confidence in the Irish prison system can and should be improved through: the establishment of a prisoner ombudsman or extension of the remit of the general Ombudsman to include prisons; and ratification of the OP-CAT (Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture).

For more detail on IPRT's position on prison accountability and the evidence which informs it, see here.

  • We will establish – through the North South Ministerial Council – an all-island process to deal with the issue of support mechanisms for all of those who were victims of sexual abuse during the conflict.

Recognising the harm caused to victims of crime is a central function of the criminal justice system. IPRT does not have separate positions on discrete areas, but fully supports the general implementation of the EU Victims Directive.

For more detail on IPRT's submission on victims support, see here.

  • We will introduce a Sentencing Council that issues sentencing guidelines to the judiciary to ensure accountability and consistency in sentencing.

Experience from England and Wales supports Sinn Féin's proposal for a sentencing council. (Fianna Fáil have also put forward this proposal.)

IPRT strongly believes that public confidence in consistency of sentencing can best be achieved through regular collation and publication of sentencing data. To this end, support of projects such as the Irish Sentencing Project is crucial. Policy and legislation must be based on analysis of real data and facts, and not in response to media reports of unusual or extreme cases.

For evidence to support proposals for sentencing guidelines, see here.

  • We will integrate restorative justice processes into the existing criminal justice system.

IPRT fully supports this commitment. Restorative justice approaches are proven to be robust and effective sanctions, placing victims' needs at the centre of the justice system, while benefiting society through demonstrated effectiveness in terms of reducing reoffending.

See, for example, Le Cheile’s Restorative Justice Project and Facing Forward.

  • We will introduce an enhanced remission scheme on an incentivised basis for certain categories of prisoners, aimed at genuine rehabilitation and reducing recidivism levels.

IPRT supports calls to increase enhanced remission for all categories of offender who engage with rehabilitative services and treatments in prison.

For more detail on IPRT's position on remission, see here.

  • We will invest the money seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau back to frontline services in the communities worst affected by crime.

Investment in prevention and early intervention strategies and programmes in those communities that are the most affected by crime is quite simply the best and most cost-effective approach to crime.

For more detail on IPRT's position on prevention and early intervention strategies and the evidence which informs it, see here.

See also the evidence that supports the case for the differential treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system here.


For IPRT's 'Smart Justice, Safer Communities' Policy Proposals 2016-2021, click here.

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



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