Irish Penal Reform Trust

Party manifesto analysis 2020: Fine Gael

The Fine Gael election 2020 manifesto, ‘A Future to Look Forward to’, was launched on Friday 24th January 2020. The manifesto can be accessed here. Below, IPRT analyses relevant proposals in 'Security and Justice in Modern Ireland’, which starts at p. 81.

Analysis of individual policy proposals:

(i) A modern, fit-for-purpose, policing service

Similar to all parties, the Fine Gael manifesto makes a number of commitments towards increased Garda numbers and Garda resourcing.

IPRT supports an emphasis on community policing. However, we are concerned that, in other jurisdictions, there is evidence of over-policing of marginalised areas and communities, which results in greater crime detection rates, resulting in higher rates of conviction and imprisonment. There is some evidence to indicate that this may be the case in Ireland too.

See Section 3.2, Uneven Policing, in IPRT Position Paper Shifting Focus: The Vicious Circle of Social Exclusion and Crime.

(ii) Reducing repeat offending

IPRT supports the proposals to extend both the Joint Agency Response to Crime (J-ARC), which was established in 2016, and the Youth Joint Agency Response to Crime (Y-JARC) to combat repeat offending to more locations around the State. Read more about J-ARC programmes here.

(iii) Restorative Justice

IPRT welcomes the commitment to restorative justice practices. In 2007, the National Commission on Restorative Justice was established to examine how restorative justice could be mainstreamed in the Irish criminal justice system. In its (2009) report, the Commission made 66 recommendations and in its foreword, stated: “Victims, offenders, their families and their communities can all benefit from a restorative approach to criminal behaviour and the Commission strongly recommends national implementation, in a structured way, which will see a move from the existing two adult pilot projects, through an expansion phase of at least six more developmental projects, to national implementation.” The national implementation of these projects never materialised.

See PIPS 2019, Part 1.2 – Accountability in Penal Policy.

(iv) Increasing prison capacity

IPRT is heavily critical of any decision to increase prison capacity. One of our leading principles is that prison should be a sanction of last resort, due to the inherently damaging effects of imprisonment on families and communities. Instead, Ireland should move towards a goal of an imprisonment rate of 50 per 100,000 population through increased emphasis on community-based sanctions. Ireland is currently over-reliant on prison as punishment, when community sanctions are demonstrated to be more effective responses to less serious offending. IPRT is further concerned that recent increases in prisoner numbers are linked with failures in social policy, including homelessness, mental health issues and addictions.

See PIPS 2019, Standard 2 – Imprisonment as a Last Resort.

IPRT strongly welcomes a commitment in the manifesto to review the provisions of the Prisons Act 2007 in order to give the Office of the Inspector of Prisons the necessary statutory powers to be able to undertake their duties efficiently.  

(v) A Statutory Parole Board

IPRT welcomes the commitment to implementing the Parole Act 2019 in full. Read more about IPRT’s campaign for parole reform here.

See PIPS 2019, Standard 33 – Parole System.



See IPRT's 'Smart Justice, Safer Communities' Penal Policy Directions 2016-2021 here.

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



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