Irish Penal Reform Trust

Making Rights Real for People with Disabilities in Prison

15th January 2020

IPRT launched a new report 'Making Rights Real for People with Disabilities in Prison' on 15th January 2020 in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

You can read or download the full report here. You can read or download the accessible (large font) version of the report here.

Prisoners’ rights are guaranteed by numerous international and European treaties and Irish legislation. Despite this, international research demonstrates that prisoners with disabilities are often discriminated against and still encounter inaccessible spaces and a lack of support within prison. This new research explores the rights and experiences of prisoners with disabilities in Ireland through interviews with prisoners, prison staff and other stakeholders. It includes a series of key recommendations that should be implemented in order to eliminate discrimination and make rights real for people with disabilities in prison.

The research was commissioned by IPRT from the Centre for Disability Law and Policy (NUIG), and was led by Prof. Eilionóir Flynn.

This event was chaired by Joan O'Flynn, IPRT board member. 


  • Maria Ní Fhlatharta: Report Author, Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway.
  • Aine Flynn: Director of the Decision Support Service, Mental Health Commission.
  • Prof Gautam Gulati MD: Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist/Adjunct Associate Clinical Professor at University of Limerick.


  • Dr John Devlin: Executive Clinical Lead, Irish Prison Service.
  • Patricia Gilheaney: Inspector of Prisons.
  • Robbie Sinnott: Voice of Vision Impairment (VVI).




Maria Ní Fhlatharta

(read Maria's presentation here)

Maria is a researcher at the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUIG.  She is Co-Director of the Disability Law Summer School 2020 – which focuses on Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Maria is a founding member of Disabled Women Ireland, which is a cross disability feminist disabled persons organisation. She has spoken at a number of conferences on disability law and human rights; across Europe but also in North America, East Africa and South East Asia. Maria holds an LLM in Comparative International Disability Law and Policy and an undergraduate degree in Civil Law from NUIG.

Aine Flynn

(read Áine's presentation here)

Áine Flynn graduated from TCD with a law degree and M.Litt. by research. From 2012-2017 she was a senior partner in KOD Lyons. She was on the panel of legal representatives of the Mental Health Commission and the Mental Health (Criminal Law) Review Board from their inception in 2006. She has written and lectured on Human Rights and has been a member of the Human Rights Committee of the Law Society since 2012.  Prior to her present appointment, she was a member of the Law Society’s Mental Health and Decision-Making Capacity Task Force. In 2017, Áine commenced in post as inaugural Director of the Decision Support Service in the Mental Health Commission.

Prof Gautam Gulati MD 

(read Gautam's presentation here)

Gautam is a Consultant General and Forensic Psychiatrist. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and a Member of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland.  Additionally, he is Adjunct Associate Clinical Professor at the University of Limerick and teaches at UL, UCC and NUIG.  He has authored a well-read textbook of psychiatry and several peer reviewed national and international publications.



Dr John Devlin

(read John's presentation here)

John Devlin is Executive Clinical Lead for Irish Prison Service since July 2018 with responsibility for health care provision, including mental health and primary care services, public health, infection control and most recently the National Health Needs Assessment. John previously was Deputy CMO in the Irish Department of Health. His responsibilities included Public Health and Infection Control, vaccination,  the development of national policies on diabetes, cardiovascular disease, rare and chronic diseases and lifestyle including obesity, tobacco control and alcohol.

Patricia Gilheaney

(read Patricia's presentation here)

Patricia has been the Inspector of Prisons since May 2018. She has a background in healthcare, having held the post of Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Commission from 2010 to 2018. She was the Commission’s first Director of Standards and Quality Assurance from 2003 to 2010. She is registered general nurse and registered psychiatric nurse, who holds an MSc in Health Services Management and an MSc in Executive Leadership.

Robbie Sinnott

Robbie Sinnott has a severe visual impairment, and is a veteran Human Rights activist with many successes under his belt; through campaigns, as well as through recourse to the courts. In June 2019, Robbie founded Voice of Vision Impairment (VVI), which is a Disabled Persons Organization under the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and has a growing, nationwide membership. Personal experiences have very much informed Robbie’s Human Rights work, with particular focus on voice for the voiceless - least represented, least resourced, and least able.


This project was supported by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, under the Human Rights and Equality Grants Scheme 2018

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