Bishops’ Commission for Prisoners Overseas welcomes report ‘Irish Prisoners Abroad’ and calls for speedy implementation of recommendations

13 Aug 2007


13th August 2007

Bishops’ Commission for Prisoners Overseas welcomes report Irish Prisoners Abroad and calls for speedy implementation of recommendations

The Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference welcomes the report Irish Prisoners Abroad which was prepared by Mr Chris Flood and published today by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern TD.

Welcoming the report, the Director of the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants, Father Alan Hilliard, said: “The report is practical in its recommendations. We believe that if the many recommendations are implemented, they will go a long way to alleviate the major problems faced by Irish nationals and their families. In particular we welcome the establishment of a dedicated unit, in the Department of Foreign Affairs, to implement the recommendations of the report. Such a unit will aim to monitor Irish people incarcerated overseas and to offer vital support to their families.”

Today’s report is the first of its kind into the plight of Irish nationals in prison overseas. According to the report, there are at least 800 Irish people in prison abroad. The majority, c 85% are in England and Wales, the other 15% are in other countries

Fr Hilliard continued: “Today the ICPO remembers the tireless pastoral work, undertaken on behalf of prisoners and their families, by the founding members of the ICPO. By this work, these religious and lay people ultimately secured welcome outcomes for victims of miscarriages of justice. Today, the ICPO supports outreach to prisoners; it liaises with prison chaplains and the authorities in order to support prisoner families who must themselves adjust to a new set of circumstances when a loved is arrested abroad.

“The ICPO receives calls for assistance from Irish prisoners or their family members. There is no typical profile and such calls can relate to people from all economic and social backgrounds. The isolation and shame which is felt by prisoners, and their families, can often leave them in a state of paralysis at a time when immediate action is often required. This is where the ICPO comes in. We aim to move them from a situation of helplessness to a point where they can take responsibility for their own situation.”

“By laying the groundwork for a clear “template” to guide the outreach to Irish nationals in prison overseas, today’s report offers valuable support to help address the needs of prisoners abroad and their families. On behalf of the ICPO, I wish to acknowledge the interest and commitment of the Minster, his Department and the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs to this often forgotten sector of society.

“The ICPO welcomes the attention paid to specific issues of concern that we have encountered since our foundation 21 years ago. For example: the plight of groups with special needs; the Travelling Community; the need for a register of Irish prisoners; the issue of consular visits; and, the need to raise the profile of the treatment of prisoners in the EU and beyond.

“Specifically, notwithstanding the recent move by EU states to make repatriation of foreign nationals mandatory, we welcome the inclusion of the Irish Government’s insistence that no Irish prisoner should be repatriated/deported without his/her consent.

“ICPO is aware of the great suffering of victims of crime, their families and indeed as it affects society at large. We are committed to working for a crime-free society. We believe that appropriate outreach to prisoners, and their families, can play a significant role in helping to reduce repeat offending. Such factors include: that they are treated correctly; have access to proper care; hold information on their welfare entitlements; and, are adequately prepared for release. These conditions are in line with the 2003 National Economic and Social Forum Report Reintegration of Prisoners, which called for the issue of prisoners to be brought into the wider remit of social partnership.”

Fr Hilliard concluded, “Finally, we are grateful to Mr Chris Flood, and his team, for the effort and work that they have put into this report and the commitment they have shown throughout their research.”

Notes to Editors

  • The Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO) was established in 1985 by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference to provide advice and practical support to Irish prisoners overseas as well as to their families. It acts under the auspices of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Emigrants, whose chair is the Bishop of Derry, Bishop Seamus Hegarty.
  • It has two offices, one at the Columba Centre in Maynooth, Co Kildare, and the other in London. The London office provides an outreach/prison visiting service to prisoners in England & Wales.
  • ICPO Maynooth and London depends greatly on the work of its dedicated staff and the network of volunteers: some of these are prison visitors in the UK and wider a field in sometimes remote and inhospitable prison regimes. Others are part of the c 100 pen friend volunteers who work through the Maynooth office.

Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Kathy Tynan Communications Officer (086 817 5674)