Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas 30th Anniversary Conference: ‘Reaching Out – Supporting Irish Prisoners Overseas and their families’

30 Nov 2015


Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas 30th Anniversary Conference: ‘Reaching Out – Supporting Irish Prisoners Overseas and their families’

  • President Michael D Higgins to address conference
  • Launch of ICPO commissioned research on the needs of Irish people returning from prison overseas
  • See full conference programme below

The Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO), a pastoral outreach established by the Catholic Bishops of Ireland in 1985, will host a conference celebrating its 30th anniversary tomorrow Tuesday 1 December 2015 entitled “Reaching Out – Supporting Irish Prisoners Overseas and their Families”.  President Michael D Higgins, Uachtarán na hÉireann, will address the conference which takes place in Dublin Castle.  Bishop John Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert and chair of the Bishops’ Council of Emigrants, will open the conference which will be chaired by Mr Mark Hennessy, News Editor of The Irish Times.  The conference will explore the practical, policy and pastoral issues which apply to this uniquely vulnerable category of Irish emigrant. See full programme below.

Notes for Editors

  • Media restrictions at the ICPO conference

In advance the ICPO wishes to thank the media for its cooperation concerning the following sensitive reporting matters:

– Pictures Photographers are asked not to attend this ICPO conference due to the participation, and attendance as guests, of former prisoners and their families. ICPO asks photographers to respect this request as it represents the wishes of former prisoners and their families.  For publication purposes, conference photographer John McElroy will circulate still photographs taken during the proceedings to all media outlets on 1 December next. Alternatively, John McElroy can be contacted on +353 (0) 87 241 6985 and on [email protected]

– Print An important contribution to this special anniversary conference will be made by the mother of a client of the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas. The ICPO is grateful to this person for agreeing to participate. Her decision to speak about her experiences was made on the condition that her anonymity be respected.  Print journalists in attendance and reporting on conference proceedings are asked to respect this request for anonymity.

  • New ICPO commissioned research

The results of new ICPO commissioned research will be launched at the conference, entitled A Step At A Time – The Resettlement Needs of Irish People Returning From Prison Overseas.  The report considered the resettlement needs of ex-prisoners returning to Ireland in five key areas: Accommodation; Education, Training and Employment; Health and Addiction Issues, Finance; and, Family. The research incorporated the views of ex-prisoners and resettlement service providers thus providing a dual perspective from which to assess their needs.  The report finds that Irish prisoners overseas, seeking or being compelled to resettle in Ireland face additional challenges vis á vis those being released from an Irish prison in terms of their resettlement. In view of this, the report has sought to clarify these particular challenges and identify future steps which may be taken to address them.  Once published at the conference the research will be available on and

  • About the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas

It is estimated that, at any one time, there are up to 1,200 Irish people in prison overseas.  The Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas works for Irish prisoners overseas wherever they are: and makes no distinction in terms of religious faith; the nature of a prison conviction or of a prisoner’s status.  ICPO has contact with Irish people in prison in more than 30 countries around the world. The ICPO offers a comprehensive service to prisoners and to prisoner families which includes: provision of information on repatriation and deportation, assists in making referrals to post release support agencies for those returning to Ireland, a hardship fund for prisoners where access to food, water and medical treatment are very real concerns. Loneliness and isolation is common amongst Irish people imprisoned overseas.  The ICPO operates an extensive prison visiting programme in Britain and elsewhere and provides a newsletter twice yearly to its clients. ICPO provides a pen friend scheme, language books and dictionaries where needed. In recognition of the hardship endured by prisoner’s families, ICPO offers assistance with prison visits, information about the different issues affecting their loved one in prison and holds a Family Day each year.

  • The full programme for the ICPO 30th Anniversary Conference, ‘Reaching Out – Supporting Irish Prisoners Overseas and their Families’, on 1 December 2015 in Dublin Castle follows

Chair: Mark Hennessy, News Editor, Irish Times

09:45   Opening Address

Bishop John Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert, Chair, Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants

10:00   The early days of ICPO

            Nuala Kelly, First Coordinator of ICPO

10:30   President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins

10:55   BREAK (President Higgins will depart at 11.15)

11.20   Resettlement Needs of Returning Ex-Prisoners to Ireland

            Paul Gavin, Researcher, ICPO commissioned report

11.55   Current Trends and Contemporary Challenges Facing Prisoners Overseas and the Organisations That Support Them

Pauline Crowe, OBE, Chief Executive, Prisoners Abroad

12:30   Questions & Answers

12:45   LUNCH

14:00   The Right Type of Education – A Briefing on Education and Training Provision for Gypsy and Irish Traveller Prisoners in England and Wales

            Ellena Costello, Policy Officer, Traveller Equality Project, Irish Chaplaincy

14:20   The importance of a Pastoral Outreach to Prisoners Overseas

            Father Gerry McFlynn, Manager, ICPO London office

14:40   Family Matters – The Impact of Overseas Imprisonment on Families

Claire O’Connell, ICPO Caseworker and Family Support Worker

A mother with a son imprisoned overseas will speak about her experiences

15:00   Questions & Answers

15:15   Looking to the future

Brian Hanley, Coordinator, ICPO Maynooth office

15.30 Closing Address

Mr Charles Flanagan TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

15.40 Concluding remarks by Conference Chair, Mark Hennessy.                                                    

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444