Human Rights, Prisoners

Clare Daly and Mick Wallace attended a District Court case at the Criminal Court of Justice, on Wednesday, 19 October – a case taken by the DPP, in relation to allegations that Leon Wright, currently a prisoner in Block A, Portlaoise Prison, had assaulted a prison officer in 2013.
Initially we had been contacted by Leon’s solicitor, raising concerns that his human rights were being violated, in relation to the manner in which his custody was being handled and the segregated nature of his incarceration.

We had been to visit Leon in Portlaoise and felt that it was important that we should go to the Court case and observe some of the allegations which had been repeatedly made about him, in relation to his behaviour towards prison officers. The case against Leon was thrown out by Judge Alan Mitchell, who was deeply concerned at what he had heard in court, and requested that a transcript of the digital audio recording be provided by the Court Service, with a request that the matters raised might be of concern and warrant further investigation by the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly. The judge identified inconsistencies in the testimony of the prison offers. Leon’s defense counsel, Emmet Nolan claimed that Leon was stripped naked and beaten by the prison officers.

We were utterly shocked at some of the evidence presented in court. We believe it raises serious issues concerning the manner in which Leon’s incarceration has been handled. Prison policy is supposed to be dictated on the basis that people are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment, that the time spent should be used to try to rehabilitate that person into society. At present, Leon is in 23 hour solitary confinement and receives no education. We firmly believe that serious damage is being done to this already damaged individual and believe that it is absolutely critical that he is reintegrated into the prison population and entitled to access education and other developmental courses. Leon is scheduled to be released in about eighteen months. Would it not be a more positive approach to give him some of the necessary help now, rather than more punishment, that may have the potential to make him worse when he returns to society?

We know that this badly damaged individual has a frightening history of acts of violence. It goes without saying that we believe that all prison staff should be able to work safely, free from threats and violence. Our intervention is motivated by a desire for a safer environment for prisoners, staff and society at large.

Clare Daly.
Mick Wallace.

I Daniel Blake


Features, Social Welfare

imagesFilmmaker Ken Loach is well known for his social realism; his highly acclaimed career has brought us many film classics that portray many aspects of working class life. Films like Kes, Raining Stones, Riff Raff, Looking for Eric, to name a few, were gritty, realistic, funny and sympathetic stories about the ‘ordinary folk’ of northern England.

Many Irish people will be aware of Loach’s two ‘Irish’ films: the powerful interpretation of the Irish War of Independence, the award winning, The Wind That Shakes The Barley and 2014’s brilliant Jimmy’s Hall the true story of the persecution and eventual deportation of Irish socialist Jimmy Gralton.

Loach’s latest film, I Daniel Blake was the recipient of the much-coveted Palme d’Or award at the Cannes film festival earlier this year. This was Loach’s second time to receive that award having won in 2006 for The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Whether Loach puts any stock in awards is neither here nor there, what is undeniable is his talent as a filmmaker and I Daniel Blake is outstanding.  
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2016 Budget


Dáil Debates, Economy

Dáil Issues, Social Welfare

ORAL question for answer on 06/10/2016 :
To ask the Minister for Social Protection his views in relation to whether it is appropriate that corporate trustees and trustees can withhold additional benefits to members of occupational pension schemes while securing indemnities for their personal well-being as the assets of the scheme deteriorate; his plans to deal with pension governance in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Clare Daly.
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