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Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Dublin conference on Irish prisoners abroad and their families
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 The Catholic Bishops' Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO) hosted a conference yesterday in Dublin to mark its 20th anniversary. The theme of the conference was 'Doing Time: Irish Prisoners Overseas and their Families'. Opening the conference, Bishop Seamus Hegarty said: "The Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas is currently the only organisation working on behalf of Irish prisoners overseas and their families. Their welfare and needs are important to us. "So as to best focus our resources, we recently undertook a survey amongst prisoner families in order to evaluate the needs of Irish prisoners overseas regarding the service provided by the ICPO and support services in general. Our survey found that: families in need of ICPO support are not a homogenous group and include parents, spouses, siblings, children and other relatives of prisoners overseas; of the families who had been in touch with the ICPO for help, 93% said that they were satisfied with the service they received; respondents emphasised the non-judgemental, caring and listening nature of the ICPO service; the need for emotional and financial support was evident throughout the study; in particular, families found it difficult to finance a visit to support their relative, or to meet the cost of basic prison supplies such as food, clothing, stamps and phone cards; the lack of clear information and legal support services emerged as a significant problem for families struggling with a foreign legal and prison system; families were concerned about the lack of any post-release support services available for their relative on release from prison." Bishop Hegarty said: "I welcome the recent Government appointment of former Minister of State, Mr Chris Flood, to lead the first major study into Irish prisoners abroad." Archbishop Sen Brady, President of the Irish Bishops' Conference, sent a message of congratulations to the Commission and paid tribute to their ministry. President Mary McAleese, one of the founding members of the Commission, said in a message: "As a founding member, I feel a tremendous sense of pride in being associated with the work of the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas and I would very much have liked to be with you today to mark your 20th anniversary. Unfortunately, unforeseen commitments have not made this possible. "Being imprisoned abroad, often where they cannot speak the language, places huge burdens on prisoners and their families. The cost of family visits, even to England, can be prohibitive and is all the more painful at a time like the present when we are all looking forward to Christmas. Prisoners' families are so often multiple victims, suffering the emotional and financial loss of a family member and the uncertainty of not knowing how that family member is surviving among strangers." She continued: "The work that you do is never going to be easy, which is what makes it so commendable. As torchbearers for human rights for Irish prisoners abroad you have provided vital pastoral services to prisoners, and their families, and have been a voice for their rights and dignity as human beings. The work you have done to vindicate the rights and dignity of prisoners comes from a sincere calling and concern for their plight, and the plight of their loved ones at home. I am most grateful for that support and practical help which the Commission has often given to keep these people, and their families, going. "For all the work you have done on behalf of Irish prisoners overseas, and their families, I would like to say a heartfelt 'comhghairdeachas agus go raibh mle maith agaibh go lir'." Source: Irish Catholic Media Office
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