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Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Archbishop speaks of 'scandal' of Irish prisoners abroad
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¬†Dr SeŠn Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland, expressed concern at the delays involved in repatriating Irish prisoners to serve their terms closer to their families, during a speech at the Irish Association Social Club's Annual Dinner in Manchester, on Saturday. Dr Brady also used the occasion to continue to speak out on behalf of those members of the Irish community who have fallen on hard times and whose plight was highlighted in a recent Irish television programme. Under the European Convention on the Treaty of Sentenced Persons Act (1984) foreign nationals, in prison, are entitled to apply for repatriation to the country of their birth to serve their sentences closer to their families. Dr Brady pointed out that the Irish Bishops' Commission for Prisoners Overseas, which has offices in Maynooth and London, has been assisting with the repatriation of Irish nationals for many years and has long been concerned about the inordinate delay in the processing of applications. "According to records, it takes between 2 to 3 years to process a straightforward UK to Republic of Ireland application. This is entirely unsatisfactory. We are dealing with two legal jurisdictions which share a common language. This time scale compares unfavourably with that for British Nationals where the process of repatriation from all countries (including non-English speaking countries), takes between 9 to 12 months to complete. It is little short of a scandal that Irish families should find themselves in this situation", Dr Brady said. He said: "such a situation is an example of the need that exists for an agency for the Irish Abroad that will co-ordinate the necessary Departments and Agencies to ensure that the emigrant in prison does not suffer unnecessarily. It is obvious that if society maintains the link between a prisoner and his/her family's support and influence then it greatly reduces the risk of re-offence and also reduces the likelihood of homelessness and further crime." The Archbishop also reminded his audience that the Irish Bishops' Conference welcomed the Report given to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Brian Cowen TD, entitled 'Ireland and the Irish Abroad' and applauded Minister Cowen for his commitment and enthusiasm to this project. Bishop Seamus Hegarty of Derry, who is Chairman of the Irish Bishops' Commission for Emigration recently called on the Minister to implement these findings and Dr Brady reiterated that the Bishops' Conference in Ireland fully supports Bishop Hegarty's call to Government as a matter of priority to establish an "Agency for the Irish Abroad" as recommended by the Task Force set up to coordinate services at home and abroad for our Diaspora. "The document is strong in its support for a holistic approach to the care and nurturing not just of the Irish abroad but of Ireland abroad. The efforts of the Irish abroad to promote their culture should be supported and guided as we journey into a Europe where cultural and ethnic identity are essential to a truly balanced and integrated Europe" he said. Finally, Dr Brady called on the Irish Government to exploit the potential of the EU Presidency to leave an indelibly enlightened mark on EU asylum policy. "Over the centuries, we have learned a great deal as an emigrant people. The task now is to remember that experience. Of course we should acknowledge the pain and the sorrow but without forgetting the opportunities and blessing which this experience contains. We should reflect on the lessons that reside within our collective emigrant experience and learn from them. Ireland, as current holder of the EU Presidency, should make reference to the story of our people in contributing to the debate about the appropriate policies and legislation that the EU needs to put in place vis-ŗ-vis the movement of peoples. In its term of Presidency of the European Union, Ireland has a duty to lead public opinion and debate on this emotive issue and not fall victim to scaremongering and myths. The objective of our Presidency should be to provide the most enlightened legislation and to avoid the creation of a 'fortress Europe'" mentality. Dr Brady went on to urge the Irish Government "to use its Presidency of the EU to create a humanitarian Europe-wide policy on immigration." Speaking on Northern Ireland, Dr Brady said he expected the political pace to quicken when the formal review of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement commences on Tuesday next, in Belfast, under the co-chairmanship of the British and Irish Governments. He wished all the parties well in their deliberations and stated that last Thursday evening's cordial and constructive face to face meeting between Dr Ian Paisley and the Taoiseach, Mr Bertie Ahern, and their respective delegations at the Irish Embassy in London, augurs well for the upcoming Review. He said he hoped that the Review will take account of all the parties' viewpoints and difficulties and will see an end to all forms of paramilitarism and will, in turn, accommodate the re-establishment of a truly inclusive and robust Northern Ireland Executive that is both just and stable and committed to peace building and the development of good relations between all of the people of these islands, irrespective of political persuasion, creed, class or colour. Source: Irish Bishops' Conference Media Office
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